Qunfuz

Robin Yassin-Kassab

About Qunfuz

with 35 comments

picture by Kim Ayres

Qunfuz is the Arabic word for ‘hedgehog’ or ‘porcupine’.

I am Robin Yassin-Kassab, born in west London in 1969. Except for six months in Beirut, I grew up in England and Scotland. I have lived and worked in London, France, Pakistan, Turkey, Syria, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Oman.

I am the author of The Road From Damascus, a novel published by Hamish Hamilton and Penguin, and by il Saggiatore in Italy. I’m working on a second novel.

I’m also a co-editor and regular contributor to PULSE, recently listed by Le Monde Diplomatique as one of its five favourite websites.

update: I haven’t used my hotmail email account for many months. I’m not going to say here what my new account is, lest it is hacked as persistently (Syrian Electronic Army?) as the last, but you could try me on Facebook.

Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

June 17, 2009 at 4:38 pm

35 Responses

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  1. A single article of yours was enough to know you. Proud to have rationale among Muslims too.

    Rashid Aurakzai

    October 4, 2009 at 6:44 pm

  2. A spiffing blog with great politics!

    Ibrahim

    December 29, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    • thank you, Baba

      Robin Yassin-Kassab

      January 8, 2013 at 10:14 pm

  3. Sorry not to give my surname, but googling my full name comes up with hundreds of entries from sites I’ve had contact with for one reason or another and I so now I’m careful to avoid adding to the list.

    I’m writing to say that ‘The Road To Damascus’ is one of my all time favourite books. My copy is now with Al-Aqsa University in Gaza. I collected 160 books – mostly from Dr Eid of Al-Aqsa University’s ‘Right To Read’ campaign (see http://www.freegaza.org) – and they were delivered by the drivers of the 2 vehicles we sent from the Isle of Wight to Gaza with the recent Viva Palestina convoy.

    It was very difficult for me to part with The Road From Damascus – but I am in the fortunate position that I can buy another copy, which is unlikely to be the case in Gaza.

    I was delighted to read your review of ‘My Father Was A Freedom Fighter’ (on Electronic Intifada), as I’ve been wondering whether to buy this book and have now placed an order. To avoid emotional exhaustion I like to intersperse such subject matter with a bit of black humour – most recently Bulgakov and Kurkov – and this mixture of serious subject matter with humorous insights is one of the things I appreciated so much in ‘Road From Damascus’. I enjoyed the bits of quantum physics too. Thanks also for putting me on to ‘Footnotes On Gaza’ – which I’ve also ordered today.

    If you ever have reason to travel in the direction of the Isle of Wight, let me know. We have a lot of support from people turning out for talks (can be as many as 1 in 1,000 of the population – tho’ that’s only 130!), but it’s always a struggle to get people to then take any other action. I find it surprising that people will trek across the Island by bus in appalling weather, to attend a talk, but then won’t click on a link to send something to our MP. I realise now that I’ve probably put you off the idea of a visit – but, nevertheless, do let me know if you ever have a reason to travel to the south coast.

    All the best,
    Rachel

    Rachel

    March 6, 2010 at 11:17 am

  4. Very interesting. if you want to read a nice articles about Mahmoud Darwish you can come here: http://hookipedia.com/mahmoud-darwish-and-palestinian-literature/

    hooki

    April 26, 2010 at 9:43 am

  5. I enjoyed your post on Dr. Said and read some of your other writing. You have a fine way with words and I look forward to future posts. I also hope to find your book here in Japan.

