DAMASCUS, (ST)- President Bashar Al-Assad has stressed that “hitting national belongingness weakens our first defense line, as a society, against cultural and intellectual invasion attempts that seek turning us into helpless machines that act according to foreign-prepared plans.”
President Al-Assad made the remarks during his meeting on Tuesday, November 14th, 2017 with participants in the Arab Forum on Confronting the US-Zionist reactionary Alliance and Supporting the Palestinian People’s Resistance currently held in Damascus with the participation of Arab national forces and figures.
“Arabism is a cultural concept that involves all ethnic groups, religions, and communities. It is a civilized status to which all who once existed in the region, without exceptions, contributed, said President Al-Assad, adding that “the Arab language and Arab nationalism unite all these ethnic groups, communities and religions and at the same time preserve the privacy of each of them”.
President Al-Assad went on to say that solving the problems facing the Arab nation and restoring brightness to national thinking necessitates hard work as to explain some concepts through which our nation was targeted, including attempts to hit the relation between Arabism and Islam and to put Arab nationalism in a situation of confrontation with other nationalities.
He affirmed the need to clarify the idea that there is no contradiction between belongingness to Arabism and belongingness to Islam as they enhance one another, noting the importance of refuting the ethnic orientation which opposes the national one, particularly in the light of the incessant attempts to divide the region’s countries on an ethnic basis. This can be done, the president said, though stressing the idea that Arabism includes all ethnic groups, religions, and communities, thus Arab heritage and culture is the accumulation of the heritage and cultures of all the peoples who lived in this region throughout ancient and modern history.
President Al-Assad pointed out that national action was also influenced by another factor, which is the policies of some Arab governments which acted against the interests of the Arab peoples by serving foreign schemes and facilitating aggression on other Arab countries, thereby creating a negative reaction by many people towards nationalism and Arabism.
“Here we must differentiate between belongingness to identity and belongingness to a certain political system which we reject its Policies,” the president said.
“Arabism and national thinking have continuously been accused by their enemies of backwardness and of being old-fashioned in an age overwhelmed by globalization in order to turn us into tools to serve the interests of huge financial institutions led by the United States,” President Al-Assad asserted, noting the need to adhere to identity and to support openness and development ideas as to confront this challenge.
President Al-Assad clarified that the main goal of the war to which Syria has been exposed for seven years is to return the country and the entire region centuries back through targeting the national feeling and belongingness to this region and through putting the Arabs in front of two options: either to give up their identity and subjugate to foreign powers or adopt the extremist thinking and turn Arab societies into conflicting entities.
The president affirmed that the ongoing war, despite the huge destruction it caused to Syria, couldn’t weaken the faith of the Syrian people in the inevitability of victory over terrorism and its internal and external tools through the sacrifices of the hero Syrian army and the popular support for this army. It also couldn’t break the Syrians’ will to keep adherent to their identity, doctrine and national belongingness.
Here is full text of President Al-Assad’s speech as reported by SANA
President al-Assad began his speech by welcoming the participants in the Forum which discusses important pan-Arab issues, as pan-Arabism constitutes identity and affiliation as well as being the past and present of peoples and the basis of their existence.
He said that the participants are now in Syria during the war imposed on it, and that there was a general view that the storm that affected several Arab states including Syria, Libya, Yemen, and Iraq to some degree and the ensuing destruction seek to set the region back by centuries, but the main goal wasn’t destruction as what was destroyed can be rebuilt; rather the goal was undermining the Arab people’s sense of affiliation and belonging to their environment, geography, history, principles, and pan-Arabism.
His Excellency said that undermining pan-Arab affiliation means undermining the first line of defense against any attempts at a cultural or intellectual invasion that seeks to turn people into mere machines with no will that move according to plans made abroad.
“But at the same time, as this Arab spring as it was called by the enemies, aimed at undermining affiliation, without the weakness of pan-Arab affiliation and the weakness of pan-Arab sentiment, this ‘spring’ wouldn’t have been able to start in our Arab region, because segments of our societies have regrettably, through the course of time, after losing this affiliation were ready to move in other directions,” President al-Assad said, adding that these segments went in two directions when the events began: either throwing themselves into the hands of foreigners, regardless of which foreign country, or embracing Islamist extremism as a replacement for the Arab identity, despite it being an abnormal and deviant identity that has nothing to do with Islam or any religion.
