A Guest Opinion
Abraham K. Yoosuf, M.D.
There are many signs of awakening among the Assyrians after the years of slumber and the great forces which have worked for dissolution in the past, now seems to me, are working harmoniously together.
There are many difficulties in our path. We are poor in financial as well as in educational ways. We have forgotten the great fundamental principal in this life, which carries a nation forward and brings her in contact with others on the same level – National Character and National Education.
The majority, in this country and in Turkey, have lost our mother tongue, under pressure of reigning dynasty; and the geographical conditions of the countries have prevented the Assyrians from becoming one and using a uniform language, different tongues are spoken in the different places. This is one of the greatest difficulties confronting us and should be solved by us.
Our ecclesiastics have been so ignorant and indifferent concerning the people that they have left them to their own destiny. No schools where our young men can learn and become our leaders and devote themselves to the success of the Nation.
Uniformity of our language is an absolute necessity. There must be some way to solve this question. There are many Societies, which are endeavoring to do some good for their Nation and brethren here. My first suggestion, to these Societies, would be to accumulate a substantial sum for the educational work.
Second, beginning from now on, prepare some young men for better educational work, for there are many worthy young men that hunger for education and who are willing to do service for their Nation. We need men of education.
... Old Assyria has been forgotten; with her beauty and heroic works. It is time to bring her glory once more to the fore light, exhibiting her to the civilized nations of the world. We deserve recognition and hope through this medium, the American people will know about the Assyrians.
We have been kept away from the western continent for one reason or the other. Our neighboring and much smaller Nation, coming from the same country has been recognized; and the great mass of Americans know of them and are very much interested in their cause. Daily papers and magazines write about their sufferings and massacres, while Assyrians are living and suffering under the same conditions. We have no authentic news from our Patriarch or circle from him to present our cause to the American public for Americans are ready to recognize us if we present our cause and interest them.
Wilfred Bet-Alkhas: On the eve of the 74th annual Assyrian national convention in San Diego, Zinda Magazine re-publishes Dr. Yoosuf's alarming article, published on 15 October 1916, over 90 years ago. The facts about the condition of the Assyrians in the U.S. and in the Middle East frighteningly resonate with what is happening today. Dr. Yoosuf, four years after publishing this article in "The New Assyria" joined his friend, Rev. Joel E. Warda and Mor Afram Barsoum of the Syriac Orthodox Church at the Paris Peace Conference. An unprepared delegation and much in-fighting among Assyrian groups, misguided by their perspective religious leaders, led to the failure of these talks in Paris. Not until today - 90 years later - were Assyrians again offered an opportunity to present their case for administrative autonomy in their own homeland. Today the same opposing internal forces, not surprisingly, stand against the success of the Nationalists.
Iraq's Endangered Minorities
Recent bombings in Iraq's Kurdish area nearly annihilated two Yazidi villages, killing hundreds of this ancient angel-revering, Indo-European religious group. The single deadliest atrocity of the Iraq conflict, it was also the latest demonstration that Iraq's non-Muslims are in danger of extinction.
Sixty years ago, Iraq's flourishing Jewish population, a third of Baghdad, fled in the wake of coordinated bombings and violence against them. Today, a handful of Jews remain. Unless Washington acts, the same fate awaits Iraq's million or so Christians and other minorities. They are not simply caught in the crossfire of a Muslim power struggle; they are being targeted in a ruthless cleansing campaign by Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish militants.
The United States has no policies designed to protect or rescue them. Worse, it has carried out policies heedless of their effect on Iraq's most vulnerable. When the U.S. Agency for International Development provided for reconstruction projects, it did so without regard for whether regional authorities withheld benefits from minorities. When the U.S. Embassy sought translators and skilled workers, it hired heavily from among minority groups without considering their ability to obtain asylum if threatened. To win Shiite support for Kurdish and Sunni demands, American constitutional advisers accepted provisions for Islamic law that severely weakened the rights of non-Muslims.
Canon Andrew White, the Anglican vicar of a Baghdad church who organized an interfaith reconciliation effort sponsored by the Pentagon, left Iraq after receiving death threats. In July, he testified unequivocally at a hearing on "Threats to Iraq's Communities of Antiquity" held by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom: "Coalition policies have failed the Christians and non-Muslims."
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice argues that reducing violence will help all Iraqis, but non-Muslims may have been purged from Iraq by the time the dust settles. It could already be too late for the Mandeans, followers of John the Baptist who have roots in ancient Babylon. A spokesman of the sect told the commission that only 5,000 Mandeans remain.
Priests have been beheaded; churches bombed; unveiled women burned with acid; men killed for operating theaters and barbershops; children murdered for wearing jeans, for mingling with the opposite sex or simply for being seen as symbolizing the infidels in some way. Criminals find members of religious minorities to be easy prey. During the buildup of U.S. forces this spring, a Sunni mosque in Baghdad's Dora neighborhood issued a fatwa demanding that local Christians convert to Islam or pay an Islamic tax; thousands fled.
Many Christians have left Iraq since 2003. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees reports that Christians, now less than 4 percent of Iraq's population, make up 40 percent of its refugees. Thousands more Christians, Yazidis and others are moving north, mainly to the rural Nineveh plain. This is their last hope for staying. Nineveh is the traditional home of the Assyrian Christians, who trace their civilization to Nimrod, Noah's great-grandson, and their faith to the prophet Jonah and the apostle Thomas, both of whom preached there.
Pascale Warda, a Chaldean Christian who survived four assassination attempts, one of which killed her four bodyguards, while serving as Iraq's interim migration minister, told the Commission on International Religious Freedom of the "desperate" plight of Iraq's internally displaced people and the sense of abandonment they feel. Shortly afterward, the Senate went into recess without acting on a House humanitarian aid measure.