    GGMMX

    April 26, 2010 at 11:58 pm

  6. Hi Robin

    Nice to finally remember to get a look at your site. I found it very interesting, a really personal insight into the magnitude of these troubles. I have visited only Israel and Dubai in that area myself. Israel frightened the monkeys out of me honestly, especially Jerusalem. I was working at the next desk to an Israeli at the time and I have to say I found his outlook rather troubling. I was just on a package holiday in southern Israel but it is the only place I have ever had the opportunity to hold and fire a handgun. Possibly the most terrifying experience of my life. Seeing the young boys and girls walking around with their AK47s and hearing the stories of my co-worker’s compulsory national service made me shudder to my core. One can only imagine what it must be like to grow up there amidst that level of indoctrination.
    Dubai just made me feel really really sad when I saw the conditions the slaves had to live and work in as I’ve said to you before, but it seems like a luxurious life they live now having read your accounts of the Palestinians.
    Well, I shall bring my thoughts back now to Scotland and the relative beauty and safety that we reside in. Nice to see you and the kids last night on Halloween, hope to run into you again sometime soon and have some more time to chat.
    Take Care
    Kevin

    Kevin Startup

    November 1, 2010 at 12:17 pm

  7. Hi Robin,

    I just read your article that was posted on Al-Jazeera. Very interesting but yet very sad. I hate to say this but as an Arab we deserve this melchonic chapter in our history. This whole situation could have been avoided in the begining of the twentith century. Currently the situation is worse when their corrupt Arab leaders that rule Arab regimes and suppress their subjects to express modern political thought that would help take the Arab World from the “Dark Ages.” In order for the Palestinian problem to be resolved its time for Arab subjects as well as Arab leaders to think as one to resolve all of the crisis that Middle East is facing.

    Rana El-Deek

    November 15, 2010 at 7:29 pm

  8. hi
    I’m one of your students when you were teaching in Oman.
    I haven’t got the chance to express how much I appreciate your discussions in the class.
    I was telling my literature teacher, Prof.Roscoe, about you and he told me that he read about your book. He finds the title quite interesting in which you converted “The Road to Damascus” into “from Damascus”.
    I’m eager to read your book.

    Good luck
    Rajaa

    Rajaa

    December 3, 2010 at 11:10 am

  9. Hello Kevin, and hello Rajaa! How are you? The road from D was my fourth choice of title after
    1 Sami Traifi’s summer (the agent didnt like it)
    2 The Traitor (the publisher didnt like it)
    3 Bread Hashish and Moon (Nizar Qabbani’s estate wouldn’t let me use it).
    but, yes, the ‘from’ Damascus reverses St Paul’s conversion..

    Robin Yassin-Kassab

    December 13, 2010 at 5:30 pm

  10. Dear Robin:
    A friend recommended “The Road from Damascus”. I am glad she did. Although, when I requested it from a distant library, I received one by the same title. I did not pay attention to the sub-title of the book I received, and that the author was someone else.
    I skimmed though it and was surprised that my friend who knows my taste and I trust hers, would recommend such a book.
    I am glad to get yours finally. I read it non-stop. I could not do anything but just read.
    Thanks so much.
    I am recommending it to local libraries and to the book club I attend.
    Thanks for great work.
    Ghada

    Ghada

    January 26, 2011 at 10:43 pm

    • thank you, Ghada. It’s very good to hear that.

      Robin Yassin-Kassab

      January 27, 2011 at 1:23 am

  11. Why Syria’s Christians Should Not Support the Asad Regime

    By: Elie Elhadj

    At the Dormition of Our Lady Greek Catholic cathedral in Old Damascus, Father Elias Debii raises his hands to heaven and prays for divine protection for embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.[i] Bishop Philoxenos Mattias, a spokesman for the Syriac Orthodox Church said: “We are with the government and against these movements that oppose it”.[ii]

    Those among Syria’s Christian clerics and civic leaders who publicly support the Asad regime are short sighted. They are courting long-term disaster for themselves and their congregations. Why? Because, the Asad regime will not remain in power forever; it is immoral to support non-representative unjust rule; the Asad clan’s exploitation of Sunni Islam has emboldened Islamism and thwarted the development of secularism in Syria; and because scaremongering for blackmail legitimacy will not work forever. The following explains each reason.

    The Asad regime will not remain in power forever

    Since the March 8, 1963 military coup d’état against the democratically elected parliament and government of President Nazim al-Qudsi, an unelected minority of the Alawite Asad clan has been ruling Syria with an iron fist; notwithstanding, those seven uncontested referendums for the two Asad presidents.

