Multicultural, Multi-ethnic, Poly-religious, Poly-sectarian Middle East
and the Need for Tolerance
The tensions and turmoil that continue to haunt the world cannot be
solved without genuine will for coexistence, tolerance and peaceful
The complex makeup of minorities from all religions, sects,
ethnic or cultural groups of the Near East must be allowed free expression
of their unique characteristics, traditions and cultures within the accepted
freedoms of the civilized world. Such communities should be protected
from persecution, extermination, intimidation or subordination by majorities
that choose to employ religious laws that infringe on the human rights
of others. The multicultural, multi-ethnic, poly-religious and poly-sectarian
communities of this part of the world must exercise extreme caution
in preserving the uniqueness of their diverse society which is the corner
stone in enriching their part of the world.
|DNA tests of both Lebanese Muslim & Christian "support that [both] populations share an ancient genetic [Phoenician] heritage." (National Geographic, Oct. 2004)
Religion and Culture
After the Arab invasion
of the Middle East in the 7th Century and the enforced conversion of
most of the population to Islam, the cultures of the various peoples
under this occupation became diluted into the new order. However, ancient
cultures survived in the rites of various churches of the East. The
mosaic of religions in the Middle East became the repository of culture
while the unique identities of the peoples of that part of the Mediterranean
was changed for ever. For example, the Assyrian
Church and Chaldean
Church (or see "Who
are the Chaldeans") in Iraq, Georgia, Persia, and Turkey preserved
the cultures of the ancient Assyrians and Babylonians; the Coptic
Church in Egypt preserved the culture of Pharaonic Egypt; the Syriac
Orthodox Church, (whose Patriarch
Ignatius Khalaf 1455-1483 may have been my ancestor;
see also Suryoyo)
-- relative to Syriac language, dialect of Aramaic -- in Syria, Lebanon,
Persia and Iraq preserved the culture of the Syrian Jacobites/Phoenicians (or Jacobite-Aramaean);
the Greco-Phoenician (or Greco-Aramaean) of the Byzantine Church (or see The
History of Melkites in this site and Greek
Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East and Greek
Catholic Melkite Patriarchate of Antioch, Jerusalem, Alexandria and
All the East in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Turkey, Egypt and Israel/Palestine
preserved the Greek Byzantine culture; and the Maronite
Church (see also The Maronites and Lebanon, A Brief History in this site) in Lebanon, Syria, Israel/Palestine, and Cyprus preserved
the culture of the Phoenicians. Several of the aforesaid churches are
or have sister eastern Catholic rites churches which did separate
from their original churches and came in communion with the Papacy (see
while the others remained in their Eastern
Orthodox tradition. Further, all of these churches and their cultures
have immigrant branches all over the world. For a detailed list of links
about the various peoples and churches mentioned herewith, please refer
to "Related resources and
links about Phoenicia and the Forgotten Christians of the East" (Related Links About Phoenicia) on this website. In the same sense, Muslim and Druze sects of the same area reflect another mosaic of cultures and history that are unique and interesting in their own right. These vary with and provide another cultural spectrum in music, art, literature and architecture. The writer of this article regrets not being versed, as yet, in the cultural background of these latter groups but will put every effort to research and elaborate on the subject soon.
The same could be written about the Amazigh (Berber) who live in what is called the Arabian Maghrib -- المغرب العربي -- or Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia ...etc. when commenting about the population of these countries. For more details about this non-Arab people, please see the related article in this about the Berber.
It must be noted,
in this brief summary, that large numbers of the Phoenician
Christian community that resided in the cities of Phoenicia Maritima
became Byzantinized or took on "western" Byzantine
customs, dress, rites and liturgy. Meanwhile, Phoenician communities
of the mountains, which were cut off from contact with the outside world,
maintained a more authentic Phoenician Maronite and Syriac traditions,
customs, rites, language and culture. In fact, the Byzantine (Orthodox) Church continued to have Greek Patriarchs of Antioch and Greek Bishops in most of diocese until the late 1800's.
There is no Arab Church
Keeping in mind the various cultural nature of the churches mentioned earlier i.e. the Eastern Churches of the Syriacs, Maronites, Coptic, Assyrian, Armenian, Byzantine, Ethiopian ...etc. one has a big question mark when it comes to the absence of an Arab Church. Though many speak of Arab Christians but the fact of the matter is most Arabic speaking Christians of the same churches are not Arab Christians but the original inhabitants of the East i.e. Maronites, Syriacs, Coptic, Assyrian, Byzantine who use Arabic as a secondary language in their church services in the Middle East. Most of the immigrant churches of the same all over the world use the native languages plus the Syriac, Greek, Assyrian ...etc. with a few exceptions. The only churches that use Arabic exclusively in their worship are Protestants of the Middle East, whose roots go back only to the 1800's. The fact that there is no Arab Church with specific cultural identifiers such as Arab style church buildings, Arab vestments, Arab iconology or traditions is a proof that this so-called church never existed in the same sense like the others.
There are no Arabic versions of the Bible previous to Islam, a fact which proves irrefragably that in its primitive period Christianity had secured no footing at all among the Arabs. Indeed it never secured such a footing, for the Arabic versions were not made for Arabs at all, but for Copts, and Near Easterners -- Lebanese, Syrians, Palestinians, Iraqis and others -- who had become Arabic speakers centuries after the advent of Islam. The full translation of the Bible into Arabic did not come about until nearly 150 years ago.
The only impact which the Arabs had on Eastern Churches are tonal qualities of hymnology and church music, much like the Gregorian Chants of Spain were influenced by the Moors.
What does the DNA of the Lebanese show?
Science speaks louder than politics, fanaticism and all historians put together
Simply put the Lebanese are very similar to the Greeks and Italians, HLA phenotype polymorphism in the Lebanese population. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 & 7.