At a House hearing in May, the State Department's inspector general for Iraq, Stuart Bowen, was asked what the administration was doing to help small minority groups. Bowen said he had heard of "progress" in "creating a Nineveh province" for them. But there has been no progress, and U.S. policy in fact runs counter to the initiative. When asked about such a haven, the State Department's Iraq policy coordinator, David Satterfield, told me it is "against U.S. policy to further sectarianism." The administration has not even brought together elected and civic leaders of Iraq's non-Muslim minorities to discuss solutions.
Lebanese Maronite scholar Habib Malik has written that the Middle East's Christians and other minorities have historically served as moderating influences. Their very presence highlights pluralism, and they are a bridge to the West and its values of individual rights. These communities sponsor schools with modern curriculums benefiting all; a prime example was Baghdad's Jesuit College, whose past students include three Muslim presidential candidates in Iraq's last election.
It is in America's national and moral interests to help Iraq's Christians and other non-Muslims. The most vulnerable must be given asylum. We must also help those determined to stay. It is not favoritism to acknowledge that they face specific threats that require specific policy remedies apart from the military surge -- such as aid and protection to resettle in their traditional Nineveh homelands.
Nina Shea's article was first published in The Washington Post on 27 August 2007. Ms. Shea is director of the Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom and a commissioner on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent government agency.
Next weekend, as Assyrians sing and dance in San Diego for the Assyrian-American National Federation’s Annual Convention, they should consider an age old question:
Is a good deed "good" because its intention was good, or because the outcome was good? Is the road to hell truly paved with good intentions? When is it ok – or not ok – to accept aid or help from certain sources?
The Assyrians are one of the oldest nations without a state of their own - indigenous to one of the most contested pieces of property on earth: No, not the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, but Mesopotamia, the birthplace of civilization. They speak an ancient tongue - whether from Northern Iran or Northern Syria - when an Assyrian meets another, they communicate in the same tongue. They are currently under siege in Iraq with what may be their second genocide this century.
Those with the most money want to see some kind of "return" on their "investment". Apparently a photograph of a Chaldean Catholic Assyrian family living in a new home on their indigenous lands built with their donated money isn't a worthy profit margin.
The Nation, for the Nationalist, is greater than the Self.
Investing in the Nation will yield a return that is immeasurable. The Nation that is built by its own citizens is always the most loyal. It is always the strongest. It is always the most sustainable. And it always pays back into the system.
Investing in the Nation is greater than investing in the Self.
Woman Jumps to Her Death from Chicago High-Rise
Courtesy of the Chicago Sun-Times
(ZNDA: Chicago) An autopsy last week determined that Mrs. Isabella Dekelaita, 36, of Schaumburg, Illinois jumped from a Lakeview high-rise to her death. Her body was discovered about 1:45 p.m. Saturday in the 600 block of West Irving Park Road, according to police News Affairs Officer Tom Polick.
Mrs. Dekelaita with her husband, Mr. Gilbert Dekelaita, 38, and children lived at 500 block of South Salem Drive in Schaumburg, according to a spokesman for the Cook County Medical Examiner's office.
An autopsy by the medical examiner's office showed Dekelaita committed suicide. She died from multiple injuries caused by a fall from height, the autopsy stated.
Dekelaita jumped from the 41st floor of the high-rise building in the 600 block of west Irving Park, a medical examiner's office spokesman said. She was pronounced on the scene at 1:55 p.m. Saturday.
Assyrian Man Charged with Larceny in Connecticut
Courtesy of Bristol Journal
(ZNDA: Bristol) Edwin Hormoz, 37, of 50 Dogwood Lane, Bristol, Connecticut was charged with first-degree larceny and 19 counts of forgery in connection with a spree of forged checks that took place between January 2006 and June 2007.
His bond was set at $30,000.
Hormoz, who lost re-election to his post in mid-June, became the target of a police investigation July 2, when the Assyrian National Association's new president, Agnes Pireh, found discrepancies in the club's finances and contacted police, Sgt. Gregory Wright said Friday.
One outstanding bill that raised a red flag was a $6,800 water bill that hadn't been paid, along with a total of some $23,598 in taxes and other bills.
"The president confronted him about this," Wright said. "He said they'd been paid. And they asked for the checkbook. But he could not produce documentation that the bills had been paid.
"It turned out he took the money for himself," Wright said. "At the end, he finally admitted that he had taken $37,727.35. He told detectives that he had financial problems."
Hormoz signed his own name and forged the name of past president Ashor Shamonei on 20 checks totaling $28,920 that required two signatures, according to the affidavit supporting the August 14 arrest warrant.
Pireh told police that Hormoz called her on July 1, apologized to her and asked her for a chance to repay the club, according to court records.
Hormoz went voluntarily to police headquarters July 5 for an interview with detectives, saying he admitted making checks out to himself and would resolve the matter by the next day, the arrest warrant stated.
While police were investigating, the Assyrian National Association's new treasurer, Santak Moochi, continued to go over finances and found 13 other discrepancies during the time Hormoz was treasurer, police said.
The additional 13 checks totaled $8,807.35, according to the affidavit, "which made the grand total Edwin Hormoz embezzled from the Assyrian National club to be $37,727.35."
Court records also said: One check was written to Plainville Oil, "which the Assyrian club is not a customer of."
Hormoz said he would make an attempt to sell his house so he could pay back the association."
His next court date is Sept. 14.
Call A Spade A Spade!
Prof. Sergey Osipov
The letter of Mr. Ninos Benjamin of the Assyrian Universal Alliance in the past issue of Zinda Magazine shocks one with false information. Once again AUA lays blame on someone else. Mr. Benjamin is very unhappy with the phrase “rogue political leaders” that Zinda Magazine used in its last week’s editorial. What else can you call those who passed themselves for an organization that does not exist or passed as someone representing an organization that did not authorize him/her to be its representative.
