INTER-FAITH MONOLOGUE: In George Sabra’s opening speech to the Islam and Transitional Justice Conference in Istanbul, the head of the Syrian National Council deploys references from Sunni traditional texts to address the theme of justice. He retells a story about an allegorical encounter between a Coptic Christian and the second Muslim Caliph Omar ben al-Khattab.
In the allegory, an Egyptian Coptic man came to Omar and complained: “I raced the son of Amro bin Alas, [ruler of Egypt], and won the race, so he whipped me and said ‘I’m a nobleman.’” Omar sent an order to Amro to come to him with his son. When they arrived, he gave the Coptic man a whip and asked him to hit back the nobleman. Omar said his famous phrase: “How could you enslave people if they’re born free men?”
Omar ben al-Khatib ordered the construction of the Omari Mosque in Daraa, which was one of the first strongholds of the Syrian peaceful uprising in March 2011.
The Syrian opposition and government exchanged accusations of destroying the Omari Mosque’s minaret on Sunday.
Omar ben al-Khattab is an icon in Sunni Islamic history. His legitimacy, and that of the two other caliphs in the pre-Omayyad era, is a matter of debate between Sunnis and Shiites, who do not recognize it. He was known as al-Farouk, which stands in Arabic for the ‘just man’. The Al-Farouk Battalion was one of the first formations of the Syrian Free Army.