Hôtel-Dieu de France, Laboratoire d'Histocompatibilité, Beirut. The HLA-A, -B, -DR and DQ phenotypes have been defined in a panel of 217 Lebanese. These subjects were all unrelated, belonged to different religious communities and originated from the various provinces of Lebanon. All the broad class I specificities tested, except splits A25(10), B54(22) and B56(22), were present in this panel. When HLA-A and -B antigen frequencies were compared with data on the Caucasoids, Negroids and Orientals, several similarities in antigen frequencies could be found between some frequencies observed in the Lebanese and those observed in the Negroids and/or Orientals. There were no frequencies equivalent to those particular to the Caucasoids. In addition, two groups of class I antigens could be distinguished: a first group (A32, B14, B18, B35, B38, B39, B41 and B50) showing higher frequencies, and a second group (A31, B27, B60 and B62) showing lower frequencies than those observed in the Caucasoids, Negroids and Orientals. However, when analysed separately, several Mediterranean ethnic groups, notably the Greeks and Italians, have a frequency profile equivalent to that of the Lebanese, with the exception of the B41 specificity, which is particularly high in the Lebanese (14.2%). The data concerning the class II antigens are the most interesting. All the specificities were present in the panel. The HLA-DR5 is the highest frequency of DR antigens in the present panel (58.9%) and nearly all DR5 positive individuals are DR11. The DR11 allele accounts for 33.1% of the total DR gene frequency. The highest DQ antigen frequency is that of DQ3 (76.4%), the majority of which is DQ7 (66.4%). We observed a high DR11-DQ7 haplotype frequency (29.4%) with a significant delta value for linkage disequilibrium. There is no linkage disequilibrium between B41 and DR11. The commonly observed linkage disequilibrium between the DQ5 allele, and the DR1, DR2, DR10 and DR14 alleles are not significant in this Lebanese panel.
Further, other studies comparing the Lebanese to Persian Gulf peoples conclude that there is very little relationship between the two; however, the Lebanese have been identified to be closer to the Mediterranean people and Central Europeans.
HLA Class II Profile and Distribution of HLA-DRB1 and HLA-DQB1 Alleles and Haplotypes among Lebanese and Bahraini Arabs, American Society for Microbiology
"Analysis of HLA genes has provided invaluable tools for anthropological studies, and analysis of HLA loci and haplotypes, first by serology and later by molecular tools, has been reported for many societies. Insofar as Arabs represent a heterogeneous mixture of populations extending from the Arabian (Persian) Gulf to the Atlantic Ocean, and in view of the admixture brought about by the transmigration which trans-Arabia has witnessed throughout its history, this study was undertaken to analyze HLA class II usage among Bahraini and Lebanese communities, the former situated in the eastern Arabian peninsula and the latter located in the eastern Mediterranean.
"Data presented here, in defining the HLA profile among (eastern Mediterranean) Lebanese and (Arabian Peninsula) Bahraini Arabs, point to differences in the origins of these two distinct Arabic-speaking communities, brought about possibly by the admixture of the original inhabitants with neighboring and distant populations. These results provide information that can be used for future anthropological studies and also in the analysis of disease susceptibility and organ transplantation."
So do you mean Muslims and Christians of Lebanon, for example, are genetically identical?
Nothing is black and white, especially when it comes to genetics, religions, social groups, or nationalities. What studies seem to suggest that there is a difference between Lebanese Christians and Lebanese Muslims on the genetic level. There is for sure genetic differences between various Christian groups and sects or Muslim groups and sects. Also, the same could be said about the British, the Scots, the French or Italians. Racial purity is very rare except for distant tribes in secluded parts of the world. Besides, racial diversity is the key to human health. What relates to the Lebanese is detailed in the summaries of studies mentioned below:
Crusades, Islam Expansion Traced in Lebanon
for National Geographic
News, March 28, 2008
A new study has found genetic TRACES of
both the arrival of the Crusades and of the expansion of Islam in Lebanon.
The findings not only confirm well-documented history but also present
a rare genetic trail showing the movement of two major religions into Lebanon,
Lebanon has always had a rich history of receiving different
cultures, said the study's lead author, Pierre Zalloua, an associate
professor at the Lebanese American University,
This study tells us that some of them did not just conquer and leave
behind castles. They left a subtle genetic connection as well.
Zalloua and his colleagues at the National Geographic Society's
Genographic Project were conducting a broader survey of Middle Eastern
populations when they stumbled upon their finding. (The National
Geographic Society owns National Geographic News.)
Unlike previous studies that have relied on mitochondrial DNA—which is
passed on maternally—to unlock secrets of human migration, researchers in
the current study focused on the paternally provided Y chromosome, as it
is thought to provide more detailed information.
The study appears in the current issue of the American Journal of
Crusaders and Muslims
The distribution of genetic markers at first appeared virtually
indistinguishable across the Christian, Druze, and Muslim populations of
Lebanon. But a closer look at the Y chromosomes of 926 Lebanese men
sampled in the study revealed something intriguing.
We noticed some interesting lineages in the data set. Among Lebanese
Christians, in particular, we found higher frequency of a genetic
marker—R1b—that we see typically see only in Western Europe, said Spencer
Wells, a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence.
The study matched the western European Y-chromosome lineage against
thousands of people in France, Germany, Italy,
and the United
Kingdom. Wells said the lineage was seen enriched to a higher
frequency only in the Christian populations in Lebanon and was not seen in
the Muslim population.
It certainly doesn't undermine the similarities among the various Lebanese communities, but it does agree with oral tradition—that some Lebanese Christians are descendents of Crusaders—and points to a genetic connection to the Crusaders, he added.
We have a correspondence between what we knew about the history of the region from written documents and what we're starting to see that in the genetic patterns as well.
The researchers noticed a similar pattern when they looked at Y-chromosome lineages in the Muslim population.
We found that a lineage that is very common in the Arabian Peninsula—Hg J*—is found in slightly higher frequencies preferentially in the Muslim population, said Wells, who also heads the Genographic Project.
Wells said that even though the genetic matches are found only in about 2 percent of the population, they provide a detectable impact of two historical migrations into Lebanon.
What is cool is that we found this lineage in the Lebanese Christians that we don't see elsewhere in the Middle East, or at least we haven't seen it yet, Wells said. So it seems to have migrated from Western Europe relatively recently into the Lebanese population of Christians, but not Muslims.
Now what historical events would have brought a substantial number—2 percent—of Y chromosomes in the Christian population in from Western Europe? he added. The most likely answer is the Crusades.
The Genographic researchers say their discoveries suggest, in particular, that Crusaders from the 11th to 13th centuries A.D. introduced their lineages into the Lebanese population.