Here is an example: long before the conference commenced in Teheran, Zinda Magazine and all Russian-speaking Assyrian websites published a statement by he League of Assyrians of Russia (LARUS), where it was stated that LARUS was leaving AUA and refused to participate in the Tehran conference. However, Mr. Benjamin lists Assyrian organizations that were present in Tehran and names Assyrian Association of Russia as one of them.
This is an obvious lie. There was only one person present in Tehran at the time, Mr. Noogzar Khoshabayev. He flew to Tehran as an organizer of the tour of the Assyrian Dance group "Nineveh" from Georgia in the festival “Tammuz”. Moreover, Mr. Khoshabayev made an official statement where he said that he does not represent any association and he was very disturbed by the fact that Assyrians of Georgia were represented by the Assyrians that weren’t appointed by any organization of Georgia. This was said to Mr. Yonatam Bet-Kolya, Mr. Carlo Ganjeh and Mr. Youra Tarverdi.
I, as a former vice-president of Assyrian National Congress (I participated in two Congresses - in 1991 in Modesto and in 1993 in Moscow), know very well how these conferences are forged upon us.
It looks like AUA is using Mr. Sargon Dadesho’s experience, who always invites some individuals to his conferences and presents them as the representatives of the Assyrian organizations from different countries. Since 1993 I haven’t participated in any of the ANC congresses and said on numerous occasions that I had left the position of the vice-president of ANC. However, Mr. Dadesho still presents me as his representative in Russia.
I believe that these politicians have to be exposed. They only discredit our nation. It’s a pity that more sober-minded and rational people that we have among our nation dispersed all over the world are not able to organize the national forum which will show our people the real situation, will give us open and honest information and will show the real way to save our nation and provide it with the minimum rights to return to our indigenous motherland. Unfortunately, Nineveh today is in the hands of the occupiers. Call a spade, a spade. Any cooperation with the occupiers has to be perceived as treason. We have to treat these traitors as the collaborators were treated during World War II in USSR and in France.
An Easy Button to Delete Nonsense
I am not affiliated with any organization(s) and I try to do what ever I can to help my people. But, one thing I would like to know is, what was Fred Aprim smoking when he was writing the article "The Triangle of Submissiveness"? It's true we Assyrians have "too many chiefs but not enough Indians" as they say, but now we have to many "journalist" that think they know everything and they can speculate on just about anything. Now I don't see any difference between Aprim's, Dadisho’s, or even Zinda's Journalism. It is dangerous to speculate when you have people's lives at stake.
An Outstanding Assyrian Composer and Singer in Moscow
Marcel Josephson (Bet-Yousef)
Same-Same Water Buffalo
There was a saying in Vietnam the American soldiers borrowed from the locals to express similarity, as in two things or thoughts being alike: “Same-same water buffalo.” At least that’s what I think the expression meant, unless of course I misunderstood and spent a year in the war saying yes’s to a lot of no’s and no’s to a lot of yes’s.
Recent on-camera interviews I conducted with Assyrian refugees from Iraq for a documentary on the plight of the Christians in the war reminded me of that.
I don’t mean to make light of the subject – for the stories the refugees told about the precarious state of the Assyrians in Iraq are heart wrenching, especially since the world seems to ignore the sectarian meat grinder they encounter daily. It is just that since we spoke different dialects of our Assyrian language, at times I had difficulty understanding them, and they me, I am sure. Now once again I find myself wondering about the yes’s and the no’s.
This was the first interview I had recorded in Assyrian for broadcast, since the opportunity had never risen before. It also reminded me of another interview I conducted years ago on my radio program with a blues singer from Mississippi. The man spoke an English dialect as thick as the roux for his alligator sauce piquant. I failed to understand a word he said. I remember asking him a question and struggling to decipher the answer – on live radio. “What did he say?” I thought to myself over and over again. Not a word. Sheeeesh!
Although born in Baghdad, most of my early life was spent in Tehran, Iran, resulting in an Assyrian dialect, I am told, influenced by that of the Urmuzhnayeh of Urmia – a region in northwest Iran, which at one time had a large Assyrian population. The dialect of the Assyrian refugees from Iraq, however, had a heavy influx of Arabic. I do not speak Arabic.
Even so, the profound truth about which we had no doubt is the heritage we share. We knew we were of the same people: blood, soul and spirit.
Whether we are born in Iraq, Australia or America, our history as Assyrians is carved into the air and the soil of ancient Mesopotamia. The present day Iraq and the surrounding lands were home to our ancestors and those of our relatives, the Chaldeans and the Syriacs, among others.
I fear most Americans have no precise idea of even where Iraq is located, much in the way it was during the Vietnam War – they had no idea where Vietnam was either, except that it was out there, somewhere. How much they know about Iraq’s history and that of its people, past and present, I can only guess. Do they even know Iraq has a relatively large Christian population?
Well, it did have a large Christian population before the sectarian violence directed against them turned thousands into refugees in their own land, as well in other lands.
Is it any wonder, then, that in a recent discussion about the war I was not surprised to hear “Didn’t the Assyrian people die out a long time ago”? No we did not. I thought it useless to bring up the Chaldeans and the rest to avoid one too many surprises.
Of course, hearing that comment is far from unusual. Most people believe the Assyrians vanished, like the Hittites or the Thracians, somewhere in the path of history, that we were wiped out, or that we blended into other cultures like cake mix. In past centuries, some were forced to give up their identity, I am sure, but many of our people survived as Assyrians – writers, scientists, teachers and farmers – and carried forth our culture and heritage. In the Middle East, they scratched and fought to hold on to their identity and values despite persistent discrimination and genocide at the hands of those with dead souls.
