Dear Arabist Sympathizers,
For over a 100 years, we have donned the cloak of a chameleon, convincing ourselves that in order to live peacefully in the lands of our forefathers. We must admire and adopt the culture of a foreign Civilization. However, the days of peaceful co-existence are fading fast. A paradigm shift is occurring throughout our homeland, and the time has come for us to question our continued support of Arabism. Now many of you may feel that to question our commitment to Arab Civilization maybe irrational and even insulting, but let us truly examine what Arabism has brought to us Roum.
Historically, we never identified as Arabs, nor did anyone else in the Levant for the matter. Before the First World War, the very concept was alien to the inhabitants of the region. It was Western educated intellectuals, and the Great Powers, themselves, that nurtured the idea of an Arab people, as a way of destabilizing the Ottoman Caliphate. When the war ended, the pro-Westerner Arabists were betrayed by the Great Powers, and the Sykes-Picot Agreement established artificial borders across the Levant.
From within these artificial countries emerged different brands of Arabism. Most notably Ba’athism, the doctrine of Michel Aflaq, who was corrupted by foreign ideologies, such as Marxism and National Socialism. Aflaq imagined the Arab, much in the same way Hitler imagined the Aryan. In order to achieve this dream, Aflaq ignorantly assumed that, ‘anyone born in the Middle East that spoke Arabic was an Arab.'
For us, this meant the Arabization of our culture and identity, in favor of the newly created, and Western approved ‘Arab’ identity. No longer were we to consider ourselves an ethnocultural identity, but merely a ‘spiritual’ one within the newly created ‘Arab Nation.' And for this, we were promised equality and freedom amongst the Muslim majority. However, instead it caused a mass exodus from our ancestral homeland. The overwhelming majority of those who have emigrated from places like Lebanon and Syria since the 20th century have been Roum or Assyrians/Syriacs. If Arab brotherhood was supposed to give us equality and freedom, why have we been the overwhelming majority of those fleeing to Western countries?
Aflaq and other Arabists told us that Arabism would protect us from the oppressive hand of Islam. Yet, still to this day, our brethren are victims of persecution throughout the Levant, even in the last bastion of Arabism itself, Syria. Where foreign Islamists, our so-called ‘Arab’ brothers, have forced us to live once again as dhimmi. So much for Arabism preventing us from being second-class citizens.
The time to be nostalgic has come and gone. Arabism has failed to unite the numerous ethnoreligious communities of the Arabic-speaking world into one nation. The Berbers, Kurds, and Assyrians/Syriacs have all successfully rejected Arabization. The Sunnis have abandoned it for the Nation of Islam, and the time is now upon us too, to decide what our future holds.
We, the Roum of the Levant are the indigenous descendants of this land, which the Arabists and Syrianist collectively call Bilad al-Sham. For nearly 1400 years, we have lived under Arab occupation, which may have changed our language, but it has not changed the cultural and historical fingerprint our ancestors left on this land. Just look at the geographic borders of Bilad al-Sham. They are based upon the borders of the Diocese of the East.
By accepting the reality that we are an ethnocultural nation, rather than just a spiritual identity, we are in no way rejecting the common history or heritage of the region, just its philosophical focal point. Arabists and Syrianists alike, focus on the glorification of the region’s Islamic heritage as the heart of their identity. A philosophical choice, which allows the receipt for religious and cultural bigotry to remain interwoven in the very fabric of both secular ideologies.
Whether one is of an Arabist or Syrianist perspective, the very philosophical concept of Bilad al-Sham or Natural Syria is similar. It is one that glorifies the region’s Islamic heritage as its uniting cultural and historical force. Something, which is seen in the very etymology of the term Bilad al-Sham. The word ‘al-Sham,' referencing the city of Damascus, which replaced Antioch as the capital and center of cultural importance.
This letter to the Arabized Roum is a call for action. Let us no longer forget who we are, let us no longer play the role of the hypocrite. How can one boast of resisting Western Imperialism, but fanatically accept an identity that was created by American Missionaries, and promoted by organizations like al-Fatat from France!
We are Hellenes, not in the sense that we are connected somehow to the Modern Greek nation-state, but due to our common Hellenic heritage. A rich and unique heritage that was passed on to us by the Sea Peoples, ancient Macedonians, the Seleucid Empire, and the Roman Empire. Our eternal capital is not Damascus, the Arabist’s Capital of Syria, but Antioch. Capital of the Seleucid Empire, the Diocese of the East, and true home of our Patriarchate!
Syrianist ideologue, Antun Saadeh, was right when he rejected language and religion as the defining characteristics of our people, but his mistake was placing Islam as a historical force to unite us. The key to peace and unity has always been Hellenism.