April 28, 2020 Special Dispatch No. 8723

Syrian Author: While The Rest Of The World Sanctifies Life, We Arabs Sanctify Death

April 28, 2020
Syria | Special Dispatch No. 8723

In an article in the weekly Enab Baladi, identified with the Syrian opposition, author and journalist Khatib Badla harshly condemned the sanctification of death in Arab society. The Arab leaders, he said, have long been cultivating the ancient Islamic concept of shahada (martyrdom) and encouraging their people to die for the regime, while other governments in the world have sanctifed life and promoted the security and wellbeing of their citizens. He added that the Arab culture of death leads only to ruin and destruction, and wondered if a day will ever come when the Arabs finally embrace the culture of life.

Khatib Badla (source: Enab Baladi, Syria)

The following are translated excerpts from his article: [1]

"Our [source of] hope is death. The life-loving nations deserve our appreciation and affection. The governments and national institutions in their countries work night and day to provide them with security, dignity and wellbeing, so they can get the most out of life, and if  a citizen is close to death, [the authorities] will mobilize and do everything they can to prolong his life, if only for a couple more hours…

"Conversely, we [Arabs] have a trait that distinguishes us from all the other peoples of the world, which is a love of death. We dream of it, regard it as a source of inspiration and think about it every day. We love death and love the dead. Instead of hoping for longevity, for [a life of] giving and loving, we say, with defeatism… 'God, [help me] go to battle and reach my grave. This is in addition to the grand slogans we [like to chant], such as: 'death to America,' 'better death than humiliation' and 'seek death and you shall be given  life [in the next world]'…

"For generations, the Arab leaders have encouraged their people to die, their hidden slogan being 'die for me.' To that end, they appropriated the concept of martyrdom from the scriptures, and started to rebuild it, emulate it and beautify it, so as to adapt it to their place and time. For example, Hafez Al-Assad, one [of the greatest] criminals in history, whose religion consisted of [sanctifying] the intelligence [apparatuses], torture, murder, destruction and usurpation, hid behind Islam and appropriated the Islamic concept of martyrdom in order to place it on the top of his regime's agenda…

"He immediately became the chief patron of martyrdom and martyrs, and [even] opened schools for the children of martyrs that gladden the soul and warm the heart. These schools were located in fancy buildings and had the best teachers and supervisors, while ordinary schools drowned in filth, overcrowding and boredom and were poorly heated. [Assad] thus said to his soldiers: Embark on jihad and seek martyrdom, my dears. I will send you to Lebanon, to attack the national forces [there] and turn it into an annex of my own state [Syria]; and to Iraq, to fight under the American flag [a reference to Syria's participation in the U.S.-led coalition that fought Saddam Hussein in the 1991 Gulf War], and to Hama, to kill anyone who does not obey me [a reference Hafez Al-Assad's bloody suppression of the Muslim Brotherhood uprising in Hama in 1982]. Don't be concerned for your children. Everything is assured them, even a father, for I am the father and commander [of all Syrians].

"The love of death has brought the people of this region much death and destruction over the years… Will there come a day when we embrace the culture of life? Perhaps there will."


[1] Enab Baladi (Syria), March 22, 2020.

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