No one and no country helped the Assyrians in their fight to survive, to live in peace among their neighbors. Voices were silent. Eyes closed. Promises made and broken. Documented evidence abounds about the atrocities against the Assyrians. Now I fear history is repeating itself with the plight of our people in Iraq. Once again voices are silent. Eyes closed. And promises don’t mean a thing.
There is a Japanese saying that reflects the inner strength of the Assyrians: “To endure what is unendurable is true endurance.” Our empire fell, yes, but our people did not. They did not disappear like the scene in the rear view mirror. Lest the younger and the future generations forget, the Assyrians prevailed despite the odds against them. Once an Assyrian always an Assyrian.
Except for the one I met in Vietnam, I have yet to come across Assyrians who fail to reveal their ethnic heritage first off (although, according to the refugees, Christians in Iraq try to conceal their identity to survive the sectarian violence against them). Then again, I must try to understand my fellow Assyrian-American soldier’s oversight because of the war’s emotional complexities.
We were stationed in the central highlands of Vietnam, but I don’t recall the precise circumstances of our meeting. The moment we met I know he was an Assyrian. Call it an intuitive sensor, an inner voice that shouts, “Assyrian.” There is nothing scientific about it, really. That is just the way it is – like sunrise and sunset.
Somehow we came to the topic of ethnic identity and I asked him what he was. “Russian,” he answered.
“I’m an Assyrian,” I declared, “and you look Assyrian to me.”
“Yes, well, actually I’m Assyrian,” he said, “but my parents were born in Russia.”
“So what does that have to do with being Assyrian first?” I barked. “Whether your grandparents, parents or aunt Maryam were born in downtown Los Angeles, Moscow, or on the Silk Road, you’re an Assyrian first.”
I hope my fellow Assyrian-American soldier made it home.
As I work on the script for the documentary, I cannot help but think of the long and arduous road the Assyrians have traveled through the centuries. I also cannot help but feel guilty for the comfort and the freedom I enjoy in America, my country, compared to the pain and suffering my fellow Assyrians endure in Iraq and other places as refugees.
I have an obligation to help them. Not only that, but also I have an obligation to keep our identity alive. The best way for me is to write about my people, and to help make documentaries telling their stories. Not that I need to remind myself and other Assyrians, but we cannot forget who we are, no matter where we are or where we were born. The world needs to be reminded of who we are.
I know I will struggle with the Assyrian dialect on the video, while taking heart in the truth that the only difference between the Iraqi refugees interviewed and me is in our dialect. Otherwise we speak the Assyrian language. We are the same people with the same heritage and bloodline. Same-same water buffalo: we are all Assyrian.
Goodspeed's Classic Work Comes to Life
Gorgias Press LLC
With the generous support of Zinda Magazine, Gorgias Press is pleased to announce that "A History of the Babylonians and Assyrians" by George Stephen Goodspeed is now available in print.
Orders may be placed online at email@example.com, or by calling the Press at 732-699-0343.
George Kiraz, President of Gorgias Press, noted, "Frequently, good publications that are geared to general readership are not noticed outside academic circles. Zinda Magazine bridges this gap by publishing notices about new books that are of interest to its readers. Now Zinda is extending this bridge by sponsoring Gorgias publications that are of interest to its readers in the fields of Assyriology and the Ancient Near East, Syriac Christianity, and modern Assyrian studies."
This handy introduction to the peoples of ancient Iraq, the Assyrians and Babylonians has been
recognized for generations as a readable and sensible entrance point to the subject. Frequently cited, it has been
out of print for many years. Goodspeed ably takes the reader through a survey of Mesopotamian archaeology, history,
language and literature, as well as an overview of the physical geography. He then explores in some detail the
history of Babylonia from the earliest written records up to 2000 BCE. This exploration is followed by an account of
the rise of the Assyrians and a detailed account of their ascendancy. The final section of the book examines the
rise of the Neo-Babylonian, or Chaldean, Empire. A useful chronological summary is provided along with indices that
George Stephen Goodspeed (1860-1905) was a biblical scholar and orientalist. He was a Baptist
Kiraz acknowledged, "Gorgias is very pleased to work with Zinda to bring publications to a wider audience. I have been receiving Zinda since it first appeared as an e-mail newsletter back in early 1995 and have been a witness to its development ever since."
As an introduction to the ancient history of Iraq, Goodspeed’s book has stood the test of time. The reader is given a detailed rendition of the history of the Old Babylonian, Assyrian, and Neo-Babylonian Empires. Although out of print for many years, the book is consistently cited as a helpful introduction to the subject.
Wilfred Bet-Alkhas, editor of Zinda Magazine, comments on this collaboration between Gorgias Press and Zinda Magazine: "Gorgias Press and Zinda share a common interest in the history and advancement of the heritage of the Syriac-speaking people. Both Assyrians and non-Assyrians can expect much more from these two giant institutions of learning in the future."
Bet-Alkhas continues: "Working with Gorgias Press in the past 10 years has helped me appreciate our language and our linguistic heritage to a great degree. I hope that others will take advantage of this opportunity and support our projects by purchasing books published by Gorgias Press and recommended in the pages of Zinda Magazine."
George Charbak's Epic of Gilgamesh with A Long Prologue
Ashby Stage Theater in Berkeley, California, presents George Charbak's The Epic of Gilgamesh With A Long Prologue, August 16 through September 2, 2007.
This play is based on historical imagination. The Epic of Gilgamesh is among the first writing in human history predating Homer by a thousand years. The story, discovered in the 1800s on clay tablets in the ruins of the royal library at Nineveh, is the ancient tale of Gilgamesh, the ruler of the city of Uruk in modern-day Iraq. Sumer, home of Gilgamesh was also the birthplace of language, law, and the ancestor of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity.
The Epic of Gilgamesh With A Long Prologue tells this story playfully. The play is set in a museum, includes the original characters of the story, but relies on a Narrator who comments on the overall actions that take place.