    In addition to impoverishing Syria; despite billion of dollars in oil revenues[iii], the regime has committed horrific atrocities—extra-judicial killings of hundreds of Muslim Brothers detainees in the Palmyra prison in 1980, mass murder in 1982 of between 3,000 citizens, according to the regime’s apologists, and 38,000 [iv] in the city of Hama, let alone the torture of residents at the slightest suspicion and the disappearance of opponents. The killing of more than 1,000 demonstrators during the seven weeks since the March 26, 2011 popular uprising adds to the regime’s grim catalogue of human rights violations.[v]

    Such a system of governance is unsustainable. It cannot last forever. When the day of reckoning will come, the support that certain priests and civic leaders had given to the regime will place all Christians in danger.

    It cannot be predicted when the Asad regime might fall. However, should the demonstrations become larger and spread to downtown Damascus and Aleppo, the demonstrators could overwhelm the security forces; rendering a Hama or a Palmyra type atrocity impossible. If the demonstrations get bigger, more Sunni clerics would join the uprising. Ultimately, even the Sunni palace ulama could turn against their benefactor president.

    There is no love lost between Sunnis and Alawites on a religious level. Accommodation between the Asad regime and Sunni palace ulama is a matter of convenience. Orthodox Sunnis regard Alawites as heretics. Ibn Taymiyya (1263-1328), condemned the Alawites as being more dangerous than the Christians, and encouraged Muslims to conduct jihad against them.[vi] Likewise, Alawites despise Sunnis. To Alawites, the howls of jackals that can be heard at night are the souls of Sunni Muslims calling their misguided co-religionists to prayer. [vii]

    If parts of the army, which is a conscripted institution, would refuse killing demonstrators or if the army would stand up to the republican guards and the intelligence brigades, then the regime might very well collapse.

    It is immoral to support non-representative unjust rule

    That leading priests of certain Syrian churches publicly support the Asad dictatorship does not reflect well on the sense of justice, morality, or benevolence of the priests. It is not very Christian for priests to abandon their duty to stand up to oppression, corruption, and injustice.

    There might be an argument in favour of tolerating an illegitimate dictatorship if the dictator were benevolent. But, Mr. Asad’s dictatorship is neither legitimate nor benevolent.
    For some priests and civic leaders to publicly embrace short-term convenience and abandon long-term security and defense of justice and human rights can be very expensive for the Christian community as a whole. Syria’s Sunni majority will forever remember Christians’ support of Mr. Asad’s misrule. A thousand years later, the memories of Christian and Alawite support of the Crusades are still vivid in the collective consciousness of Sunnis.

    The Asad clan’s exploitation of Sunni Islam emboldened Islamism and impeded the development of secularism in Syria

    Islamism has been gaining strength over the recent decades, thanks to the Asad clan’s strategy of exploiting Sunni Islam to prolong their hold on power.

    That the regime and its apologists and propagandists describe Mr. Asad’s rule as ”secular” is an exaggeration, if not false. The Asad regime is neither secular nor sincere in its promotion of the Sunni creed. Since their seizure of absolute power more than four decades ago, the Asad government did not secularize Syria in the slightest. Syria of 2011 is no less Islamic than Syria of 1963.

    Exploiting Sunni Islam, together with the excesses of the ruling elite, corruption, abuse of human rights, poverty, and unemployment have been driving increasing numbers of young men and women to extremism. The longer this situation continues, the more fertile the ground will become for Islamism to grow.

    Here is how the Asad dynasty has been impeding the development of secularism in Syria and exploiting Sunni Islam.

    Article 3.1 of the Syria constitution makes Islam the necessary religion of the president. Christians are barred from the country’s highest political office. Article 3.2 makes Islam as “a main source” of legislation.

