I love Arabic poetry and proverbs. Most of them promote honor, heroism, selflessness, sacrifice, love, courage, and justice. But there are a few popular proverbs that need to be forever purged from the Arab culture because they lead to cowardice, dishonor, defeatism, apathy, selfishness, and lack of self-respect. Here are a few examples (I know that the rough translation sounds funny):
امش الحيط الحيط وقل يارب السترة
Walk beside the walls and pray for your safety (i.e. Avoid taking risks)
مين تزوج أمي بسمي عمي
Whoever marries my mother, I will call him my uncle (i.e. Go with the flow and blindly
submit to authority)
اليد التي لا تقدر عليها بوسها وادع عليها بالكسر
The hand which you cannot resist, kiss it in submission, and then pray that it
may be broken (i.e. Submit to injustice, and only resist it with empty hopes)
حط راسك بين الروس وقول يا قطّاع الروس
Place your head among all the other heads that are about to be cut, and then invite
the executioner to proceed (i.e. Blindly follow others, even if it is in
cowardice and helplessness)
ابعد عن الشر وغنّيله
Avoid trouble and sing to it (Usually used to convince people that getting
involved in undoing injustice will only bring trouble)
الباب اللِّي بيجيك منهْ الريح، سدُّهٌ واستريح
The door from which wind will come, shut it and be safe (i.e. Don't rock the
boat. Avoid trouble)
الف مرة جبان ولا يقولوا مرة واحدة الله يرحمه
One thousand times coward is better than saying may God bless his soul (i.e. It
is better to live as a coward without dignity and rights than to risk one's
life and die)
For years, many Arab (especially Syrian) parents repeated those proverbs
to their children to sway them from challenging repressive and brutal rulers. A
whole generation of
people who behaved like sheep developed, a generation of mostly subdued, humiliated,
terrorized, intimidated, and apathetic people. With the exception of a few brave ones -- most of whom were executed, tortured, or exiled -- most Arabs witnessed and endured occupation, abuse, humiliation, dispossession, and denial of basic human rights for them, their neighbors, relatives, friends, and loved ones. Most bore this abuse with resigned attitudes of complicity, apathy, and silence; some even responded with acceptance, justification, or opportunism.
In some countries like Syria, Libya, Iraq, and Tunisia, citizens allowed their psychotic and sadistic rulers to deprive them of political opinions or even of their hopes and dreams for a better day. Those victims, through the propagation of defeatist proverbs, justified their silence as a self-preservation and protection of loved ones and innocently helped extend the rule of fear, complicity, and helplessness for decades in their societies. Those proverbs and the attitudes they inspired are responsible
for half a century of dictators who, until recently, believed that they had an
unquestionable right to own the country, subdue its people, and murder
When the Palestinians erased those destructive proverbs from use, the
Intifada (uprising) against the brutal Israeli occupation started. And when other Arabs abandoned those proverbs and their resulting culture of
fear, apathy, cowardice, and dishonor, the masses launched the Arab Spring and
the popular Arab revolutions for freedom.
Out of a defeated and broken population came out amazing stories of heroism, courage, selflessness and sacrifice for justice, freedom and dignity, in Syria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Palestine (Gaza and now in Bab Al-Shams), and many other places. Arabs, and all other nations, must permanently erase those proverbs from their psyche and culture to ensure that dictators are never allowed to return and for the remaining ones to reform or be dumped into history's trash, along with Assad, Saddam, Mubarak, Ben Ali, Qaddafi, and all those like them.
A nation is in good condition as long as its culture advances a sense of
dignity, love for freedom, and pursuit of happiness, equality, justice, and
peace for all.
In the Qur'an (17:70), God says:
"And indeed We have honored the Children of Adam"
The honor and dignity bestowed by God on all people cannot be taken away by another human being, unless that person accepts to forfeit that God-given right.
Truly, a nation is in good shape as long as its people dare to speak out and stand
In the Qur'an (4:135), God commands us:
“O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to God"
The prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "The best Jihad is
speaking truth to an unjust (repressive) ruler."
الجهاد كلمة عدل عند سلطان جائر
And that is my jihad today.
- Hussam Ayloush
- Hussam has been a lifelong human rights activist who is passionate about promoting democratic societies, in the US and worldwide, in which all people, including immigrants, workers, minorities, and the poor enjoy freedom, justice, economic justice, respect, and equality. Mr. Ayloush frequently lectures on Islam, media relations, civil rights, hate crimes and international affairs. He has consistently appeared in local, national, and international media. Full biography at: http://hussamayloush.blogspot.com/2006/08/biography-of-hussam-ayloush.html