Directions: 1901 Ashby Avenue Berkeley, CA (Ashby Ave. at Martin Luther King, Jr. Way)
Gorgias Press Books Announcement
Gorgias Press would like to announce the following books:
A fitting contribution to Gorgias Liturgical Studies, Sebastian Brock’s Holy Spirit in the Syrian Baptismal Tradition is a sensitive and evocative treatment of an issue key to any liturgical tradition—that of the role of the Holy Spirit in worship. With a keen awareness of the tradition of Syrian Christianity, Brock begins his exploration with the concept of ruha d-qudsha and the role of the Holy Spirit in the Syriac Bible.A striking aspect of this ancient liturgical tradition is the imagery used for the Spirit, including that of a compassionate mother, fire, and olive oil (myron, used for anointing), as well as the more common image of a dove. Next Brock considers the various sources of the imagery including the East Syrian/Chaldean; Syrian Orthodox and Catholic; Maronite and Melkite traditions. He also summarizes commentaries and other Syriac literature on the rite of baptism, touching on Syriac literature from Late Antiquity and works translated from the Greek that bear on the issue. Considering the vehicle and nature of the gifts of the Spirit, Brock provides the distinctive fullness of this concept for readers in these traditions. The study includes a discussion of the invocation over the water and oil, and their symbolism of the Spirit, as well as the Holy Spirit in the Eucharistic setting and in regard to the Virgin Mary. Baptism and Pentecost are compared, and the study concludes with the role of anointing in the post-baptismal life of the Christian.
Sebastian P. Brock was born in 1938 and studied Classics (Greek and Latin) and Oriental Studies (Hebrew and Aramaic) at Cambridge University before doing a DPhil. at Oxford University on the text of the Septuagint. He has taught at the Universities of Birmingham, Cambridge, and (from 1974 until his retirement in 2003) Oxford, where he was Reader in Syriac Studies. He has published extensively in the field of Syriac and has edited a number of new texts.
This book is Dr. Ameer’s reflection on growing up within the small community of Assyrian Christians in Yonkers, New York. He uses the year 1946 as an orientation for his discussion of the characteristics of that ethnic community, that city, and that time in United States history.
The book enables readers to reflect on those aspects of community critical to civic support and on the process of successful assimilation in mid-twentieth century America. The author describes the context of living in an ethnically, religiously, and racially diverse society. This will be of particular interest to the many people concerned with sustaining the idea of community in American life.
The author achieves his purposes by including chapters relevant not only to shaping the identities of the young members of that particular community, but also useful in understanding identity formation in other contexts. He explores the roles that the church, the neighborhood, the school and the recent history of the Assyrians—refugees from World War I, had in forming the context in which a youngster developed sense of self and of community.
Readers will encounter those forces within American society that foster the development of a vibrant and exciting bicultural identity.
John Pierre Ameer was an administrator and teacher in secondary schools from 1966-1985. Since then, he has worked in teacher education programs at Harvard Graduate School of Education and Simmons College, and is now Assistant Professor of Education at Clark University and Adjunct Faculty in the Foundations of Education at Worcester State College. He received his BA degree from Yale University in history and his EdM and EdD degrees from Harvard University in the history of education.
Assyrian Achievements Night 2007 in London
The New Generation Assyrians (NGA) and ASUK (Assyrian Society of United Kingdom) are proud to present the first Assyrian Achievements Night on Saturday 15th September.
This event will incorporate the following:
As well as the various award presentations we will also have the following entertainment for your enjoyment:
If anyone has a talent they wish to exhibit or perform then please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Plight of the Christians in the Middle EastGabriel Sawma
Today, there are 30 million Christians who live in countries whose majority are Muslims. Some 15 million Christians live in Indonesia; somewhere between 6 and 12 million live in Egypt; 3 million in Pakistan; Christians make up 3 percent of Iraq’s population of 30 million and 2 percent of Jerusalem’s population.
In Turkey, the Christian population numbered 2 million in 1920, but now numbers a few thousand. In Syria Christians represented about one third of the population at the beginning of the twentieth century, today they count for less than 10 percent. In Lebanon the number went from about 55 percent 70 years ago to under 30 percent today. At present rates in the Middle East, the 12 to 15 million Christians will in a decade have been substantially reduced to the point that they will have lost their cultural vitality and political significance. This exodus is a result of the unprecedented mistreatment of Jews and Christians throughout the Middle East.
Egyptian Christians are embattled minority with dwindling right; trapped in poverty and uncertainty, despised and distrusted as second class citizens; facing discrimination in education, jobs and from police and the courts. Often they are victim of brutality. This applies to many countries with a Muslim majority. Yet no Muslim leader voices his objection to such a treatment.
In Iraq, following the fall of Saddam Hussein, Christians have been randomly assassinated, , Christian women have been threatened unless they cover their heads, Christian shop owners of liquor stores, music stores, fashion stores and beauty salons have been attacked. Islamists make it clear that these establishments and not welcomed. And yet no ruler in the Middle East voiced objection to such atrocities.
When Islam spread in the Middle East during the seventh century, the attitude to the People of the Book, as Jews and Christians are called, does not entail any obligation on the part of the Muslim either to convert or to exterminate them. It is at that time that Islam’s reputation as a religion of toleration arises.
The People of the Book are considered as dhimmi (from Aramaic dmm, i.e.the insulted ones), that is, as persons in possession of a protective treaty, dhimma, in which they renounce certain rights and in return enjoy the practice of their religion and their customs.
