Nour al-Hoda sjunger Ahmad Shawqi

Nour al-Hoda (alias för Alexandra Nicola Badran, 1924-1998)
sjunger Ahmad Shawqi (1868-1932)
Ya djarat al-wadi
Libanesiska televisionen 1969

Abdelkader al-Jaza'iri, fursten som räddade tusentals kristna i Damaskus 1860

We must look to the past, not ISIS, for the true meaning of Islam
By Robert Fisk

Emir Abdelkader was a Muslim, Sufi, sheikh, humanist, protector of his people against Western barbarism, protector of Christians against Muslim barbarism, so noble that Abe Lincoln sent him a pair of Colt pistols.


Muslim historians claim Abdelkader saved 15,000 Christians, which may be a bit of an exaggeration. But here was a man for Muslims to emulate and Westerners to admire.


After the Manchester massacre… yes, and after Nice and Paris, Mosul and Abu Ghraib and 7/7 and the Haditha massacre – remember those 28 civilians, including children, killed by US Marines, four more than Manchester but no minute’s silence for them? And of course 9/11…


Counterbalancing cruelty is no response, of course. Just a reminder. As long as we bomb the Middle East instead of seeking justice there, we too will be attacked. But what we must concentrate upon, according to the monstrous Trump, is terror, terror, terror, terror, terror. And fear. And security. Which we will not have while we are promoting death in the Muslim world and selling weapons to its dictators. Believe in “terror” and Isis wins. Believe in justice and Isis is defeated.


So I suspect it’s time to raise the ghost of a man known as the Emir Abdelkader – Muslim, Sufi, sheikh, ferocious warrior, humanist, mystic, protector of his people against Western barbarism, protector of Christians against Muslim barbarism, so brave that the Algerian state insisted his bones were brought home from his beloved Damascus, so noble that Abe Lincoln sent him a pair of Colt pistols and the French gave him the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour. He loved education, he admired the Greek philosophers, he forbade his fighters to destroy books, he worshipped a religion which believed – so he thought – in human rights. But hands up all readers who know the name of Abdelkader.


We should think of him now more than ever. He was not a “moderate” because he fought back savagely against the French occupation of his land. He was not an extremist because, in his imprisonment at the Chateau d’Amboise, he talked of Christians and Muslims as brothers. He was supported by Victor Hugo and Lord Londonderry and earned the respect of Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte (later Napoleon III) and the French state paid him a pension of 100,000 francs. He deserved it.


When the French invaded Algeria, Abdelkader Ibn Muhiedin al-Juzairi (Abdelkader, son of Muhiedin, the Algerian,1808-1883, for those who like obituaries) embarked on a successful guerrilla war against one of the best equipped armies in the Western world – and won. He set up his own state in western Algeria – Muslim but employing Christian and Jewish advisors – and created separate departments (defence, education, etc), which stretched as far as the Moroccan border. It even had its own currency, the “muhamediya”. He made peace with the French – a truce which the French broke by invading his lands yet again. Abdelkader demanded a priest to minister for his French prisoners, even giving them back their freedom when he had no food for them. The French sacked the Algerian towns they captured, a hundred Hadithas to suppress Abdelkader’s resistance. When at last he was defeated, he surrendered in honour – handing over his horse as a warrior – on the promise of exile in Alexandria or Acre. Again the French betrayed him, packing him off to prison in Toulon and then to the interior of France.


Yet in his French exile, he preached peace and brotherhood and studied French and spoke of the wisdom of Plato and Socrates, Aristotle and Ptolemy and Averroes and later wrote a book, Call to the Intelligent, which should be available on every social media platform. He also, by the way, wrote a book on horses which proves he was ever an Arab in the saddle. But his courage was demonstrated yet again in Damascus in 1860 where he lived as an honoured exile. The Christian-Druze civil war in Lebanon had spread to Damascus where the Christian population found themselves surrounded by the Muslim Druze who arrived with Isis-like cruelty, brandishing swords and knives to slaughter their adversaries.


Abdelkader sent his Algerian Muslim guards – his personal militia – to bash their way through the mob and escort more than 10,000 Christians to his estate. And when the crowds with their knives arrived at his door, he greeted them with a speech which is still recited in the Middle East (though utterly ignored these days in the West). “You pitiful creatures!” he shouted. “Is this the way you honour the Prophet? God punish you! Shame on you, shame! The day will come when you will pay for this … I will not hand over a single Christian. They are my brothers. Get out of here or I’ll set my guards on you.”


Muslim historians claim Abdelkader saved 15,000 Christians, which may be a bit of an exaggeration. But here was a man for Muslims to emulate and Westerners to admire. His fury was expressed in words which would surely have been used today against the cult-like caliphate executioners of Isis. Of course, the “Christian” West would honour him at the time (although, interestingly, he received a letter of praise from the Muslim leader of wildly independent Chechnya). He was an “interfaith dialogue” man to please Pope Francis.


