Archive | January 2016

Syria, oh Syria

Who demolished Syria, crushed the country beyond recognition, and why? What about all the people who were chewed up and spit out to survive in a vast wasteland? Can they ever go home again?

The Arab spring of 2011 began in Tunisia and ushered in a brief glimmer of hope for freer governments in a slice of the world known for ruthless dictatorships with no regard for citizen concerns or interests. The ones still in power could care less what their constituents want or need. Corruption among dictatorships was rampant as they lavished their families, friends and cronies with the country’s riches. The bully boys violently crushed any and all dissent. Disappearances were common. Anyone can guess what happened to the vanished. Of note, dictatorships were often propped up by Western governments either for coveted commodities or as hapless pawns when the US and the former USSR jockeyed for power during the Cold War era.

In Syria an uprising against almost 50 years of harsh rule by the Assad family morphed into almost total destruction of the once vibrant country. Once vibrant neighborhoods where life and laughter existed are now piles of rubble. Apartment buildings are charred from relentless barrel bombing. Windows are blown out by sniper fire. Café’s where people relaxed and listened to music exist only in the Syrian people’s distant memories. At least six million Syrians of a country of twenty-two million are displaced, most fleeing to neighboring Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon. A fortunate few moved in with relatives or rented apartments in places where they’re not welcomed. Others scrape by in overcrowded refugee camps with little or no essential services. Unemployment is rampant among refugees. A generation of Syrian children does not attend school. Labor laws are weak in Third World Nations thus Syrian children illegally work along with their parents to stay alive. Often little ones can be found digging through garbage for food scraps to augment skimpy meals. Millions of others are internally uprooted seeking safety whenever, wherever and if they can. Others sought safety in Middle East nations such as Egypt and Iraq, even though Iraq is embroiled in a protracted internal conflict with frequent violent clashes. Around Syrian 200,000 men, women and children have died often through cruel harsh means. No one really knows how many are injured from gunfire, bombings, and the world-wide outlawed use of poisoned gas. Countless more suffer and die from starvation or sickness. Hardly anyone has access to life saving medication anymore. What does a diabetic do for insulin? Nothing is the same nor will it ever be again. The country that Syrians knew as home is gone forever. There is a complete breakdown of essential services like the court system or police and fire services. The health care system barely functions. Syrian society may have operated under a dictatorship but it functioned. For a while, young people from around the world traveled to Syria to attend college as exchange students. Yes, that’s really true.

The brutal, unrelenting civil war has dragged on since 2011 with no end in sight. The original struggle by Syrian rebels demanding relief from government oppression and for a democratic society thus far failed to produce results. The chaos spread and ultimately became a welcome mat for extremists from around the Middle East and the entire world to join in a bitter fight that no longer has a cause or direction. The goal is only destruction of people, animals and Syria itself. Innocent civilians pay the price for other’s stupidity, arrogance, and over-inflated egos. Women and girls are often gang raped by extremist goons. Mothers may marry off girls as young as 13 or 14 to strangers or cousins in the ill-guided hopes it will afford them protection. In reality, their daughters are robbed of a future by forcing marriage and ensuing pregnancies. Thousands of children are left orphaned because both parents are killed or disappear in the conflict. Sometimes a child as young as twelve becomes the sole caretaker for a family of six. If they’re lucky a kind stranger will guide and protect them. Otherwise, these little ones are at the mercy of predators or extremists. The murderous extremists force Christians and Yazidi’s, both small in number, to either convert to Islam or pay a heavy tax that they cannot afford. That is totally un-Islamic. Muslims are not allowed to harm non Muslims. Animals are mercilessly slaughtered as is anyone the extremists deem unworthy. A woman can be stoned to death by the extremists if they believe she is sinful. Look in the mirror. They are the biggest sinners. Enter the Russians who bomb indiscriminately killing civilians and destroying property. At this point, what gang of hoodlums isn’t in Syria? And what is the point of all the fighting in Syria? What has it produced other than the sheer destruction of an entire nation? Proud vibrant people are reduced to beggars, scraping by on garbage scraps to feed families. Others beg on the streets and are scoffed at by strangers. Syrian people are blamed for a conflict they didn’t create. They are labeled as terrorists and demons when they have suffered more than we’ll ever know. Certainly they have suffered more than I hope I’ll ever know. They don’t deserve to be treated with such disdain and indignity.

The only way to end a war is to learn from the gruesome experiences torturing and killing Syria, Yemen, Myanmar, Iraq, Central African Republic, and all the other hot spots around the world. Do as the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. suggested – learn to live as brothers or perish together as fools. May Allah guide, bless and protect Syria. May Allah bless and protect us all.

 

 

 

An evening of friendship, faith and unity

The American presidential campaign trail is vile and ugly. It is pockmarked with hatred towards immigrants, Mexicans, Muslims and others. Rather than speak of unity, candidates spit out harsh words to divide us and make us fearful. Mosques have been defaced, immigrants are blamed for almost everything from bank foreclosures to bad hair days, and the poor are called shiftless and lazy because they don’t work hard enough. Most do by the way in low paying jobs. Last evening I was honored and privileged to be part of an interfaith event at the Islamic Center of the East Valley in Chandler AZ. Muslims, Christians, Jews and others gathered for an evening of friendship, faith and unity to start off the New Year. In addition to tasty food, there were a few speeches, a Quran reading, and honest, open discussion among people of diversity. America has grown much since I was a child when segregation was still legal. Blacks and White attended separate schools. They were forbidden to marry. The fight for equality was a long, hard battle fought by common people like those in attendance last evening. Today, the US is a better place. We are better than the hateful followers of Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Ben Carson and others vying to be president. (God forbid one of them should win.) We are kinder and more compassionate than the verbal garbage littering their campaign trails. We are surely more merciful than the people who blindly follow them believing their disgraceful lies. The interfaith movement in Arizona and around the US is strong and growing. It is both sad and regrettable that the media, slanted and biased, chooses to focus on the mistakes of a few instead of the goodness of the many. Further, there is unity among people around the world but we just don’t get to hear about Arabs and Israeli’s who work together. We rarely learn of the Iraqi Muslims and Christians who live in peace. All around the world there are people who live as brothers and sisters. Extremism wears many faces among us all and is a blow to all mankind. It’s even more crushing when your own government works against you. That won’t stop good people seeking peace or turn any of us around. There is strength in numbers and there is power in love. The late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said hatred was too great a burden to carry so he chose love. Always choose love and you’ll never lose. Thank you to everyone who made last night’s interfaith event possible. I love you all.