The expansion of Islam from the Arabian Peninsula beginning in the seventh century A.D. likely introduced lineages into people who subsequently became Lebanese Muslims, they add.
The fact that we do detect significant excesses of the lineages Hg J* and R1b in the relevant Lebanese subpopulations requires explanation, Wells said.
The documented Muslim and Crusader migrations could have left no genetic impact, but in that case, other undocumented migrations of significant numbers of men from the same source regions must have taken place.
Wells said such an alternative explanation is more complicated and less plausible than the simpler explanation that the migrations known from history are responsible for the observed genetic effects.
Difference between the Lebanese Christian and Muslim
This study suggests the presence of an average of four main groups in the said population:
- North Africa
- Near East/Arabs, includes Lebanese Muslims and Ashkenazi Jews
- Central-East Mediterranean grouping, includes Lebanese Christians
- West Mediterranean
What is the reason for these conclusions? The most striking difference between the Christian and Muslim Lebanese is within haplogroup J, i.e., the haplogroup supposed to reflect their common heritage. Muslims have 56.4% of J, while Christians have 44.2%, but this is distributed 30.8%/25.6% among haplogroups J*(xJ2) and J2 in Muslims and 9.3%/34.9% among Christians. It is the high frequency of J*(x2) which indicates the substantial Arab ancestry among the Muslims compared to the Christians. So, indeed Christians appear to descend more from the pre-Arab populations of Lebanon, and presumably the Phoenicians [and others], compared to the Muslims [and Ashkenazi Jews] who are more similar to other Arabs.
Holy Liturgy, chants honoring Lebanese bishops and archbishops, the Polychronion, continue
to be recited to this day proclaiming them "Metropolitan Archbishops
of Phoenicia Maritima and/or Phoenicia Libanesis."
Following are translations
of the text of two of these Byzantine chants, as
as link to their MP3 audio files.
Archbishop of Beirut,
specifically composed and written for the late Metropolitan Archbishop
of fathers and shepherd of shepherds, Eliya, most virtuously
most honorable, who is appointed by God as bishop of Beirut and
its suburbs. He who is most revered in graciousness and who is
most preeminent in leadership, Metropolitan of Phoenicia Maritima.
Our father and archbishop, may his years be many." (performed
with difficulty by the author* of this site) (MP3
* I used to
hear this chant when I went to Holy Liturgy at the Orthodox Monastery
in my hometown when archbishop Eliya Saleebi was the celebrant.
I am not absolutely sure of the right words but I believe I
got the hymnology as close to the original as I can remember.
Archbishop of Tripoli and El-Koura,
specifically composed and written for the Metropolitan Archbishop Elias Korban:
the God Almighty keep for many years, his beatitude and
graciousness, Metropolitan of Tripoli and all of Phoenicia Maritima,
our father and our master, Kyrios Elias. God keep for many years."
(performed by Protopsalt Demitri Coteyya*) (MP3
* Protopsalt Demitri Coteyya is from El-Mina, Tripoli, Lebanon, and leads the St. George choir there. This information was provided by kind courtesy of Mr. Ziad Salim Yazbek.
Metropolitan Archbishop of Homs (Emsa) and all of Phoenicia Libanesis
I do not have the text and/or sound file of the Polykhronon of this bishop. I am indebted, in a very peculiar way, to Antoine Courban who wrote to me about this. His message was anything but cordial. It can be best described as cynical and malicious with implied rudeness, condescension and outright arrogance, to say the least. Having said this, he inadvertently, though ignominiously and obtusely, alerted me to this important bit of information that I had forgotten.
Because I did learn from him, he proved what Cato the Elder said: "Wise men learn more from fools than fools from the wise." He was not satisfied to write once and receive my answer but he continues to write proving a quote from Plato "Fools talk because they have to say something."
* Search for the words and sound file are underway and will be published when available.
is Arab? The origin of the word "Arab"
Hitherto, the first
actual use of the word Arab in history is to be found in an Assyrian
inscription of 853 B.C., commemorating the defeat of a mutinous chieftain,
called Gindibu the Aribi during the reign of king Shalmaneser III (858-824
B.C.). Arabs are then mentioned quite often, until the 6th century B.C.
as Aribi or Arabuthat indicates a vassalage to the Assyrians. The first
Greek who is accredited to have acquired some geographical knowledge
was Homer, who flourished in 1000 or 800 B.C. He has referred to the
Syrians under the name Arimi (the Biblical, Aram) and the Arabs under
the name of Erembi. The place-name Arabia occurs for the first time
in Greek writings. Herodotus (484-425 B.C.,), followed by most other
Greek and Latin writers, extended the term Arabia and Arab to the whole
peninsula and everything in it, even including the eastern desert of
Egypt between the Red Sea and the Nile, even though what we today know as Arabs come from desert tribes of Arabia. References to the Arabs, in
addition, are also found in the anonymous "Periplus of the Erythraean
Sea" (between 95 A.D. and 130 A.D.). The word Saracen, first used
in Greek literature too, is a transcription of an Arabic word meaning
"easterner." As for the Arabs' use of the word, it occurs
for the first time in the ancient epigraphical material originating
in southern Arabia, where it is clearly used for Bedouin. In the north,
the word is used firstly in the 4th century A.D., in one of the oldest
surviving records of the language that became classical Arabic. Further account
of the Arabs comes in the 10th chapter of Genesis of the Old Testament,
which names the descendants of fictional Noah, whose elder son, Shem is regarded
as the ancestor of the Hebrews, Arabs and Aramaeans -- the speakers of
Semitic language. But the term Arabs is not explicitly mentioned in
Genesis. It is however suggested that the "mixed multitude"
(Hebrew, erev) mentioned in Exodus (xii, 38) as having accompanied the
Israelites into the wilderness from Egypt may be for Arabs. According
to "Dictionary of the Bible" (ed. by James Hastings, New York,
1898, 1st vol., p. 135), "The employment of the name Arab for an
inhabitant of any portion of the vast peninsula known to us as Arabia,
begins somewhere in the 3rd century B.C.
In the Bible, the
name Arab is the first word used in the second book of Chronicles (xvii,
11) to refer to nomads from the east bank of the Jordan river in the
time of king Jehosophat (900-800 B.C.), such as "...and the Arabians
brought him flocks, seven thousand and seven hundred rams, and seven
thousand and seven hundred he- goats."
