Continued from the previous post...
Meet the Syrian Ba'thist:-
Colonel Omar Safreddin, a most unBa'thist Ba'thist...
"Colonel Omar Safreddin was a man of fixed and clear beliefs. He believed in Allah, the One the Merciful. He believed in Mohammed the Prophet - blessed be His Glorious Name! He believed in the Book and in the Reading which was the fountain of all knowledge. He believed in the People - the Chosen of God, the Sons of the Prophet, who had rolled like sea waves across the face of the earth and who, through the Book and the Prophet, must find again their identity and their brotherhood and their dignity among the infidel. He believed in the Land and the Tribe, defined by borders and by possessions and by history and tradition. He believed in power, and its exercise by an elite who had prepared themselves to assume it.
"In the Syrian Army, which was his own tribe and territory, he had set himself to create such an elite: a group of young officers, noble in body, enlightened in spirit and trained by education to be the first inheritors of the revolution and the resurrection... The instrument of application was the Hunafa Club, a group of 15 young men who met every week... The Club took its name from that small group of Meccan believers, among whom Mohammed the Prophet first found inspiration and enlightenment... Each meeting of the Club began with prayer and ablution, which were followed by a ritual meal... After the meal, the members recited in chorus the Summons, which the angel Gabriel made to the Prophet at his first calling, and the Answers which he, terrified, gave to the angelic voice. It was, perhaps, symbolic that Omar Safreddin spoke with the voice of the angel while his disciples answered with the voice of the Prophet." (pp 73-74)
"What could they know of the high visionary enterprise of building a 20th-century state on the ruins of a French colony and a province of the Ottomam Empire? What could they know about the vision - larger yet - of Islam restored and purified, of an Arab hegemony... from the Euphrates to the Pillars of Hercules?... This was his own mission. To fight the Jews... to call together the wandering Arabs - those who were left behind in the march of history - and weld them into a mighty host eager for the rewards promised by the One the Merciful. He had to bring them back to the tremendous simplicities of the Book. He had to teach them that the risk was worth the gain and that it was always expedient for a few to die for the ultimate greatness of the many." (pp 167-168)
My God, the Syrian Christian originator of that stream of Arab nationalism known as Ba'thism, Michel 'Aflaq, would be turning in his grave if Colonel Safreddin had really been a member of his movement. The objectives of the Ba'th were strictly secular: Arab unity, freedom and socialism. For 'Aflaq, the answer to contemporary Arab decadence and disunity was not religion, but a moral resurrection (ba'th) of each and every Arab individual. Islam, if it figured at all in Ba'thist thinking, was merely seen as a product of the genius of an eternal Arab nation. Here's 'Aflaq in full flight: "They ask us, Brethren, what do you mean by the mission, the eternal Arab mission? The Arab mission does not consist in words which we proclaim, it does not consist in principles to be incorporated in programs, it does not constitute matter for legislation. All these are dead, counterfeit things... It is our life itself, it is to agree to experience this life with a deep and true experience, great and massive in proportion to the depth of suffering undergone by the Arabs, in proportion to the great dangers which threaten its continued existence. This living and true experience will bring us back to ourselves, to our living realities; it will make us shoulder our responsibilities and will set us on the true path in order that we may fight these diseases and these obstacles, these counterfeit conditions, in order to fight social injustice, class exploitation, and the eras of selfishness, bribery and exploitation, in order to combat tyranny, the falsification of the popular will, and the insults to the dignity of the Arab as a citizen and a man; for the sake of a free society in which every Arab will regain consciousness of himself, of his existence, his dignity, his thinking, and his responsibilities. The experience in which our struggle takes place is that of the Arab nation dismembered into different countries and statelets, artificial and counterfeit; we struggle until we can reunite these scattered members, until we may reach a wholesome and natural state in which no severed member can speak in the name of all, until we can get rid of this strange and anomalous state. Then will it be possible for the Arabs to unite, for their spirit to be upstanding, their ideas clear, their morality upright; then will their be scope for their minds to create, for they will have become that wholesome natural entity, one nation. This wholesome and true experience, struggling against the existing conditions until we return to the right state, such is the Arab mission... " (The Struggle for Syria, Patrick Seale, 1986, pp 155-156)
To complete the caricature, Omar Safreddin can sleep quite soundly as his infant son hovers between life and death in a hospital bed: "[H]e settled himself in the chair, stretched out his long legs, canted his military cap over his eyes and began to take long deep breaths. Within 3 minutes he was asleep... This was the method man, pure, without alloy. You see death hovering. You pray against him. You sleep; because you have done all that there is to be done. Death comes. You weep. You bury the body. You breed again." (p 85)
In short, Colonel Safreddin is to Ba'thism as Sheridan is to journalism.
Before ending this post in the series, consider this sentence from West's novel: "[Aziz] lingered on [the next question] tenderly, as if he were testing the blade of a dagger." (p 100) Can you imagine any writer today getting away with this: '[Insert Jewish name] lingered on the next question, as if he were counting a bag of money'?
To be continued...