    Seventh century Shari’a laws and courts are in force in personal status, family, and inheritance affairs (Christians follow their own archaic religious courts). Shari’a law is the antithesis of the liberal laws of the modern age. It denies women legal rights compared with Muslim men. It impinges on women’s human rights. Shari’a law reduces the status of women to that of chattel—a Muslim man can marry four wives, divorce any one of them without giving reason (with limited child custody rights, housing, or alimony), a Muslim woman is prohibited from marrying a non-Muslim man while the Muslim man is allowed to marry non-Muslim women, a woman cannot pass her nationality on to her foreign husband and children while the man can, “honour killing” of a woman by a male relative results in a light sentence for murder, and two women equal one man in legal testimony, witness, and inheritance. Such maltreatment of one half of Syria’s society is in spite of the regime’s energetic attempts to project an image of secularism, modernity, and equality between the genders.

    The Islamic curriculum in Syria’s elementary, middle, and high schools teaches Muslim Sunni Islam regardless of the Islamic sect to which they belong. The textbooks are discriminatory, divisive, and intolerant of non-Muslims.[viii]

    More mosques, bigger congregations, and more veiled women than ever before have become the order of the day in Syrian cities. To flaunt his Islamic credentials, President Bashar Asad even ordered a special rain prayer throughout Syria’s mosques performed on December 10, 2010 in order for God to send rain.

    Following the March 2011 violent demonstrations, Mr. Asad acted to gain support from the Sunni palace ulama and mollify the Sunni street. The popular Sunni cleric Muhammad Saiid al-Bouti praised Mr. Asad’s response to many of the requests submitted by a number of Sunni clerics. In his weekly religious program on April 5, 2011 on Syrian government television, Sheikh al-Bouti applauded Mr. Asad’s permission to allow niqab-wearing (black face cover) female teachers; transferred in July 2010 to desk duties[ix], to return to classrooms. Sheikh al-Bouti had attributed the drought in December 2010 to the transfer from classrooms of the niqab-wearing female teachers. Sheikh al-Bouti also praised Mr. Asad for the formation of the Sham Institute for Advanced Shari’a Studies and Research, and for the establishment of an Islamic satellite television station dedicated to proclaiming the message of true Islam.[x] Also, the first and only casino, which had enraged orthodox clerics when it opened on New Year’s Eve, was closed as well.[xi]

    Why exploit Islam and fight secularism?

    To rule Sunni dominated Syria, it would be helpful to the Asad clan to uphold the influence of Sunni Islam instead of wading in the muddy waters of Shari’a reform and secularization, even if that meant throwing the Baath Party’s constitution away.

    Islam is helpful to Muslim rulers. Not only in Syria, other Arab regimes (except Lebanon and Tunisia) exploit Islam to stay in power.[xii] Islam demands obedience of Muslims to the Muslim ruler.

    The Quran, the Prophetic Sunna, and opinions of famous jurists enjoin Muslims to obey the Muslim ruler blindly. In 4:59, the Quran orders: “Obey God and obey God’s messenger and obey those of authority among you.” Answering how a Muslim should react to a ruler who does not follow the true guidance, the Prophet reportedly said, according to Sahih Muslim: “He who obeys me obeys God; he who disobeys me, disobeys God. He who obeys the ruler, obeys me; he who disobeys the ruler, disobeys me.”[xiii] Abi Da’ud (d. 888) and Ibn Maja (d. 886) quote the Prophet as imploring Muslims to hear and obey the ruler, even if he were an Ethiopian slave.[xiv] Al-Bukhari (d. 870) quotes similar traditions.[xv] The palace ulama invoke one thousand year old opinions of famous jurists such as Al-Ghazali (1058-1111), Ibn Jama’a (1241-1333), and Ibn Taymiyya (1263-1328). These men taught that the Muslim ruler must be obeyed blindly because even an unjust ruler is better than societal unrest.

    Syria’s palace ulama threaten the Muslim faithful with eternal damnation if they fail to obey Mr. Asad (waliy al-amr). In the hands of the Asad clan, Islam has become a psychological weapon supplementing a brutal security machine.