Much has been made of the so called Covenant of ‘Umar as a document of an approximate description of the actual state of affairs around 800 A.D. It demonstrates beyond doubt the isolation of non-Muslims within their own religious groups. Their personal safety and their personal property are guaranteed them at the price of permanent inequality. The Covenant of ‘Umar is in the form of a letter presented by the Christian community to the second Caliph (‘Umar bin al-khattab, the second successor to the Prophet Muhammad). It reads the following: “when you (i.e. ‘Umar) came to us we asked of you safety for our lives, our families, our property, and the people of our religion on the conditions: to pay tribute out of hand and be humiliated; not to hinder any Muslim from stopping in our churches by night or day, to entertain him there three days and give him food there and open to him their doors; to beat the naqus (the wooden board which serves as ‘bell’ amongst the Easter Christians) only gently in them and not to raise our voices in them in chanting;….not to build a church, convent, hermitage, or cell, nor repair those that are dilapidated; nor assemble in any that is in a Muslim quarter, nor in their presence; not to display idolatry, nor invite to it, nor show a cross on our churches, nor in any of the roads or markets of the Muslims; not to learn the Koran nor teach it to our children; not to prevent any of our relatives from turning Muslim if he wish it;….not to resemble the Muslims in dress, appearance, saddles….; to honor and respect them, to stand up for them when we meet together;….not to make our houses higher (than theirs); not to tip weapons or swords, nor wear them in a town or on a journey in Muslim lands;….not to strike a Muslim; not to keep slaves who have been the property of Muslims. We impose these terms on ourselves and on our co-religionists; he who rejects them has no protection.” (See A.S. Tritton, The Caliphs and Their Non-Muslim Subjects, London, 1930).
Leaders of the Christian communities in the Middle East have done their utmost to please their Muslims neighbors. One Christian Patriarch claims that “Islam saved us from the atrocities of the Byzantine”; another Christian bishop claims that “the ancestry of the Christians are Arabs”, that the “blood of Arabs runs in our veins”; another leader says “we (Christians) belong to the Arab tribe of Taghleb, or the tribe of Ghassan; another claims, contrary to the fact, that “we (Christians) are not dhimmi, and most of them use verses from the Quran to support the claim that Islam is a tolerant religion. They often refers to the Quranic verse, which reads: “There is no compulsion in religion” Quran 2:256, and “For you is your religion and for me is mine” (Quran 109:6).
Dhimmi is a word which is used twice in the Quran (9:8 and 10), in the context of Muhammad’s dealings with idolators (mushrikun), who are accused of not honoring their covenants or agreements with the prophet; as a result the prophet is also released from his commitments, and their position becomes rather more vulnerable. But in the period of the conquests the term comes to be used more with reference to the agreements made between the conquered population and their Muslim rulers, and therefore more specific.
In some Christian circles in the Middle East, there are those who believe that Islam “always coexisted with Judaism and Christianity peacefully on religious plane though there were clashes between Muslims and Christians in Medieval ages and not between Islam and Christianity”; most of the prevailing thoughts among Christian leaders as well as Muslim writers in the Middle East blame the Western media for projecting clash of interest as clash of religions, or clash of civilizations.
To defend these arguments which claim that Islam is a tolerant religion, Christian leaders and Muslim writers in the Middle East quote certain verses from the Quran: “If thy Lord had pleased, all those who are in the earth would have believed, all of them. Will thou then force them till they are believers?” Quran 10:99. Some quote another verse which reads: “May thou will kill thyself with grief, sorrowing after, if they believe not in this argument (non-believers)”, Quran: 18:6.
Christian leaders in the Middle East defend the status quo by using the same arguments which are raised by Muslims about the so-called ‘peaceful co-existence’ of religious communities under Islam: “the Negus of Abyssinia had given refuge to Muslim migrants to Ethiopia before they migrated to Medina.” They claim, according to Islamic traditions that stated by Ibn Ishaq’s book (Al-Sirat Al-Nabawiyya), that “a Christian delegation from Najran met the Prophet led by Abdul Masih, the Prophet met with the delegation inside the mosque at Medina and he (the Prophet) treated them with respect and in friendly way.” Another Christian bishop in Lebanon do not hesitate to use verses from the Quran, not the Bible, to support his argument.
Muslims on the other hand refer to the same quotations to stress their belief that Islam could co-exist with Christians and Jews peacefully. To promote such arguments, they quote the Quran. One of the verses refers to Christian priests and monks who are “humble and engage in worshipping God.” Muslim writers claim that the Quran treats all human beings on equal plain whatever their creed or color or nation or tribe. They refer to the following Quranic verse: “And surely we have honored the children of Adam, and we carry them in the land and the sea, and we provide them with good tiding, and we have made to excel highly most of those whom we have created.” Quran 17:70.
Muslim writers quote the Quran in order to promote the so-called ‘peaceful co-existence’ with other religions: “For every one of you we appointed a law and a way. And if Allah had pleased he would have made you a single people, but that he might try you in what he gave you. So vie one with another in virtuous deeds.” Muslim writers claim that Allah did not create all human beings as one community, but rather different sects distinctively. They claim that plurality of religions and ways of life and different laws co-exist peacefully with the Muslim community.
The Islamic Conquest
At the dawn of the Islamic invasion of the seventh century, The vast majority of the population of the conquered Byzantine provinces was Christian, belonging to one church or another, and in the Sassanian Empire (Persia) too there was a significant Christian minority presence, consisting mostly of Nestorian Christians (popularly known as the Assyrian Church) . Even the Arab tribes of Ghassan and others were members of the Christian community. There were bishops among them. Their language, like the rest of the Middle East, was Syriac, a dialect of Aramaic. Christian churches and literature spread all over the Middle East. But their status started to decline over the years which followed the invasion.
The initial phase of the encounter between Muslims and Christians should be seen as lasting for roughly 200 years that is until the first half of the ninth century.