“In summation, the enemies succeeded during past decades in making the situation reach its current state and succeeded in undermining society partially, dividing this society into groups, some of them distant and some of them discordant, and others are contentious and conflicting,” he said.
“On the other hand, these meetings and pan-Arab work has persisted throughout these decades, with tens and maybe hundreds of meetings being held, but the result today is that the situation for the pan-Arab condition on the Arab arena is much weaker than it was decades ago. So, do we meet again to add another meeting to a group of meetings? Do we meet to reminisce about the good days or lament bad luck or to glorify something that isn’t living its best days which is the pan-Arab condition? Are we meeting just to issue political statements, despite these being important? It’s necessary to talk politics and issue statements and take positions regarding what is happening constantly, but political statements alone cannot restore the luster of this condition we are talking about now.”
“We are facing a real problem with many aspects, and dealing with just one aspect and disregarding other aspects means that we won’t reach any results and these meetings will remain vocal platforms that have no effect,” President al-Assad said.
His Excellency said that we should start with the problem, discussing it and its solution or cure and the possible methods to reach this cure, and this requires focusing primarily on weaknesses and the methods used by the enemies of pan-Arabism, which will help find a way to deal with each aspect, because what is currently happening isn’t sudden; it is the result of long-term accumulation over decades, and its effects today on societies are deep and wide-scale.
He stressed that this issue isn’t superficial or transient, as the West was skilled in its performance and in setting traps, but the Arabs were good at falling into these traps, noting that the West built its plans on realities and facts and was active, while Arabs always based their visions on sentiments and were emotional.
“Therefore, as I am addressing a pan-Arab conference, I have to discuss some points I consider a priority, and perhaps your conference can form a more comprehensive and in-depth vision through its discussions. So, I will discuss some headlines before talking about anything related to the crisis or policy,” President al-Assad said.
He pointed out that the first major problem facing pan-Arab work is undermining the relationship between Islam and Arabism, as some have accused Arabism of being secular or atheist, tying these three concepts together and telling the simple citizens that they have to choose between faith and atheism, and naturally they chose faith, and therefore they would stand against any affiliation other than faith and Islam, so Arabism is part of the affiliation they moved away from due to this way of thinking or this incorrect marketing of the relation between Arabism and Islam.
His Excellency noted that the first to spearhead this method were the so-called Muslim Brotherhood, who were planted by the English during the first half of the 20th century in Egypt and later moved to other areas, and throughout time they spearheaded everything that opposes the interests of the Arab people and pan-Arab affiliation.
President al-Assad said that there’s an organic connection between Arabism and Islam, and there is certainly no contradiction between them, stressing that it is wrong to believe that one can either be an Arab or a Muslim.
“So, undermining this relation through Islamic extremism undermines Arabism. They diverted Islam and pushed it towards extremism. It separated itself from Arabism, and Islam and Arabism became weaker. Someone might ask why I’m talking about Arabism and Islam and not Arabism and Christianity. I would say that of course, this is the same relationship; the relationship between nationalism and religion, but colonialism and enemies of pan-Arabism didn’t work in this direction, rather they focused on Arabism and Islam,” he explained.
President al-Assad moved on to the second point, saying that pan-Arabism was put against other “nationalities,” and discussing the nature of these nationalities requires separate discussions, but some of these nationalities existed in a diverse region throughout history and they never fought among themselves, so why is this conflict emerging now? This is happening because as Arab states won their independence, colonialism sowed the seeds of sedition among those nationalities and these seeds were nurtured by enemies of pan-Arabism and even some proponents of pan-Arabism through their superficial thinking and ignorant performance.
His Excellency said that this seed has grown and gained root and dealing with it now requires double efforts, adding that these enemies of pan-Arabism achieved this by giving pan-Arabism an ethnic nature, saying that it is exclusive to the Arab ethnicity, and if one doesn’t belong to it then they need to find an identity elsewhere, thereby creating a rift between groups that have coexisted throughout history, and creating a hidden sentiment that we are living together due to political borders and conditions, and when these changes everyone goes their separate ways.