Genetic difference tree between Arabs and modern Lebanese/ Phoenicians & other Near Eastern people
The word Arab or Arabah is probably derived from a Semitic root related
to nomadism. In the Arabic language, the word Arab (derived from i'rab),
means "those who speak clearly" as contrast with ajam (those
who speak indistinctly). In Holy Koran, the word Arab was never used
for the country of Arabia, but characterized the residence of Ismail,
the son of Abraham as an "uncultivated land." -- desert. In the time
of Ismail his place of residence had no name, therefore, it was given
the name of an "uncultivated land." In the Old Testament,
the word midbar is used for Ismail's home, meaning a desert or a barren
land, which closely corresponds to the Koranic description.
The Greeks and Romans are responsible, once again, for naming and dividing regions as they appear in the modern world, an example which stands out is the name they gave to Syria. The "Arabian" peninsula 1,230,000
sq. miles was
divided by the ancient geographers into Arabia Petraea, Arabia Felix
and Arabia Deserta. The Arabia Petraea corresponded to the present Hijaz
and eastern Najd. Arabia Felix to Yemen and Hazarmawt and Arabia Deserta
comprised the rest of the country. Consequently, what was actually "the uncultivated desert home of Ismaeil" was extended beyond Hijaz, Najd and applied to a vast peninsula to cover unrelated lands of a Yemen, Hazarmawt and Oman.
Ethnically there are very few Arabs, the Arab World is a *LIE* invented in 1945 in the "Arab League." It refers to nations that made classical Arabic their official language even though the spoken language of the countries is not really Arabic. Such "Arabic-speaking" peoples are not a single ethnic group
What appears below is part of an essay by a leading Prof. Muhammad Shamsaddin Megalommatis who is a prominent Orientalist and Egyptologist. The essay is entitled A word on European and African Unions and it appeared in the Yemen Times in 2003, http://www.yementimes.com/ Now, if the situation is like this in Africa, it is even worse for what you call Arabic countries. And it will become even worse, because in the case of most of these dysfunctional, anachronistic and at times tyrannical regimes one does not only face a case of missing knowledge (as is the case in Africa) but also meets provocative and flagrant misinformation and disinformation. And I do not speak here at the level of politics at all!
The basic falsehood that is widely diffused among the member states of the Arabic League (do not call it 'Arab', please) is that there is an Arabic nation, or that the people in all the member states are ' Arabs. The only historical truth in this respect is that there are no Arabs at all; there are Arabic speaking peoples with striking dissimilarities that testify to and assure only failures in any attempt at a union among these so different peoples. If this absolute and fundamental historical reality is not widely assessed and understood first, nothing good can come out of the Arab League!!!
In reality, the Lebanese are Phoenicians, who got hellenized and aramaized in Late Antiquity. Arabic speaking Syrians and Iraqis are Aramaeans. So are the Palestinians and the Kuwaitis, as well as the Emirates and the Qataris, who have certainly been intermixed with Persians. Egyptians are Copts, native Egyptians, descendants of the people of Ancient Egypt in their amalgamations with the numerous foreigners, who passed by the valley of the Nile: Aramaeans, Phoenicians, Yemenis, Greeks, Meroitic Sudanese, Romans, and others. Sudanese are descendants of the ancient Meroites and the Nubians. Libyans and the people of the Maghreb are descendants of the Khammitic peoples of the great Atlas, Berbers, in their genuine fusion with Carthaginians and Romans.
And Yemenis are Yemenis, descendants of the ancient states of Saba, Qataban, Himyar, Hadramout and other; they are closer to Abyssinians (mistakenly called Ethiopians) than to the Arabs of Hegiras these peoples, by accepting Islam, sooner or later, started becoming arabized, but this happened at a linguistic, not at a racial, ethnic level. And we know only too well that the Arabs of the times of the Prophet were not numerous at all. One generation later, when let us say Islamic armies were reaching Carthage in today's Tunisia, Central Asia and the Indus valley, the Muslim fighters were speaking Arabic but among them Arabs were already a minority. Aramaeans from Damascus and Ctesiphon, Egyptians from Alexandria, Yemenis from Muza and Persians from Praaspa were already a majority among them! They learnt the language of Quran, but they did not and could not change their racial and ethnic origin. And never forget that if one tries to speak of racial mixture, at the times of the Prophet all the Arabs were not exceeding in number the population of just one Aramaic, Egyptian or Persian city (namely Tadmor, Alexandria, or Istakhr).
The Copts (Christians) of Egypt and the 'Assyrians' and 'Chaldaeans' of Iraq and Iran show very well what happened: those who remained Christians preserved initially their language (Coptic and Aramaic ' Syriac) and lost it gradually in later dates. Among the people who accepted Islam in the early period, only Persians preserved their language. This is not strange, since the great cultural phenomenon of Ferdowsi gives us an insightful understanding of the subject. If Copts and Aramaeans had not been Christianized and if they had kept a national traditional historical record of their glorious past, they would have resulted into a different perception of Islam, preserving their original languages and developing epics similar to Shahnameh. Because this did not happen, we have the current situation, but this does not mean that these peoples are Arabs, or that a kind of union can be based on falsely perceived history and tons of misinformation and disinformation that was mostly due to colonial powers, mainly France and England, in their efforts against Islam and the Ottoman Empire. It is from Western Europe that nationalism emanated. And as such, it caused serious problems to peoples of the East and the West, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and others. The confusion spread throughout the territories of the Ottoman Empire finds its equivalent in the disaster of the Irish, the Scots, the Corsicans and the Celts of Brittany. Actually, it leads to nowhere. Earlier one understands this, sooner one escapes from the traps that led millions to wars and disaster.
