The ugly truth that isn’t ugly

I walk around Damascus and I see how confident and confined its soldiers are, both men and women. They wear their camouflaged suits and tie their machineguns to their backs, commanding the streets as if they were heroes. This makes them the proudest people in the city’s alleys. I’m sure, all the way north in Idlib there are other kinds of confident camouflaged people. The two sides fight each other tooth and nail, but they both agree that their showcase of violence is a source of pride.

The capital seems to be openminded to it all. It feels as if there’s nothing wrong with forcing an 18-year-old boy into the army and asking him to take pride in joining one of the century’s bloodiest wars. After nine years of violence, I wanted to know how openminded the city had really become – towards little things. Until I left in 2015, eating pork, for instance, had been a red line. Over the past few days, I’ve told a few of my relatives that I have eaten nothing but pork throughout the last five years in Europe. Even when I ate beef or lamb, it was non-halal. My countrymen looked at me as if I were human waste. They looked at their hands as if they had turned filthy after our handshakes.

Pork is an ugly truth in Damascus, although we both know, dear surfer, that it really isn’t that ugly.

Let me explain the filthy pork problem in Syria in a vivid Western image. Most Middle Easterners flush their butts with water while rubbing their buttholes with their middle fingers to properly remove the defecation. That is one of the ugly truths about them in the West. If you’re a Westerner, you would probably feel disgusted just reading these words. Yet, if you think about it, there’s nothing wrong with giving your butthole a proper wash. You could use a soap gel in the process, just like you do when you wash your hands. I usually dry my ass with toilet paper, but you could dry yours with a personal towel, and reduce your toilet paper waste. You could even help save the planet and make the Green Party proud. Just think about how many trees per year you could save.

Flushing the feces off your butthole with soap, water and a middle finger isn’t an ugly truth. The fact that the Westerners don’t do that is the disgusting truth – period.

How the Westerns manage to walk around with smudged butt cheeks rubbing against one another is beyond my open-mindedness. However, it’s a lot easier to understand why Muslims choose to abstain from eating pork. Breeding pigs in the Middle East climate (where Abrahamic religions originate) is perhaps not the most practical of ideas. Banning swine meat altogether, therefore, isn’t the worst thing that politics could do. Branding pork consumption immoral and sinful serves a whole different hegemonic end, though.

Every hegemony, including the Muslim one, wants to test the extent of its authority. They make unreasonable demands to see how willing people are to obey. If you get away with demanding that people abstain from consuming pink meat, you may get away with bigger demands, like a useless tax or a crusade against people who look and feel like pork, such as the filthy Romans and Crusaders. Banning certain social practices within your own jurisdiction should ideally be based on a greater good for society. Deeming those practices evil presupposes that you represent good and are, therefore, obliged to fight that evil.

During my first week as a student in Graz, one of my dormitory floormates handed me a piece of bacon and challenged me to eat it. It appeared to me that the Europeans were as obsessed with the Middle Easterners not eating pork as the Middle Easterners were obsessed with Europeans eating it. I ate the guy’s bacon, but I didn’t like it. I still don’t like bacon; it really is not that great. Yet, despite my unpleasant first experience, I continued to try different kinds of pork meat. Neck stakes and spare rips are now amongst my favorites. It’s so easy to like these things once a person is liberated from his or her Muslim or Jewish identity.

Both pork and forbidden pork are strictly a matter of identity. The Muslims believe they’re Muslims because they don’t eat pork. The Danish believe that you can only be a Dane when you eat it. When you lose your faith in Islam, you will see no point in avoiding pork. If you’re a Dane who’s stopped eating pork, your way is paved to choose your own identity – or do the foolish thing of joining the Green Party. Pork meat is a tool for identity politics, no more.

Flushing your butthole with soap and water is not – that’s just common sense.

Published by Rou Mani

Abdo Roumani holds a Licence of Letters in English literature from Damascus University.

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