    Scaremongering for Blackmail legitimacy will not work forever

    That certain priests and civic leaders subscribe to unsubstantiated scaremongering regarding future Islamist/salafi persecution of Christians is unwise. Those in the Christian community who warn of the slaughter awaiting Christians if the Asad regime collapses fall for the regime’s Machiavellian practice of blackmail legitimacy. Neither historical precedence nor credible evidence today supports such scare tactics. Blackmail legitimacy, like the crying-wolf syndrome, does not work forever.

    Islamists/salafis who might harbor violent intentions against Christians are a tiny minority of Syria’s 23-million population. There are no accurate statistics or opinion polls to suggest otherwise. Syria’s Islamists/salafis are not representative of Syria’s Sunnis. The great majority of Syria’s Sunnis, around 75% of the population, are moderate Muslims who have lived rather harmoniously with their fellow Christians for centuries.

    During the first 15 years of independence and until the advent of the Asad clan, Syria’s Christians enjoyed peace and shared whatever prosperity was available at that time with the Sunni majority. The suggestion that Syria’s Sunnis would kill Syria’s Christians is malicious misinformation to divide and rule. The regime’s media, apologists, and propagandists who circulate such stories are wicked. Those who believe such tales are naive. Syria’s Christian minority’s best interest could not be separate from the interest of the Sunni majority.

    That the options to Syrians today are reduced to either accepting the current poor state of affairs or contend with an Islamist/salafi rule; even civil war, is blackmail used by the regime to perpetuate its monopoly on power and avoid genuine reform. That genuine reform is not an option does not bode well for the country. That President Asad insisted in his address to the parliament on March 30, 2011 that Syria’s protesters had been “duped” into damaging the nation on behalf of its enemies[xvi], and his infamous billionaire cousin, Rami Makhlouf, stated in an interview with The New York Times that, “Syria will fight protests till ‘the end’” spell danger to all Syrians.[xvii] Like a pressure cooker, the longer a dictatorship stays in power the more violent the end will be.

    Sunnis, like Christians, are threatened by Islamist/salafi ideology, violence, and seventh century way of life. While systematic long-term persecution of Christians by Sunnis will not happen in Syria, acts of revenge by extremist groups might occur during the chaotic days of a popular revolt against; not only Alawites and Christians, but also against non-Christian supporters of the Asad clan altogether.

    To spare Syria a potential catastrophe, Mr. Asad should institute a comprehensive and genuine political reforms, in particular; multi-party parliament and contested presidential elections. Scaremongering priests can help. They must desist from misinformation and hypocrisy. They ought to become honest to the teaching of their churches. They should defend legitimacy, justice, and the rule of law.

    Wise men and women; Alawites, Christians, and Sunnis must council the president and his immediate family that genuine reform; not cosmetic retouches, not the use of the tank, is the only way forward.

    Hafiz Asad and his son, Bashar, have saddled the Alawite community plus the regime’s supporting groups with a terrible burden, a potential disaster. The Asad family must understand that four decades of misrule are kifaya.

    Bashar Asad has a rare opportunity today to become the hero who saved Syria from a frightening future. Would he? Or, indeed, can he?

    [i] Middle East Online, Syria’s Christian against fall of Assad regime, May 4, 2011,

    http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=45958

    [ii] The Telegraph, Syria: President Bashar al-Assad has a staunch friend in the Church, April 21, 2011

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/8466759/Syria-President-Bashir-al-Assad-has-a-staunch-friend-in-the-Church.html

    [iii] Elie Elhadj, A Question of Oil Accounting, October 2010,

    http://daringopinion.com/——A-Question-of-Oil-Accounting.php

    [iv] Thomas Friedman, From Beirut to Jerusalem, (Harpers Collins Publishers, 1998, London) Chapter 4: “Hama Rules”.

    [v] Reuters reported Turkish Prime Minister Tayyep Erdogan stating that “more than 1,000 civilians had died in Syria’s upheaval”, Reuters, Syrian tanks shell towns with at least 19 killed, May 11, 2011,

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/05/11/us-syria-idUSLDE73N02P20110511

    [vi] Patrick Seale, Asad, the Struggle for the Middle East (Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1995), 10.