For additional information, please read about Progenitor of Wars and Tyrannies: the Falsehood of Pan-Arabism in this site.
are the Phoenicians today?
invaders of Phoenicia NEVER REPLACED the original population even
when they added to their genetic diversity.”“Are
we Arab? Are we Phoenician?”
majority comes from the original Phoenicians who speak Lebanese which is a mixture of Syriac,
Aramaic, Turkish, and colloquial Arabic, as well as a some other
As indicated earlier,
the inhabitants of the countries that fell under Arab domination were
forced to convert to Islam. However, a considerable number refused the
new faith and remained steadfast in their Christian faith. Therefore,
many Phoenician Christians became Muslims
and their cultural association with their older Phoenician identity,
as a separate people, was lost. The case of
the Muslims (Sunni, Shiites -- Shi'a aka Mtaawlé -- Druze or Muwa77edeen) who lost identifiers of their association with their Phoenician
heritage is almost identical to Middle Eastern Christians who converted
to Protestantism, mostly Presbyterians, in the 19th century. Middle
Eastern Protestant lost most of their cultural
association with their ancient heritage because the said churches
are overwhelmed with Anglo-Saxon cultural influence. There is very little,
if any, eastern cultural heritage in the Victorian style Protestantism. At the same time, other Christians kept
their Byzantine, Maronite, Syriac, Assyrian or Chaldean (Coptic in Egypt)
faith and are now able to identify their culture. These Phoenicians
whether Christian or Muslim (who do not have a possible identifier of
their Phoenician origin such as those of the Christian sects) -- see "
Am I Phoenician?" in this site -- are spread all over the world. Despite the illusion
that the Phoenicians of today live in Lebanon, Syria, and Israel/Palestine,
or come from these countries; they can be found almost any where around
the globe; and come from Phoenicia proper or its far away colonies.
Many people from Spain, Tunisia, Sicily, Sardinia and other Mediterranean
shores are of Phoenician descent (or descendants of immigrants from
these places). They still proudly claim their Phoenician origin.
There are very few
places in the world where one does not find a Phoenician buying or selling
something under the pseudonym of Lebanese descendent. Phoenician trade
is very much alive and well whether in Seattle, Washington, USA; Sydney,
Australia; Cape Town, South Africa; São Pãulo, Brazil;
or Paris, France. The Lebanese Global Information Center (LGIC) does a superlative job of documenting information about Lebanese immigrants especially in the USA, though millions more of Lebanese who emigrated to Australia, Canada, Latin America and Africa are not mentioned herewith. According to them, "around 3 million Americans descending from Lebanese origin live in the United States. These Lebanese-Americans, up to five generations, migrated from Lebanon in several waves starting in the 19th century. Most of the Lebanese Americans came from the early waves of Lebanese Christians fleeing the Ottomans oppression around the mid of the 19th Century and during WWI. Lebanese immigration continued and was high in the 1970’- 80’s during the war in Lebanon, and in early 1990’s after Lebanon completely fell to Syrian occupation." Following are two pie charts from LGIC that represent ethnicity and religious affiliation of the aforementioned immigrants:
But what about Arab Americans, for example?
Arab Americans means exactly that and does not relate to those who come from non-Arab origin. It is offensive to refer to those who come from non-Arab origin in the Middle East of as Arab Americans. The Arab American Institute http://www.aaiusa.org/ is another lie promoted and supported by special interest groups. This group does not speak for most immigrants such as
The American Lebanese Community,
The American Chaldean Community,
The American Assyrian Community,
The American Aramaic Community,
The American Maronite Community,
The American Free Muslim Community,
The American Free Copts Community,
The American Iraqi Christian Community, Global Advocacy,
Lebanese Kataeb, or Phoenicia.org.
The following excerpt from "We are Middle Eastern Americans" by Pierre A. Maroun clarifies how most members of the communities mentioned herewith feel about this subject. For the full article please follow the related link.
"On March 14, 2005, Mr. Zogby, [President of the Arab American Institute in Washington, DC] sent a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. In it, he complained
about the Department of State recognizing the Middle Easter-American communities as such instead of
Arabs, for there are some organizations which do not support his political and ideological views. He
referred to these organizations as “exiled groups.” While he did not elaborate on their status, we find it
necessary to explain that these groups are exiled simply because they want freedom and are civil right
activists who refuse to live under the oppressive and tyrant regimes in the Middle East. These are the same
undemocratic regimes, which back and finance the AAI. Mr. Zogby went even further to complain about the
Director of Public Diplomacy for Middle Eastern and MEPI Affairs at USAID the Honorable Walid Maalouf
asking him “not to label the Arab Community” each according to his/her ethnicity. What Mr. Zogby is
seeking here is nothing but a continuation of the annihilation of these Middle Eastern minority groups who
suffered death and destructions at the hand of the tyrant leaders of the Arab community which Mr. Zogby
claims to represent.
Mr. Zogby’s own poll contradicts his own allegations and proves that Mr. Maalouf’s conduct is proper and
"In his article, Good news in Saudi Arabia and Lebanon, published January 3, 2006, he affirms that in
the second half of 2005, Zogby International poll, which covered six Arab countries, found that “[s]ignificant
changes are taking place in public opinion, especially in Saudi Arabia and Lebanon, which warrant special
attention.” Mr. Zogby wrote:
"One final area where a dramatic change occurred in Saudi opinion was in how Saudis identified
themselves. In 2002, they
indicated a preference to self-identify as "being Arab". Today, they prefer describing themselves as
"Saudi". All this points to a
growing sense of self-confidence, satisfaction and commitment to their country.” He added: “The best news
however, is the degree to which the Lebanese, from all groups, identify with the country — higher than in
any other Arab country
When asked to describe their principal identifier, more than 70 per cent say "being Lebanese" — double
the number in 2002.”
"We should have the courtesy to respect the wish of the people to label themselves as they desire and not
as he deems fit. Furthermore, we urge him to take an advice of his own polls. In addition, the AAI mission
statement claims that “AAI is a membership organization based in Washington, DC that represents the
policy and community interests of Arab Americans throughout the United States…” It will be of great help for
the State Department to make a decision regarding his claim had Mr. Zogby defined Arabism. However, a
link on his website does the work for him, which also contradicts Mr. Zogby’s claims. In his article, Arab
Identity: E Pluribus Unum, scholar Halim Barakat explains:
"The prevailing view is that only a small minority of the citizens of Arab countries does not speak Arabic as
tongue and lack a sense of being Arab; this minority category includes the Kurds, Berbers, Armenians, and
groups of southern Sudan. Fewer still are those who speak Arabic as their mother tongue without sharing
with the majority a
sense of nationhood, a trend that may exist among the Maronites of Lebanon in times of conflict. Most other
such as the Orthodox Christians, Shi'ites, Alawites, and Druze, consider themselves Arabs with some
reservations….Yet, most Arabists, especially today in response to the emergence of Islamic
fundamentalism, continue to assert
the complementarity, if not the synonymity, of Islam and Arabism [sic].