“They focused on the ethnic issue and took away from pan-Arabism the most important civilized aspects in it which are related to the cultural aspect, language, geography, history, and other things,” he added.
President al-Assad said that another cumulative factor linked to political conditions in the Arab world has affected pan-Arab world, and this factor is the result of the bad political work by some Arab states which existed prior to the war but appeared more prominently as the events began, particularly when Arab states and the Arab League provided cover for the intervention and destruction of Libya, then tried to do the same in Syria, but the political conditions had shifted by then so these attempts weren’t exactly successful.
“However, this role pushed many citizens in several places and here in Syria in particular, to say that if this is pan-Arabism and Arabism, then we don’t want them. If these are the Arabs, then we don’t want to be Arabs, we want to be anything else. Well, what is the alternative? There is no alternative. These people are reacting to the conspiring by some Arab states on other Arab states or peoples of causes, and didn’t differentiate between affiliation to a specific identity and affiliation to a political system,” he said, adding that there were reactions towards Arab causes like the Palestinian cause due to the betrayal by some Palestinians of Arab states and peoples that hosted them and defended them, eliciting a reaction, and there were many who said “the whole Palestinian cause can go to Hell,” which indicates the immaturity of the sense of affiliation among these people.
His Excellency went on to address another important point which is that pan-Arabism had been accused of being synonymous with backwardness, which is a hypothesis posed in the 19th century and early 20th century, particularly with the coming of the age of globalization, satellite channels and the internet, which, according to that hypothesis, means that we live in a single world with single principles, interests, and economy, so any form of nationalism is a backwards idea.
“Of course, this is the idea posed by globalization which ultimately aims at having us all belong to the financial institutions that lead the world which are practically centered in the United States, through which they lead politics, economy, and everything else,” President al-Assad said, adding that they tried to claim that Arabism is a passing fad, which is similar to what happened with the fall of the Soviet Union when they wanted to portray socialism and communism as backwards concept.
“Now, after around two and a half decades, things have started to change and inferiority complexes went away. For us in Syria, we never suffered from this inferiority complex at any time, and we used to tell them that even if this language is the language of the 20th or 19th centuries, even if it’s the language of the 1st or 10th century, we will speak it today, tomorrow, and the day after, and we won’t have an inferiority complex. On the contrary, events have proven that the lack of this identity was one of the biggest problems, and adhering to it today is necessary,” he asserted.
His Excellency moved on to address pan-Arab work and the existing political movements, figures, parties, and conferences that have been working for decades under difficult circumstances, as while Syria has been supporting pan-Arabism for many decades, there has been a growing animosity towards pan-Arab work in other states, because this work often made political positions on various Arab causes that embarrassed certain states.
President al-Assad said that there are many people in society who belong to pan-Arabism but disagree with us politically, or have other political visions, or don’t like being involved in the work of political parties, and for them their pan-Arab affiliation is a social and civilized affiliation, adding “This begs the question: where are the non-political aspects of our pan-Arab work? This is a very important aspect.”
His Excellency said that Arabism is a civilized condition, and the most important thing in the civilized condition is the culture it bears, and culture is expressed by language. Without language, the culture turns into a large generator which generates a lot of electricity, but there will be no wires in order to transport this electricity towards the city, factories, or any other place.
“Here in Syria, there is no big problem that we suffer from. After all, education in Syria, including all university stages and others, is in the Arabic language. We support foreign languages, but the Arabic language remains the basis because we understand the meaning of the language,” the President added, stressing that cultural alienation and the dissolution of cultures begins with languages then spreads to other aspects.
President al-Assad said that Syria has suffered from war for seven years, and war weakens any country no matter how strong or large it may be, and this war has exhausted Syria, but it didn’t cause it to collapse. More importantly, it didn’t affect the Syrians’ confidence in the inevitability of victory over terrorism.
“The essence of that war is two groups: first is the persons who lost their affiliation, mainly, the pan-Arab affiliation and the national affiliation. They have lost their identity, the ethics, and with them, they lost the homeland. This is the basis that the foreign side depended on. We can talk about conspiracies for days, but these conspiracies would have never found a place in Syria without the existence of these groups.”