Muslim law and, even more, Muslim mentality insisted from the beginning of Islam upon emphasizing without letup the disabilities to which the dhimmi (Christian) was subjected. From the beginning, Islam regarded both Christians and Jews as second-class citizens. Time and again the Muslim texts, which are represented in the Hadith (i.e the interpretations given by Muslim commentators on the Quran and the sayings attributed to the Prophet and his way of life), assert the intention of humiliating the dhimmi. Never was he (Christian or Jew) to be left in doubt about his inferior status. This anxiousness on the part of the Muslim commentators to cajole their own susceptibilities by hurting those of non-Muslims increased as time went by. And it must be said that, on the whole, relations between the communities steadily deteriorated. A Muslim always regarded the Christian to be inferior regardless of the ancestry. In other words, a Christian of Arab ancestry is no different from Greek or European dissent; they are all considered dhimmi and were always second-class citizens.
Under al-Mutawakkil (847-61) a wave of anti-dhimmi feeling swept the Middle East. This Caliph, Barhebraeus (d.1286) reports, “was a hater of the Christians, and afflicted them by ordering them to bind bandlets of wool round their heads; and none of them was to appear outside his house without a belt and girdle. And the new churches were to be pulled down. And if they should happen to have a spacious church, even though it was ancient, one part of it was to be made into a mosque. It may be mentioned in this connection that there is some evidence to suggest that in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries the Great Mosque in Damascus was, to a certain extent, shared with the Christians, (see Ibn Jubair, Travels). Christians were not lift up crosses during their feasts of Hosanna (Palm-Sunday).
To promote hatred of the Christians, al-Jahiz wrote a risala in which he pointed out the reasons of their comparative popularity and then went on to explain why they should be detested and abhorred. Al-Jahiz makes it clear that the masses to the Christians is the fact “they are secretaries and servants to kings, physicians to notable, perfumers, and money-changers, whereas the Jews are found to be but dyers, tanners, cuppers, butchers and cobblers. Our people observing thus the occupations of the Jews and the Christians concluded that the religion of the Jews must be compared as unfavorable as do their professions.” (See Radd ‘ala ‘nasara by Al-Jahiz – Arabic version).
Al-Jahiz continues: “Our nation has not been afflicted by the Jews, Magians (persians), or Sabians as much as by the Christians; for (in the polemics with us) they choose contradictory statements in Muslim tradition (as the target of their attack). (They select for disputations) the equivocal verses of the Quran, and (hold us responsible for) hadiths, the chains of guarantors of which are defective….”
Abrogation in Islam
According to Muslim interpreters, no body is allowed to interpret the Quran unless he knows what abrogation means (see Al-Suyuti, Al-Itqan fi ‘Ulum al Quran –Arabic version). In one instance Ali (son in law of the Prophet) asked a judge: do you know what abrogation and what abrogated means? The judge said no, and then Ali said: you are doomed and caused other to be doomed. (See same reference)
Abrogation in Islam means to take away, thus the Quranic verse stated: “Allah abrogates what Satan says, and then Allah corrects that”. It also means to change for one another as the Quranic verse states “and if we change one verse for another”. Abrogation also means to turn and move as stated in the following verse: “We used to abrogate what you previously did”.
All Muslim commentators agree on the principle of abrogation, but some disagree as to whether a Quranic verse may be abrogated by the Sunnah (sayings attributed to the Prophet). They state that the Quran says: “what we abrogate from a verse or forget it, we bring a better one (verse) and equal to it”. Others state that the Sunnah may abrogate verses from the Quran because the Sunnah is also from Allah. Muslim interpreters believe that if the Sunnah is an order from Allah, then it can abrogate a Quranic verse, but if it were a result of opinion, it does not cause abrogation.
In Islam, there are different categories of abrogation. One deals with a general rule such as the direction of prayers towards Mecca (the direction used to be towards Jerusalem, then the Prophet changed and ordered his followers to pray towards Mecca); also falls under this category the replacement of the fast of Ahura by the fast of Ramadan. A second category is based on the reason for abrogation, when the reason goes away, then the abrogation is not necessary such as the case when Allah orders some one to be patient because of lack of money, then the order is abrogated when the same person becomes rich.
According to Muslim tradition, there are verses from the Quran that does not allow abrogation, they include the following chapters: Al-fatiha, Usuf, Yas, Al-Hajarat, al-Rahman, Al-Hadid, Al-saff, Al-Um’aa, Al-Tahrim, Al-Mulk, al-Haqa, Nuh, Al-jinn, Al-Mursalat, ‘Amm, al-Nazi’aat, al-Infitar and the following three chapters, al-Fajr to the rest of the chapters except the verses of al_teen, Al’Asr and al-Kafireen (they accept abrogation).
Twenty five chapters of the Quran allow abrogation, they are: Al-baqara and three chapters follow that, al-Hajj, al-Nur, al-Ahzab, Saba’, Al-Mu’min, Al-Shura, Al-dhariyat, Al-Tur, Al-Waqi’ah, Al-Mujadilah, Al-muzamil, al-Mudather, Kawrath, and Al’’Asr. The following chapters allow the abrogation: al_fath, Al-Hash, al-Munafiqun, Al-taghabun, Al-Talaaq, and Al’A’la.
We will not concern ourselves in this study with the verses that fall under the rule of abrogation in general, instead, we will deal with the abrogation concerning the issues discussed above, which is related to the topic of the so-called Islamic “toleration to the other religions” mainly Christianity and Judaism.
According to Al-Suyuti, who is an authority on Islam, there are one hundred twenty four verses in the Quran that have been abrogated by one Quranic verse; he calls it ‘the verse of the sword’. It states the following: “And when the forbidden months have passed, kill the “Mushrikeen” wherever you find them and take them prisoners, and beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they repent and observe prayer and pay the Zakat (almsgiving), then leave their way free, surely, Allah is most forgiving, merciful” (Quran 5:9, the Holy Quran, English translation by Maulawi Sher-‘Ali).