    [vii] The New York Review of Books, Storm Over Syria, by Malisa Ruthven, June 9, 2011,

    http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2011/jun/09/storm-over-syria/?pagination=false

    [viii] Elie Elhadj, Syria’s Islamic Textbooks: Politics, Intolerance, and Dogma, May 2011,

    http://daringopinion.com/——Syria%27s-Islamic-Textbooks.php

    [ix] Syria Today, No Place for the Niqab, August 2010,

    http://www.syria-today.com/index.php/politics/11359-no-place-for-the-niqab

    [x] Syria Steps, The Leadership responded positively to the demands of the men of religion, April 6, 2011,

    http://www.syriasteps.com/index.php?d=110&id=65907&in_main_page=1

    [xi] The New York Times, Syria Tries to Placate Sunnis and Kurds, April 6, 2011,

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/07/world/middleeast/07syria.html?_r=1&hpw

    [xii] Elhadj, To Prolong their Dictatorships, Arab Rulers Resort to the Islamic Creed, February 2010,

    http://daringopinion.com/——Arab-Rulers-Exploitation-of-Islam.php

    [xiii] The Six Books Sahih Muslim, traditions 4746 to 4763, pp. 1007-1008 and traditions 4782 to 4793, pp. 1009-1010.

    [xiv] Ibid., Sunan Abi Da’ud, tradition 4607, p. 1561; and Sunan Ibn Maja, tradition 42, p. 2479.

    [xv] Ibid., Sahih al-Bukhari, traditions 7137 and 7142, p. 595.

    [xvi] The New York Times, Syria Offers Changes Before Renewed Protests, March 31, 2011,

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/01/world/middleeast/01syria.html?_r=1&ref=global-home

    [xvii] The New York Times, Ally of Assad Says Syria Will Fight Protests Till ‘the End’, May 10, 2011

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/11/world/middleeast/11makhlouf.html?_r=1&ref=global-home

    Elie Elhadj

    May 23, 2011 at 1:27 pm

  12. thanks for this, Elie. I’ve posted it as a comment under the ‘regime versus alawis’ post. It’s an excellent essay.

    Robin Yassin-Kassab

    May 24, 2011 at 8:48 pm

  13. Thanks Robin.
    Elie

    Elie Elhadj

    May 25, 2011 at 10:12 am

  14. hi,
    I knew you from a blog on Syria on AlJazeera.
    someone posted a link to Blundering and Adapting, I read, then I read your comments on Libya that entirely agree with.
    I was born in the West, by Western parents, and I’m not the on left but not on right, I really appreciate the considerations that you have done. I love freedom and I consider democrazy the least bad form of government of all those tested so far.
    I hope all these people who are fighting for freedom have the opportunity to really get it.
    I can barely read and write English with difficulty, I apologize for mistakes.
    I was very curious about your book The Road from Damascus and as you’ve also published in Italian (I’m Italian) I think I’ll buy it. Then I’ll write if I liked it or not.
    My mail is temporary so I can not get answers, sorry,
    but I will read any replies on the blog.

    trouuoub

    June 7, 2011 at 2:54 pm

  15. @Kevin Startup: Dear Kevin, I think you’re referring to IDF conscripts with their UZI rifles, not AKs (Kalashnikovs).

    If you’re in Israel and you come across young boys and girls carrying AK-47s, you are in big trouble mate! Regards, Peter

    Peter Feuilherade

    June 7, 2011 at 3:55 pm

    • Thank you Peter, I am happy to say that my knowledge of firearms is clearly very limited. In a world where we now farm our animals and they therefore cannot escape, firearms should have no further part to play in humanity’s struggle. All who bear such arms for any purpose other than simple amusement are murderers.