"Accordingly, we believe that Mr. Zogby et. al. should respect the rich diversity of Middle Eastern-American
communities by referring to them as such, unless he is referring specifically to the Arab-American small
community, which represent only 22% of the Middle Eastern-American communities. In such case, he
should be specific and clear. "
What about families that come from Hawran in Syria?
Many may have heard from their grandparents and elders that many Lebanese families come from Hawran in Syria. That is, of course, true. During the early Christian Era, the Romans persecuted the Christian communities that sprang quickly along the coastal areas of Lebanon and Syria, having been better exposed to the new faith, as well as all new ideas of the Roman world. However, the great ten persecutions of the Christians, up till Emperor Constantine conversion to Christianity, drove many Christians out of the way to secluded areas or outside accessible contact with the Roman world, into the back roads and districts of the Empire. Such locations were Hawran (now in Syria), for example. It is a district situated to the southeast of Syria on the border of Jordan behind the Golan heights with numerous caverns there were once inhabited. That territory provided temporary seclusion for persecuted minorities across the centuries until recent history. Hawran or Hauran [Heb.,=hollow or cavernous land or from Hawar which means "Disciple, Apostle of Jesus Christ, follower"]. It is a largely region marked by conical volcanic peaks, barren lava fields, and rich lava soil. Major towns date back to Hellenistic times. It was first inhabited by the Aramaeans Then it belonged, at least in part, to the biblical kingdom of Bashan, which the Israelites conquered. Designated the northeast boundary of the Promised Land, Hawran later became the Roman province of Auranitis. The region was converted to Christianity by the late 2d cent. and prospered until the Arab invasion of the 7th cent.
Hawran served as a refuge for the early people of Phoenicia Prima and, as conditioned changed, those who took it as a refuge returned to the flourishing towns and cities on the eastern Mediterranean.
Who is Phoenician and who is Arab today?
A question which many people struggle with today.
In response to this question which I get asked very often, I am publishing below one of my standard explanation or responses to this question. I am publishing excerpts of the letter as is, in a letter form, until I produce a detailed essay on the subject; however, it would be useful to read testimonials from a few Lebanese Muslims who are proud of their Phoenician heritage:
You question is very valid especially at a time when the Lebanese of the old
country are defeated with too many powers that pull and push on them in many
ways: politically, emotionally, economically and spiritually. It is not really
possible for me to give you a complete, full and logical
answer to your question in a short e-mail. I will, however, give you a
summery of my studies and direct you to my website where a brief and
incomplete attempt to answer the question is further developed.
the Lebanese, many Syrians and Palestinians come from mostly Phoenician blood which is a mix of the original
Canaanites and the blood of
invading armies that occupied that part of the world. Though the original
stock of the population got mixed with invaders along the ages, they (the
invaders) never **REPLACED** the population. This means that up till around
the year 630+ A.D. Phoenicia as a political entity was still there and so
were its people. Invading Arabs did NOT replace the population but
subjugated many of them into Islam while the rest remained Christian.
Simply put the population of the eastern Mediterranean is mostly made of the
original Canaanite Phoenician people.
The present population both Christian
and Muslim continues to be Phoenician stock and those people were NOT put to
death or exterminated and replaced by Arabs. To learn more about this
particular subject, please visit my web page entitled "Living Phoenicians"
http://phoenicia.org/today.html (actually this very page). Having said this,
I am not saying that all the Muslims in Lebanon, Syria and
Palestine are pure Phoenicians but that in their majority they come from
Phoenician blood. The problem with the Muslim community is the fact that
they have no repository of heritage that survives to this day because Islam
separated them from that heritage. The repository of heritage is to be
found in Christian sects and their rites, chants, iconography, building and
language: Syriac and Aramaic languages of the Syraic Orthodox and Syriac
Catholic churches, Maronites. The Byzantine Orthodox and Catholic were
westernized or Byzantinized Phoenicians who employed Greek -- much like the
Lebanese speak French today. All this is explained in the page mentioned
above. Finally, I must include that few, very few Arabs and Christians were mixed
into the Phoenician community.
Specifically, the Ghassanides (Ghassasina in
Arabic) were Yemeni Christians who immigrated to the area of north Jordan
and south Syria. They were Sabaeans, Himyarites who were genetically unrelated to the Arabs and did not speak Arabic. Anyway, these Ghassanides were thought to be Arab because they came
from Yemen after the Dam of Maarib collapsed and their economic life ruined in Yemen. Yemeni Ghassanides, if they remained a pure race which is most often not the case, are
not considered Arabs by many historians (please see discussion below regarding the Ghassanides and their genetics). Their DNA today proves otherwise. Converts to Christianity
were very very few in the whole Middle East with
the exception of some of the Princes of Lebanon such the Chehab,
Abillamah...etc. Most Christians converted to Islam than otherwise. This
means to say that the higher percentage of Arab blood among the Phoenician
Muslim population may have come to the Christian community but in very
minute measures. That is if these Muslims should be considered Arab in
the first place, which they are not. So, to answer your question
"Are we Arab? Are we Phoenician," I would
confirm to you in the majority we are Phoenicians who speak a mixture of
Syriac, Aramaic, and colloquial Arabic. This applies to most of the
Lebanese and the Syrians, especially all the way up on the Mediterranean
shore. Many Palestinians are of Phoenician origin too.
If you come from Christian or Muslim origin from that part of the world, you
are Phoenician by heritage. If I were you, I would be proud of that about 2,000
pages in my website are out there for you to learn about this heritage.
