In Syria, we ‘all’ pray to The One

Skepticism vs Faith

I have been meeting a lot of skeptics at work. I was a skeptic once. I even declared – at one point in my life – atheism. I couldn’t believe that Allah, THE GREAT, is the way teachers, sheikhs, TV, parents (etc) portrayed him.

Allah, the Creator, of everything in the world (including our minds, IQs and creativity) could not be the narrow-minded deity that our religious teachers used to terrorize us with.

At one point in school, we had a dangerous fad going on. A small bookstore opened within the premises of our school. They had a stereo blasting with some Saudi sheikh’s voice telling us about the fires of hell, and the number of times we (girls who didn’t wear hijab) were going to be fried. The terror-filled voice described in great detail (as if it brought him great pleasure) the many times our skin was going to be removed, the pain we were going to endure, and the terror we were going to face in the grave. We were about 14 years old.

14 years old!!!

My friends, were in deed terrorized. Back then Iraq had attacked Kuwait and our whole school (even nation) was convinced Saddam Hussein was about to let loose his “Keemawee” on the whole area. So what happened to the girls in my class?

They all wore hijab.


They thought they’ll die any minute now and wanted to go straight to heaven. It felt like a “bargain” to me at the time. What kind of hypocrisy was that! And Allah is GREAT… why would he take little girls to hell!! (That’s what went through my head at the time).

My arguments led my classmates to the conviction I was an atheist. Why? Because I did not agree with the sadist Saudi sheikh who said “no hijab means girls will deep-fry in hell ovens.”

The attempt to say Allah was Merciful and Great and that He most certainly did not reflect the sick descriptions in the cassettes they were buying and listening to, was like saying “I don’t believe in religion” to those girls – and to my teachers, who started regarding me as a danger to the “right-minded” and the “pious.”

By the time I reached 16, my whole class was forbidden from speaking to me because I had “devilish thoughts” – which boiled down to my basic belief God wasn’t after punishing us; He, the Creator, could not be as narrow-minded or narrow-hearted, as he is being portrayed. He simply could not be. Mother Teressa could not be more merciful than God. Great leaders could not be better than Him!

This is a true story.

What happened after the Iraq-Kuwait saga was over? All my female classmates took off the hijab and started wearing the very latest fashion of sleeveless tops, tight pants, high heals, and big hair. Hypocrisy of the first order!

I asked the leader of the hijab wave once. “Where did all your lectures about hell, fire and fried scalps, go?”

Like a true Machiavellian she said, ” we move with the times!” She then smiled wickedly and said, “if you quote me to anyone in our class, they won’t believe you. They believe ‘in’ me.” (Mwaha ha ha haaaaa).

In Syria, we pray to The One: Skeptics and believers, alike. I have learned from my experience, you might think you’re an atheist, when all you are rejecting is the image of Allah – distorted, twisted and maimed.

Allah is Great…!


* According to Webster Dictionary, “Great” means:

About 50% Syrian

What is identity? I was raised Arab (of varying origins), with a Syrian mother, and Moroccan, Lebanese and Tunisian great grandfathers and grandmothers. I always felt 50% Syrian, and this percentage mattered to me more than anything else. Love of my life, my late Sufi grandmother, is Syrian... all her bedtime stories were about her life in Damascus. Damascus is where the heart dwells.
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