      Kevin

      June 16, 2011 at 4:39 pm

  16. Dear Robin,

    In your essay “Reflections on Libya and the Left” -April 19th- you wrote: “I hope the revolution continues and develops and deepens after Gaddafi.” In the recent days, NATO warplanes by relentless bombardment of the Libyan capital, have terrorized more than 1.7 million people in Tripoli. Do you still believe that the NATO terror bombings and the escalation of the military intervention in Libya by the U.S. and the European military powers still would help the revolution against Gaddafi’s dictatorship? I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

    Massoud
    *FYI: I wrote the below piece right after the U.S. launched the first cruise missiles against Libya. I believe my assessment was correct.

    * * *
    Only fools support the military intervention against Libya
    Massoud Nayeri
    Sat 3/19/2011 4:22 PM

    According to the Pentagon briefing, a few hours ago, the U.S. launched the first cruise missiles against Libya. This military assault is supported by French and British military powers with the approval of the UN Security Council. The aim supposedly is to “Protect” the Libyan people. But the recent military aggression against Iraq and Afghanistan indicates that the intention of these military interventions are not “Humanitarian”. Despite any claims, this military assault will not be limited only to the so-called “No-Fly Zone” operation and this is just another form of occupation for Libya, a former colonial country. This aggression will not help or boost the Libyan opposition in their struggle for freedom and the fight against the Gaddafi’s dictatorship; on the contrary, it will transform Libya to a war zone which endangers the lives of millions of innocent Libyans.

    Only fools would support such a military intervention against Libya, while all the governments of these aggressors – U.S., U.K. and France- are cutting the budgets for social programs, somehow they easily can spend about $200 millions per week to implement the “No-Fly Zone” in Libya alone!

    Stop the war against Libya, spend the money on social programs.

    Massoud Nayeri

    June 12, 2011 at 6:45 pm

  17. Yes, Massoud, I still think the intervention, though i am suspicious of it, was the least worst option. It saved perhaps tens of thousands of lives in the east, in Misrata and elsewhere. I am not generally in favour of ‘humanitarian intervention.’ I judge each case by its merits. I think post-qaddafi Libya may well be compromised, but Egypt and Tunisia may also be compromised by Western and Saudi money. And a victory for Qaddafi in Libyta would have been a defeat for revolutionaries across the Arab world.

    Robin Yassin-Kassab

    June 12, 2011 at 8:35 pm

  18. Robin – I am just leaving this comment so that I can request notifications of new posts and I can’t see how else to subscribe. Also, whilst you have categories you don’t have a search bar. I’m sure subscriber and search bars are easy to install and they’re certainly useful.

    It’s funny but I first heard of your site through a zionist blog and when I saw your comment on Atzmon, antisemitism and zionism, I thought I’d pay you a visit. Having read the discussion between yourself and Massoud I now suspect the blogger who linked to you did so because of where you stand on Libya. So, I would be interested to know where you now stand on the western intervention against Libya. I am not a writer like you so I tend to blog other people’s writing. So when I read Mike Marqusee’s take on the Libya affair I blogged it here. Check out this opening piece:

    In the Guardian, Jonathan Freedland writes that liberal interventionism is “fine in theory” but goes wrong “in practise”. I’d suggest that it goes wrong in practise because it’s deeply flawed in theory.

    In solidarity

    Mark Elf

    levi9909

    August 3, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    • Hello Mark. I like your blog a lot. I know that others have subscribed to my blog, but i’m not sure how. One day I’ll work out how to add a search bar.

      As for Libya, it’s an ugly situation. I can’t see how it would have been any better without the intervention. I’m against bombing Tripoli – that exceeds the UN mandate and probably galvanises Qaddafi’s supporters. I wish the Arabs were in a position to intervene, but they’re not. I think that having Qaddafi win back in March by slaughtering the Libyans would have been a disaster not only for Libya but for Syria and the rest of the Arab world too. By now, there is I think a good argument for winding down the intervention. The playing field is more even than it was at the start (Misrata has been liberated for a start, and the Western mountains are no longer under siege), and if qaddafi doesn’t go soon there must be negotiations.

      I don’t support humanitarian intervention as a principle, and from a British perspective the intervention is probably overall a bad thing. I was thinking from an Arab perspective and I wasn’t thinking on general principle. I make no apologies for that. Every case, and every moment, is different.