Most Christians of Lebanon come from basically the following:
Canaanite Phoenician and mixture of the blood of invaders such as Babylonians, Persians, Greek, Roman, Byzantine. A very important point which is always ignored is the fact of the persecution of Phoenician Christians by the Romans mentioned earlier. For the first 300 years, the Romans persecuted the Phoenician Christians and they left Phoenicia Maritima and moved to areas like Huran in Syria and other parts. When Emperor Constantine became Christian they returned home. Among those who returned are what seemed to most people to be Ghassanides who were Yemeni Christians but they were not Arab. The Ghassanides of mainly non-Arab Sabaean origin and are a mixture of people partly from Yemen (a matter which is not founded on sound historical facts) and partly Aramaeans Syriac (they are called today Jacobites -- Syriac Orthodox & Syriac Catholic). This is what people keep confusing about the Ghassanides.
The Yemeni Ghassanides were never Arabs
The Ghassanides is that old stock or main group came from Yemen, as we already know. The people of Yemen are not Arabs but mainly Sabaeans, & Minaean, Himyarite, Habashat and Qatabanian people.
"Yemen’s Past and Perspectives are in Africa, not a fictitious 'Arab' world":
http://www.buzzle.com/editorials/8-4-2005-74197.asp or PDF
by Prof. Dr. Muhammad Shamsaddin Megalommatis
Y chromosomal study indicated that they have strong 'Caucasoid,' (white) genetic material they speak a language that is clearly Semitic. The early migration of the Ghassanides to parts of Syria exposed them to intermarriage with the local Canaanite and Aramaeans. In consequence, the Ghassanides became a cluster of many ethnic groups. They were early Christians but at variance of belief with the Orthodox Byzantines. They were allied with them but were uneasy "friends." The Christian east was defended by an army of 30,000 men of Ghassanides and Byzantines when the Arabs invaded in the 7th century. I am not sure of the exact numbers but it is said that 20,000 were Ghassanides who took the opportunity to pay back the Byzantines for their ill treatment when the Arabs came. They defected and the Byzantine or Christian defenders of the East lost to the Arab Muslims. In my view, that was a very foolish act because we continue to live with the consequences of their mistake and the mistake of the Byzantines who mistreated their allies. So, to answer your question about the Ghassanides, they were definitely not Arab and did not originally speak Arabic. Their language used to be Sabaean but they became Syriac/Aramaic speakers when they moved to Syria.
Again, the Ghassanides or any tribes or families who came from Yemen are Yemenis, descendants of the ancient states of Sabaeans, Qataban, Himyar, Hadramout and other; they are closer to Abyssinians (mistakenly called Ethiopians) than to the Arabs of Hedjaz, and the Qahtan tribe is of pure Sabaean Himyarite ethnicity. All these peoples, by accepting Islam, sooner or later, started becoming Arabized (Arabic speakers), but this happened at a linguistic, not at a racial, ethnic level. Though the people of Saba, and later Himyar, did not speak Arabic and thus could not be called Arabs, they slowly welcomed Arab tribes into their midst, eventually adopting their language. It is this amalgam of Semitic but non-Arabic speaking Sabaeans with Arab immigrants from nearby central Arabia that came to be referred to later as Southern Arabs, or Qahtanis. The genealogists themselves recognized that South Arabians and the surrounding Arabs had distinct origins, Holy Land notes. But by the coming of Islam the two had integrated to the point that they were seen as constituting a single social and cultural entity.
Important Note: The designation of who is Arab was made by Ibn Khaldon in the 14th century A.D. Erroneous grouping of the Arab tribes happened in the 1st century A.D. when they were said to have come from the Qahtan and Adnan based on the mythical story of Noah and his children. In face, the Qahtan were mainly Sabaean and Himyarites while the Adnans were the real Arabs from which the Prophet Mohammad descended.
See "Christian Milestones" Nobody spoke Arabic in the East. They all spoke Syriac/Aramaic almost 300 after the arrival of the Arabs:
"In 527 AD The Melkite movement translated its Greek scriptures and other writings into the local Aramaic dialect – Western Aramaic or Christian Palestinian Aramaic, (CPA). The faithful were still speaking western Aramaic in the 6th century and even later is demonstrated by the surviving CPA lectionaries. This translation is the same one used by the Maronites.
"In 969 AD The Greeks recaptured Antioch from the Muslims. Afterward, Antioch became a centre for the Melkite Christians of the East. The gospels and other parts of the NT originally used by the Melkites were written in Western Aramaic or Christian Palestinian Aramaic, (CPA). CPA is a dialect of western Aramaic, similar to the Samaritan and Jewish Palestinian dialects which were current before the Muslims invaded Palestine. CPA has its own distinctive semi cursive script, which looks like an Estrangela written with much squarer letters."
The only people who may partially be (stress on may is very strong) Arabs among the Lebanese population in particular are families like Abillamah and Chehab. They were Druze and they converted to Christianity in the 16th and 17th century. All the rest are not Arab. The rule since the Arab Islamic conquest is that people converted to Islam not from Islam to Christianity with very very few exceptions. This is so only among the Druze faith who do not automatically rule that it is legal to execute converts from Druze to any other religion. Only in Islamic Law (sharia) it is legal to terminate the life of anyone who converts out of Islam. People may become Muslims but they may not leave Islam without exposing themselves to becoming legally subject to being executed. Anybody who tells you otherwise is an idiot.
The most important proof that there are no Arab Christians, again, is the fact that there is no Arab Church. We have a Maronite Church speaking Syriac, Byzantine Churches speaking Greek, Assyrian and Chaldean Churches speaking Eastern Aramaic, Syriac Churches speaking Western Syriac, Coptic Churches speaking Coptic and Ethiopian Churches speaking Ethiopian. There is a big church that is missing. What is it? It is the Arab speaking church -- it does NOT exist. The exception, again, is Arabic speaking Protestants who are the product of Western Missionaries during the last 200 years. They are bastardized Anglo-American-Arab-Protestants who use Arabic to sing Western Protestant hymns for their services.
Finally, those who try to split up the people of Lebanon, Syria and Palestine into so many groups of races calling the Maronites Syrians, not Phoenicians, and the Palestinians Canaanite not Phoenician are just playing on words to achieve political objectives, while the Syrians claim that they are the real "Arab" Phoenicians and some Israelis who claim that they are the real Phoenicians.
Most of these do that while still dreaming of the pan-Arab lie, the biggest lie in modern history, or the Greater Syria dream, not to mention the Greater Israel.
Asher Kaufman's Reviving Phoenicia: the Search for Identity in Lebanon.
