Egypt Independent

Between the Mind and the Rifle – Reflections on the struggle of “Enemy brothers”



Dear readers, this article may differ from my previous work as I am writing it as a form of inner personal contemplation: the meditation of an Arab who throughout his life has carried the hopes and dreams of a country that he did not live in yet.

I ponder the path that I took and pause at many of its phases, longing for some of them – especially those of my childhood, adolescence, and the beginnings of my youth, while getting angry at others.

And sometimes, I laugh.

I am not writing so personally to present individual suffering in order to gain emotional sympathy from others – though we could always use such sympathy.

Instead, I am writing about a painful reality that I lived through and know closely: the situation of many Arabs, whether they are older or younger than me. As age, in this case, is measured only by the bitterness of experience and the misery and despair of life.

In this grand country called the Arab world, whose borders I have memorized since I was a child, I repeated with my peers in school:

“All Arab countries are my homeland

From the Levant to Baghdad

From Najd to Yemen to Egypt and Tetouan”

In this “homeland” Arabs may be born from one mother, but they are raised like enemy brothers. Civilization, culture, religion, and the language spoken in different dialects are the legacy of our Arab nation that we were fed from one source.

We grew up on that, but we forgot what unites us and have turned to what separates us.

To be an Arab, dear reader, means to be born a child with the size of a cause, to carry an identity with a “torn” address and to hold a passport of closure, not crossing.

In the land of the Arabs, “playing” is only allowed between the red lines, not over them, and the “swing” is only towards the front and back, as the two-way swing of world exploration was broken centuries ago.

The midwife of “pre-position” and “committed identity” helped us into the world, our “umbilical cord” was cut with fanaticism and the molars of division, and our cradle was made of loss and pain; the loss of our issues and the pain of the crossing road.

Being an Arab means reading the history of legendary victories while living in the reality of defeat and failure.

Being an Arab means that you listen to verses of justice, hymns of love, and the sayings and stories of prophets fighting injustice and dispelling the dark, memorizing them well to silently echo against your fears of being accused: accused of treason, agency, infidelity or apostasy and the threat of imprisonment or murder.

Being an Arab means that you draw from a pool of preconceived ideas and peremptory rulings. All of which will nullify your future freedom of thought and the courage to express an opinion. It also means everything that you can add to the lists of historical, cognitive, cultural, and political schizophrenias.

Faced with all this, it isn’t surprising that we live through this negative repetition, glorifying vicious circles and bequeathing them from one generation to the next.

As to answer the question to “why” this is the case for the Arab? Perhaps a glimpse of our Arab reality is sufficient.

We have seen the diminishing of Palestine, one defeat after another and division over another. Hence, we have decided to leave Palestine aside and amputate both of our hands, giving one to Fatah and the other to Hamas until “reconciliation” between them has become our main case!

And in Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon, the fighters of Palestinian factions crossed in all directions and spread like mushrooms in a cold, stormy atmosphere that only subsided after rage, where their September was colored with black (a reference to black September) and their symbol the keffiyeh faded.

Thus, we no longer know who is fighting against whom and for whom, until the rifle ended up in Tunisia before it was shrouded in the Oslo paper, and has been silent ever since.

As for Saddam’s Iraq, it was taken hostage by a man who fought his friends and neighbors before enemies, who made the Iraqi citizen, the “son of Bedouins and magnanimity”, fight for a living and exchange a barrel for a loaf of bread under the name of “Oil for food”.

This “majestic” Saddam, who ruled his people with an iron fist, did not forget to launch a handful of “show” missiles at his Israeli enemy, not because they did not hit their targets, but because they came after the invasion of Kuwait to relieve popular and international pressure on him.

He knew with certainty that the land would not be liberated by a burst of rockets, after which their launcher would not lift a finger.

And before that, Cairo was politically captive in its conflict between the military and the Muslim Brotherhood, while Palestine remained merely as the hammer and nails fixing the ruling seat.

Abdel Nasser supported the “first Arab cause” by drip, his rhetorical bombing of Israel did not stop until he destroyed it through laughter, until Sadat came and made us long for Abdel Nasser’s speeches and endless doses of hope and delusion.

Over the corpse of our unity, regional and international superpowers penetrated beneath our skin.

Iran succeeded in dragging us into a discourse of poisoned doctrines, where hearing words like Sunni or Shiia has become familiar to us.

In the face of this weakness, absence, and distortion of the political and national concept of identity, new margins have appeared allowing certain parties and militias to draw new lines with the “red or black” of blood and communalism.

And exploiting the weakness of our structural and intellectual defenses is the Turkish player who, after being pushed back by Europe, advanced in all Arab directions in search for the graves of its ancestors in the hopes of restoring the history of its rule over the fertile lands of the Arabs.

Though military talks, it did not hesitate to fight us through making us fight each other, and so it sent its mercenaries from an Arab country to fight on its behalf in other Arab or foreign countries (Azerbaijan) and introduced its forces to Iraq and Syria before setting up a place for it within Qatar’s meager geography to threaten alongside Iran, its ambitious partner, the security of the Arab Gulf and its nations.

As a result, the land of the Arabs became an arena for these major players who then turned it into puppet theaters, moving our hands with their strings and tying our tongues and will.

And we accepted our roles amid the warm applause of an absent or mindless crowd.

In this bitter reality we, the Arab people, inherited a great deal of racism alongside these rules of the “enemy brothers” game. Thus, intimidation and betrayal became palatable towards every opinion or word uttered in contradiction to our beliefs, concepts, or political opinions, all under the slogan: “Whoever is not with me is against me”.

As if a bird can fly with one wing – let alone if both its wings are injured!

I began this article with my aspirations and hopes for this great homeland, with the sole purpose of clarifying the truth, in which I express my views and the views of a segment of the Arab street.

Whether I am right or not, my writings only express my love and devotion to my cause, to my people, and to my nation.

True liberation is not always through with fire and gunpowder but with ink and thoughts, as proven by other nations.

The relationship between the gun and the mind, according to Zine al-Abidine Saleh Abdel Rahman, is one that is exclusionary and one-sided, as the gun takes control, displaces the mind and creates for itself a “gun culture” that imposes itself on all agendas and political choices and subordinates the mind to its authority.

The gun in the context represents all that is instinctive. Thus, we realized, like in the play “The Visitor”, that the mind taken over by instinct ceases to think and falls asleep, while instinct’s only concern is to find what satisfies it: “Instinct always tries to seduce the mind to win it over, or infect it with some of its tendencies.”

In conclusion, I have chosen the path of reason; the path that makes me certain that our main battle as Arab people is building an Arab mind capable of moving us into the “known”, instead of the mazes of the “unknown”. It was this that achieved a qualitative leap for the west following a bloody history of political, military, and religious conflicts.

And as for the gun, which some continue to instinctively cling to, it will never find its target if there is no reason controlling it.