      Robin Yassin-Kassab

      August 3, 2011 at 6:13 pm

      • Thanks for that Robin. I wasn’t fishing for a compliment but it’s most welcome.

        Re intervention, I didn’t know what the flip to think when the whole thing kicked off in Libya so I was grateful for Marqusee’s article. At the level of gut feeling (plus empirical evidence) I just feel that NATO/UN consensus is usually wrong.

        Anyway, I’m now subscribed and I look forward to our online paths crossing in future.

        levi9909

        August 4, 2011 at 7:40 pm

  19. If there was NATO/UN consensus I missed it.

    Robin Yassin-Kassab

    August 5, 2011 at 12:46 pm

  20. Don’t apologise! But there was no consensus. The US didn’t really want to get involved. Neither did Germany. Qatar (not a NATO power) is definitely involved. In the UN, Russia and China are against. I consider myself to be ‘of the left’, whatever that means, but I am disturbed by the blanket thinking of some leftists who see ‘imperialist consensus’ where there is none, who say ‘it’s just like Iraq’ although the Iraqis were ignored when they rose against Saddam in 91, who fail to notice that the imperialist west has just lost two wars and doesn’t have either the appetite or the capacity for an occupation of Libya. It can still be profitably debated, however, how much support the revolution lost inside Libya when it sought help from outside, and to what extent the future has been compromised by British and French involvement. Unfortunately, I don’t see any happy end for Libya. But I’m still glad Qaddafi was stopped from forcing his way into Benghazi and Misrata.

    Robin Yassin-Kassab

    August 5, 2011 at 4:07 pm

  21. [...] Ratta joined Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat, Syrian novellist Manhal Al-Saraj, British Syrian author Robin Yassin-Kassab, and cultural resistance specialist Steve Chandra Savale. Another Syrian novellist, Mamdouh Azzam, [...]

  22. [...] Yassin-Kassab, a journalist who also wrote The Road to Damascus and is a prominent blogger, said he was disappointed in the attitudes of journalists who dismissed the Syrian rebels as [...]

  23. Hi Robin
    I just read your essay, ”Why isn’t it exploding’, in October-December 2012 issue of Critical Muslim. I like to think of it as a cool shade of Chinar (Oriental plane) in the scorching sun of negativity that goes around, masquerading as scholarship, about Pakistan. You mention ‘Chitrali cigarettes’ on two ocassions: p. 33 and 34. I am from Chitral and, as far as I know, we don’t have any cigarette factory in Chitral. Are you referring to the bhang/charas (weed?) produced in Chitral and smuggled to the urban areas of Pakistan or there is an actual cigarette brand named Chitrali?

    Ali

    March 3, 2013 at 5:16 pm

    • Ali, I am referring to charas. I took the amusing title ‘Chitrali cigarette’ from my friend Mohammed Hanif, who uses it in his novel “A Case of Exploding mangoes”.

      Robin Yassin-Kassab

      March 3, 2013 at 8:15 pm

  24. […] was near the summit of Mount Etna with Ra Page from Comma Press and writers Robin Yassin-Kassab and Julian Gough. The walk up had been tough – a 45-degree slope of black volcanic marbles […]

  25. […] whole reason that I and the other writers: KJ Orr, Julian Gough, Robin Yassin-Kassab, Annie Kirby, Stuart Evers and Zoe Lambert, were invited to this truly mind-blowing conference was […]

  26. Is this blog still active ? If it is I am writing my dissertation on the Identity of British Muslims and will be using your novel, was wondering if you could recommend me some pointers / advice ?

    Adam

    December 19, 2013 at 3:43 am

  27. […] the coldest day (so far!) of the year here in New York, why not warm up by reading Robin Yassin-Kassab‘s account of his trip through Morocco — which ends up on summer afternoon in Marrakesh […]

  28. […] Robin Yassin-Kassab is the author of the novel The Road From Damascus. He co-edits the Critical Muslim and http://www.pulsemedia.org, and blogs at http://www.qunfuz.com […]


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