“On the other hand, the other group is mainly the Syrian Arab Army, which has fought and made great sacrifices in order to keep this homeland safe,” His Excellency said, adding that the Syrian Arab Army, before being a national army, is an army that was based on a clear creed which was established throughout decades, stressing that no army would have withstood such a war no matter how much external support it got without having popular support.
“This point, which is the strength of the army through its creed, was understood by our enemies. All political work in conferences and talk of transitional governments and federalism, and all the terms you hear can be summed up with a single thing that was required, which is undermining this concept, the army as a symbol” he said, adding that they target the institutions and society as well, because we are talking about one creed, and all the war was working towards abandoning the notion of pan-Arabism starting with the constitution, to name Syria as just “the Syrian state” and to make its army “Syrian.”
“What was the headline they have put? A professional army, which means that the army which carried out all those battles is an army of armatures, a group of amateurs who liked the game of war and went to fight just because they want to fight anyone, just as a hobby! This is what they are trying to market. For them, the professional army is the army which stays inside the country and waits for a signal from outside in order to move with coups against national governments. According to them, the professional army is that which covers the proxy governments when they relinquish sovereignty and work against the people,” President al-Assad said.
“Today, I affirm after 7 years of sacrifices, that we wouldn’t think for even a second to make concessions about creed and Syria’s pan-Arab affiliation just to appease the rejects of the 21st century of the Muslim Brotherhood and Daesh or al-Nusra, or any other groups, whether outlaws or the groups which work in the interests of the Americans and the West in our region,” His Excellency said.
The President said that if we want to improve the pan-Arab work and see results, this requires coming together and discuss various issues through dialogue, noting that in the past, proponents of pan-Arabism have not held dialogue with others; only with each other, adding “I believe that the starting point begins with dialogue with other groups that went astray, those others that put themselves or who were put by conditions in a place that contradicts their natural belonging and in a place that contradicts their interests and the interest of their homeland without their knowledge, in most cases. Recovering those is the start of the correct work in order to reinforce the pan-Arab work.”
President al-Assad said that such people are like cancerous cells that were originally normal cells that were changed due to various circumstances to become enemies of normal cells in the body, and they are fuel for a poisonous concoction made by the West, but we have to counteract this poison through dialogue.
“First, we have to address the group which is convinced about the contradiction between Islam and Arabism, we have to tell them that there is no contradiction between these two concepts, both flow into the other, both reinforce the other,” he said, stressing they cannot separate the Arabism of Prophet Mohammad from his religion, nor can they separate the religious context of the Quran from the Arabic language, so how can they separate Arabism from Islam?
“It is necessary now to refute the ethnic concept. There are people who talk about federalism, nationalism, and federalism on national basis. We have to assert that the concept of Arabism is an inclusive civilized concept that includes everyone, which means that Arabism is greater than being ethnic, the cultural concept includes everyone, includes all ethnicities, religions, and sects,” President al-Assad said, asserting that Arabism is a civilized condition to which everyone in the region contributed, making it the sum of heritage and cultures of all the peoples who lived in the area throughout old and modern history.
“The most important thing is the language that brings us all together. We all speak Arabic in this region, not other languages, even if there are other languages. .Therefore the Arabic language and pan-Arabism is what brings all religions, sects and ethnics together, and at the same time preserves the characteristics of each one,” he added, noting that after terrorism failed in the region, the enemies started focusing on ethnicities and nationalities.
As for those who renounced Arabism as a reaction to the performance of some Arab states, President al-Assad stressed that the conspiring by these states against Arab causes and the Arab people doesn’t mean that these states belong to Arabism, and affiliation to an identity doesn’t mean affiliation with a political system.
“If they conspire against us, this doesn’t mean that we should run away from the concept and true affiliation and turn things over to those who have nothing to do with Arabism or religion or the societies of this region in everything they did,” he said, stressing that the lack of affiliation doesn’t serve anyone, because the current problems such as sectarian and ethnic division are mainly caused by the lack of pan-Arab sentiment, because people instinctively seek affiliation, and when an encompassing one is absent, they will seek other, smaller ones that lead to the division of minds, geography, and homelands.
“As for linking Arabism to backwardness, we must be the leaders in supporting development ideas, and to have a program that suits this age and suits the interests of the peoples,” the President concluded.
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