Abdelkader was invited to Paris. An American town was named after him – Elkader in Clayton County, Iowa, and it’s still there, population 1,273. Founded in the mid-19th century, it was natural to call your home after a man who was, was he not, honouring the Rights of Man of American Independence and the French Revolution? Abdelkader flirted with Freemasonry – most scholars believe he was not taken in – and loved science to such an extent that he accepted an invitation to the opening of the Suez Canal, which was surely an imperial rather than a primarily scientific project. Abdelkader met De Lesseps. He saw himself, one suspects, as Islam’s renaissance man, a man for all seasons, the Muslim for all people, an example rather than a saint, a philosopher rather than a priest.


But of course, Abdelkader’s native Algeria is a neighbour of Libya from where Salman Abedi’s family came, and Abdelkader died in Syria, whose assault by US aircraft – according to Abedi’s sister – was the reason he slaughtered the innocent of Manchester. And so geography contracts and history fades, and Abedi’s crime is, for now, more important than all of Abdelkader’s life and teaching and example. So for Mancunians, whether they tattoo bees onto themselves or merely buy flowers, why not pop into Manchester’s central library in St Peter’s Square and ask for Elsa Marsten’s The Compassionate Warrior or John Kiser’s Commander of the Faithful or, published just a few months ago, Mustapha Sherif’s L’Emir Abdelkader: Apotre de la fraternite? They are no antidotes for sorrow or mourning. But they prove that Isis does not represent Islam and that a Muslim can earn the honour of the world






I "Storm över berget - Libanons historia under 1700- och 1800-talen", av Mikhayil Mishaqa, finns ett långt kapitel om Abdelkaders räddningsinsats i Damaskus 1860. Bland de räddade var nämligen författaren till boken och medlemmar i hans familj. Boken kan beställas hos din bokhandlare


Förord av Wheeler M. Thackston, Jr. 
Övers. Ulla Ericson & Ingvar Rydberg 
Hft med flik / Illustr. / 328 sidor 

Mellan åren 1975 och 1991 drabbades Libanon av ett rasande inbördeskrig som skördade hundratusentals offer.  Idag genomgår Syrien en liknande tragedi. På Mikhayil Mishaqas tid (1800-1888) var båda dessa stater en del av Storsyrien, som i sin tur var en provins i det osmanska riket. Men medan Syrien styrdes av en osmansk guvernör från Damaskus åtnjöt Libanon-berget en viss självständig status tack vare bergets drusiska emirer. "Storm över berget" ger viktiga inblickar i denna historia, nödvändiga för att förstå dagens våldsamma händelser.  Relationerna mellan de olika minoriteter som bodde i Syrien och Libanon-berget, samt mellan dessa minoriteter, osmanerna och de europeiska stormakterna, vars intresse för Storsyriens framtid hade väckts på 1800-talet, skildras ingående i denna klassiker från 1800-talet.


I dessa memoarer, skrivna när han var 73 år på anmodan av en släkting, följer Mishaqa regionens historiska utveckling från tiden för hans farfar, Ibrahim Mishaqa, skatteförpaktare under den beryktade Ahmad Pasha al-Jazzar, fram till de massakrer som är kända som "1860 års händelser" i Damaskus och Libanon. Under denna period, vari man kan se början till det moderna Libanon framträda, fick Libanon-berget tillsammans med sina grannregioner, Beirutkusten, Saydá, Akká, Tripoli och Damaskusprovinsen, genomlida diverse omvälvningar under en rad osmanska pashor, av vilka inte alla var välvilliga i sitt styre. Det invaderades av Egypten och bevittnade de europeiska stormakternas ökande inflytande och intervention i området. Mot bakgrund av historiska händelser tar Mishaqa med skisser och anekdoter i sin berättelse som ger läsaren en sällsynt inblick i periodens vardagsliv.


Mikhayil Mishaqa föddes i Rishmayya, en liten by på Libanon-berget, den 20 mars 1800. Han växte upp i Dayr al-Qamar, då säte för Libanon-bergets styrande emirer, och dog i Damaskus 1888. Hans far Jirjis var skatteuppbördsman hos Libanons emir Bashir II Shihab.  Mikhayil följde i sin fars fotspår och utnämndes till skatteindrivare för emirerna av huset Shihab i Hasbayya. Efter att Shihabemirerna förlorat sin makt 1841, var han verksam som läkare i Damaskus och innehade posten som USA:s vicekonsul. Hans omvändelse från grekisk-katolicismen till protestantismen var otvivelaktigt i viss mån orsaken till denna utnämning.


Till stor del självlärd och uppfostrad, som han säger, i en stad där multiplikation och division var okända, sökte han redan som helt ung lärare texter i astronomi, matematik, musik och medicin. På alla dessa områden uppnådde han en viss färdighet utöver i de yrken han motvilligt sattes i lära i av sin far. Historikern och romanförfattaren Jurji Zaydan beskrev honom som en föregångare till de religiösa och pedagogiska modernisterna som verkade i slutet av 1800-talet.


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