Modern Muslim writers replaced the word “mushrikeen” by the term ‘idolators’. But in Arabic, the word includes both: Christians and idolators. In Arabic the stem root is “ishrak” which means ‘in addition’, ‘to associate someone with Allah”. That follows the Christian’s belief, which is based on the fact that Jesus is God. The Muslims consider that to be “ishrak” (i.e. worshipping two Gods), in other words, they believe that Christian worship Jesus and God at the same time, that in itself, Muslim say, is “ishrak”.
So what are the verses that are considered to be abrogated by the verse of the sword? According to Muslim interpreters, they include the following: “And say to the people well done” (i.e. the People of the Book ‘Christians and Jews’). This verse has been abrogated more than one thousand years ago by Muslim commentators.
The verse of the sword forbids fighting during the forbidden month (these are three months of the year during which fighting among the Arabs was forbidden). But Muslim commentators say the verse is abrogated because another verse in the Quran commands the Muslim to “kill all the Mushrikeen” (i.e. Christians and Pagans) (Sea Kitab al-Itqan by Al-Suyuti, Maktabat al-Ma-aarif in Riyadh, Saudi Arabic, volume 2 pp 64, 1996).
Muslim writer’s quote the Quran in matter s related to judiciary. The Quran says: “if they come to you (litigating) you may rule on their matter…” this shows good judgment on the part of the Muslim judiciary. But unfortunately, this verse has been abrogated by the following one: “And if you judge, then be guided with the Islamic Shari’a” (you may not rule according to their norms by the Islamic Shari’a).
In the matter of judiciary, it is necessary to bring two witnesses, the Quran says the following: “bring two from among them” (i.e. Christians or Jews). This verse has been abrogated by the following: “And bring fair witnesses from amongst you” (i.e. from the Muslim community. (See same reference, pp. 65)
Ibn Al’Arabi, a Muslim authority on the interpretation of the Quran, quoted by Al-Suyuti as saying: “everything between the pages of the Quran regarding forgiveness to non-believers by the Muslim community, or compassion and mercy has been abrogated by the verse of the sword (i.e. Quran 5:9, sighted above). Ibn al-‘Arabi states that this verse alone abrogated one hundred twenty four verses.
According to Shaidalah, a Muslim source of Jurisprudence, the Quranic verse that we mentioned earlier which states: “you have your religion and I have mine” has been abrogated by the verse of the sword (Quoted by Al-Suyuti, pp. 68).
The verse of the sword abrogates the following (in italic) of the Quranic verse: “We believe in Allah and what has been revealed to us and what was revealed to Abraham and Ishmael, and Isaac, and Jacob and his children (i.e. the twelve children of Jacob), and what was given to Moses and Jesus, and what was given to all other prophets from their Lord…” (Quran 2: 257). Muslim commentators state that the part in italic is abrogated.
Muslim writers in modern times, try to hide the fact that many verses from the Quran are abrogated. This may be the reason why Muslims around the word sympathize with what is known as “extremists” or “fundamentalists”, “radical Islam” or “militant Islam”. The mild reaction by Muslims around the world to the attack of September 11 on the United States is caused by the principle of abrogation; doing otherwise by Muslims, would be a violation to the principle. Muslims do not hesitate to go along with our ignorance of the Islamic Shari’a by stating that Islam is a “peaceful religion”. Many Western scholars, who do not understand the Islamic Shari’a well, tend to believe in everything written between the two covers of the Quran, not knowing that one hundred twenty four verses which deal with the Christians and Jews are in fact abrogated and non-existent.
Gabriel Sawma is considered an authority in Islam, a lawyer in international law , professor of Semitic Studies, and author of the book: The Qur’an: Misinterpreted, Mistranslated, and Misread. The Aramaic Language of the Qur’an. http://www.syriacaramaicquran.com
Bianca Nahrain Golani
Bianca Nahrain Golani, a student at Crestwood High School in Dearborn Heights, Michigan, has been selected to attend the 2007 Congressional Student Leadership Conference, sponsored by Lead America, at Georgetown University in Washington, DC.
Bianca is a senior at Crestwood HS and has been class President for 4 years. She is the only student from Crestwood to attend the conference. She was awarded a monetary scholarship by the district and was recommended by her Teachers to attend. She is a member of the National Honor Society, Varsity Soccer Team, and Student Congress.
She is attending Georgetown University for the Medicine and Healthcare program. Bianca plans on studying medicine in college to become a plastic surgeon.
The CSLC is a college-accredited invitational leadership program for academically talented and
Bianca is the daughter of Mr. Atour and Mrs. Janey Golani. Mr. Atour held the position of the president of the Assyrian American National Federation between 2000 and 2004. Both Mr. and Mrs Golani have held executive positions in their local Assyrian organizations and the AANF.
ZINDA Magazine is published on Mondays. Views expressed in ZINDA do not necessarily represent those of the ZINDA editors, or any of our associated staff. This publication reserves the right, at its sole discretion, not to publish comments or articles previously printed in or submitted to other journals. ZINDA reserves the right to publish and republish your submission in any form or medium. All letters and messages require the name(s) of sender and/or author. All messages published in the SURFS UP! section must be in 500 words or less and bear the name of the author(s). Distribution of material featured in ZINDA is not restricted, but permission from ZINDA is required. This service is meant for the exchange of information, analyses and news. Any material published in Zinda Magazine will not be removed later at the request of the sender. For free subscription to Zinda Magazine, send e-mail with your name, address, telephone number to: email@example.com.
ZINDA means "Spark of Fire" in modern Syriac (Assyrian); Zinda's Red Swoosh is a rendering of the seventh letter in the Assyrian alphabet, letter ZEN, and the first letter in the word "Zinda". For more information about the Assyrian culture and heritage write to Zinda Magazine.
Zinda Magazine Copyright © Zinda Inc., 1994-2007 - All Rights Reserved - www.zindamagazine.com