Newsletter of Syrian author and prodemocracy activist Ammar Abdulhamid
August 11, 2014
Rather than serving as an autobiography, as might have been expected, the book is actually a collection of concise observations about topics ranging from freedom and justice to fate, faith, and love. The observations capture, in part, the ethos that informed my transformation from a Bohemian author and poet into a prodemocracy activist, as well as the conclusions that I have unavoidably drawn as a result of this transformation and the ensuing developments that shaped and continue to influence my life.
Not all these developments are tragic, of course. In fact, one important development in my life since my turn to activism was how my path crossed with that of so many wonderful people and scholars from around the world, many of them were kind enough to offer early reviews of the book that ended up adorning the back cover.
I am especially proud and touched by the review offered by the late Middle East scholar, Dr. Fouad Ajami, who submitted mere days before his passing on June 22, 2014.
In his typical fashion as an older and wiser mentor figure who is quite aware of his background and of the hard choices he, and his mentee, have made, Dr. Ajami wrote:
“Ammar Abdulhamid is a young man who embraces the East of his birth and the West of his future and this collection of reflections illustrates his courage to share the hard truths all of us face. It is also a book of illumination and of an awakening of the mind and the soul. Simply put, it will dare you to question.”
Another wonderful endorsement came from my dear friend, Joshua Muravchik, the author of Trailblazers of the Arab Spring, in which he dedicates an entire chapter to the story of how my wife, Khawla Yusuf, and I became activists, then, exiles. Joshua wrote an entire foreword for The Irreverent Activist, and I was deeply touched by this particular statement:
“From the depths of one of the world’s least free countries he has miraculously emerged, the freest of free spirits, a restless soul, and a true original.”
But the Irreverent Activist features a second foreword, this one was written by Eric Gans, a professor of French literature at UCLA who is considered to be the founder of Generative Anthropology that builds on the ideas of the literary critic and philosopher René Girard, but departs from it in certain important respects, which Professor Gans addresses regularly in the online publication he edits, Anthropoetics. Coming from this background, it was only natural for Eric to take a more literary approach in his wonderful foreword:
“Ammar Abdulhamid throws down a challenge to his reader to make a whole of the jigsaw pieces of an all-too-human being, revealed by this little book in an intimacy that few works of any genre or length attain. One senses the agonized self-knowledge, beyond self-pity or self-promotion, of someone who has striven in a noble cause, but whose success has been deferred by the impersonal forces of history, which is to say, the imperfections of the human heart. In The Irreverent Activist we encounter a titanic personality tested by cruel reality, aware, as few of us are, of his limits and of his strength to know and transcend them. The reader will not emerge unscathed.”
Other wonderful reviewers include:
- David Crane (Former Chief Prosecutor, Special Court for Sierra Leone and director of the Syrian Accountability Project)
- Steven Heydemann (Vice President, Applied Research on Conflict, United States Institute of Peace)
- Kate Seelye (Sr. Vice President, Middle East Institute)
- Scott Lazensky (co-author of Negotiating Arab-Israeli Peace and the Peace Puzzle)
- Seth Kaplan (Professorial Lecturer at Johns Hopkins University)
- Roya Hakkakian (author of Journey from the Land of No)
- Joshua Landis (Director of the Center for Middle East Studies – University of Oklahoma)
- Robin Yassin-Kassab (author of The Road from Damascus)
- Michael Young (opinion editor at The Daily Star newspaper in Beirut)
And Ken Ballen, author of Terrorists in Love, whose expectation of me might be a bit of a toll order:
“Syrian writer Ammar Abdulhamid could perhaps be a Khalil Gibran for the 21st century.”
Naturally, a book-signing tour seems in the offing, but, for now, a preliminary book-signing will take place on August 27 in the DC Arts Center.
The book-signing will come as a part of an event that will also feature the premier of the documentary “Syria: A Fire Within.” The documentary is an independent production highlighting the betrayal by world leaders of the liberal prodemocracy activists that led the nonviolent protest movement in Syria. Purely by accident, the documentary ends up focusing on the activities of the Tharwa Foundation, its team of embedded nonviolent activists and its DC-based directors, one Khawla Yusuf and one Ammar Abdulhamid, a figure well-known for being slightly “irreverent.”
As such, the eve of August 27 will feature a dual event featuring: a short documentary followed by a brief Q&A session, and a book-signing.
Kindly RSVP to: firstname.lastname@example.org. if you plan to attend.
PS. Again, the August 27 event will take place at the DC Arts Center (2438 18th St, Washington, DC 20009) beginning at 7:30 pm with the premier of “Syria: A fire Within,” and ending with the book signing at 8:30 pm. RSVPs should be sent to email@example.com.