Site Author's note: Doesn't Kaufman realize that what he falsely wrote about Lebanon and Phoenicianism
can be very easily written about Israel and Zionism where the accusations he makes happened within living memory in the Jewish state?
This sentence suffices to respond to him.
In this work Asher Kaufman traces the role of 'Phoenicianism' in the foundation "myth" of the Lebanese national idea. This is a complex project, for to be convincing it would have to provide authoritative views of the history of the Phoenicians in ancient times and the (strikingly unfinished) history of Lebanese nation-building in modern times, and a presentation and analysis of the role of Phoenicianism in the historiography and other cultural projects of modern-era Lebanese nationalists.
Kaufman performs some of these tasks far more satisfactorily than others. His presentation of the history of the Phoenicians in the pre-Hellenic era is, at a scant three pages along, quite inadequate as a basis on which to build the critique of 'Phoenicianism' that occupies the rest of the book. In addition, his presentation of the modern historical context in which ideas of 'Phoenicianism' were proposed and debated within Lebanon – whether in the era of the Ottoman Concessions, the Mandate era, the era of the conflicts over Arab nationalism and Greater Syrianism, or more recently – is very inadequate. It is hard to write both a history of events and a history of historiography at the same time, but since in Lebanon the historiography has always been of great political moment in the real world, this was what was needed here.
One of the major historical threads that Kaufman follows in the more modern era is that of the French administrators and intellectuals who from 1840 on were writing lengthy works in 'ethnography' and allied fields that uniquely identified the Christian Lebanese (and among them, primarily the Maronites) as being 'the heirs of the Phoenicians'. The political aim here was clear (and is clearly described by Kaufman). It was to establish the existence between the French and these Lebanese Christians of not only a religious link but also, equally importantly, the link of a shared 'Mediterranean' civilization. The idea that Christian Lebanese were in some sense almost like 'overseas Frenchmen and Frenchwomen', and should therefore be accorded the protection of Paris, could easily – these French officials hoped – be deduced from that.
However, as Kaufman easily demonstrates, the project of 'reviving Phoenicia' was not merely a French colonial project; it was also one that was enthusiastically contributed to, in a number of different ways, by numerous notable Lebanese intellectuals themselves. In his conclusion, Kaufman raises this quite justifiable question: '[I]t should be asked if, in an era of national imagining, the Lebanese national movement actually needed the French to come up with their own "cult of the ancestors" or was it an inevitable process that would have occurred with or without French guidance?' (p. 245).
His work is at its strongest in presenting and analysing the material on the French writers and on the phenomenon of Phoenicianism in the era of the French Mandate over Lebanon. His work on the post-Mandate era is marred, by contrast, by his having almost completely left out of his historical analysis the idea that it was pan-Syrianism as much as – or more than – pan-Arabism that was the main competitor of a (Phoenicio-centric) Lebanese exceptionalism for the allegiance of the Lebanese. The relationship that Phoenicio-centrism has with pan-Syrianism is much more complex and theoretically interesting than the more purely conflictual relationship it has with pan-Arabism, since pan-Syrianists also frequently make a claim to being descendants of the Phoenicians; and their claim is prima facie just as plausible as that of the Lebanese exceptionalists. Indeed, Kaufman notes at several points in his text that Lebanese intellectuals who later delved deeply into Phoenician themes had earlier had links with the quintessentially pan-Syrianist PPS (Parti Populaire Syrien). He notes too that over time, claims of affiliation with Phoenicianism became effectively voided of their earlier anti 'Arab' content but instead came to be raised by many or most Lebanese in the context of a broad, very syncretic view of their general civilisational affiliation.
One problem with the scanty treatment Kaufman gives to the (known) history of the Phoenicians is that it does not really allow him to provide any definition of which particular attributes of 'Phoenicianism' Lebanese people in more recent times have been claiming their own direct connection to. For the French advocates of the Phoenician argument it seems primarily to have been the 'Mediterranean' aspect of Phoenicianism that was key. For many Lebanese intellectuals of the mid-twentieth century – especially the Francophone poet Charles Corm – it was the connection with the land of the Lebanese interior. (This despite the fact that the identifiably Phoenician settlement seems mainly to have been along the coast, while much of Corm's poetry celebrated the fastnesses of Mount Lebanon.) For other Lebanese, especially the authors of the country's extremely laissez-faire economics, it was the 'trading economy' aspect of Phoenician life that they picked up on, above all; and this aspect of Phoenicianism was one particularly suited to bringing opinion-makers from the Sunni trading communities of the coastal cities on board the Phoenicio-Lebanese national idea in the 1940s. All those different aspects and 'uses' of Phoenicianism can be deduced from Kaufman's work. But the work would have been stronger if he had explicitly identified and analysed them, rather than leaving them for the reader to deduce.
In Kaufman's short treatment of the history of the Phoenicians themselves, he notes that 'the Phoenicians actually called themselves Canaanites and their land Canaan' (p. 2). This raises some interesting possibilities. Many Palestinians and a small number of Jewish Israelis claim descent from the Canaanites. The Lebanese and many present-day Syrians claim descent from the Phoenicians. Might not these movements all therefore be amalgamated and some completely new version of regional belonging thereby imagined?
How many Phoenician words do you know and use? More than you could have ever imagined.
A study is underway about spoken Lebanese and other similar languages/dialects of the Near East with Aramaic and Syriac to determine how these latter ancient languages continue to be used in the very-day language of people. Further, an essay includes similarities with Maltese, the language of Malta, and identifies similarity with Lebanese. Also, to provide a corpus of Lebanese language, I am translating the Bible into Lebanese.
The Importance of Distinguishing Lebanese Language from Arabic Language
Until the study which is underway, mentioned herewith, please find an essay quoted as is without permission from the Lebanese Language Center (www.LGIC.org) regarding the Lebanese language.
What is the status of the Christian minorities of Phoenician Christians and and other Christians and non-Arab Muslims (such as the Kurds) in the Middle East
Read about the shattered Christian minorities in the Middle East by following the link.
in this site do not necessarily represent Phoenicia.org nor do they necessarily reflect those of the various authors, editors, and owner of this site. Consequently, parties mentioned or implied cannot be held liable or responsible for such opinions.