Culture Clash in Daesh
Omar Hussain, a British former supermarket guard of High Wycombe, Bucks, who in 2014 migrated to Syria, seems to have first joined the "An-Nusra" (Al Quaeda) Brigade and then Daesh, the "Islamic State", He wrote a bizarre, racist and partly even funny account of his life with his Arab "brothers" which, as a document, provides a valuable glimpse of daily life in Daesh.
The following text is excerpted from his blog:
Culture Clash: Understanding The Syrian Race
By Abū Sa'eed Al-Britānī (Omar Hussain)
Arabs as a whole have a unique culture, which differs dramatically from the western lifestyle. If one is unaware of these cultural differences, then it could be quite peculiar, annoying, and at times somewhat stressful to interact and associate with them. Arabs are quite unique in their habits, so it is vital for the western Muhājir to acquaint himself with their cultures to prevent clashes and disputes.
Below I shall list a few of their habits which Arabs are known for:
1) A lack of privacy for other’s space
This is a common habit for Arabs in the Middle East. I remember an incident from when I first came to Shām; I was sitting in ribāt next to another British brother, and as we were talking a Syrian brother came into the room and sat between me and the brother, he then reached for my backpack and opened it. The brother didn’t ask my permission but apparently that was not needed as it’s the habit of Arabs to go through other people’s property without their permission
2) Childish behaviour
Unfortunately Syrians seem to be very childish in their dealings and mannerisms in how they interact with each other. It’s not an unusual sight to see a fully grown Syrian man acting like a child and playing around with other brothers.
Not only is it in the way they behave among themselves, but also in the way they interact with others. Sometimes it may get quite hard to hold a civilised conversation with a Syrian man, one minute he’s listening to you speak and the next he’s playing around with the other Syrian brother standing next to him.
3) Stealing shoes
In the west, it is common knowledge to walk out of a room wearing the same pair of shoes that you wore while entering the room. Nay, it is common sense. However here in Shām, our Syrian brothers have a very peculiar philosophy whereby they believe that everyone can share each other’s footwear, irrespective of foot size. Someone who is a size 40 will casually walk out the room wearing your footwear even though you are a size 44, and strangely he may not even realise. Weird? Of course it is.
From my very first month here in Shām, I would experience this; I would enter a room with my shoes, and when leaving I would notice my footwear was missing
4) Etiquettes when eating
The Prophet (saw) taught us all that we need to know about the manners of eating. It is from the Sunnah to eat with one’s right hand, to eat from that which is in front of you, not to waste food, not to be ungrateful with what we have been given, to think of others’ hunger when there is not a lot of food and to eat a third, drink a third and save a third for breathing.
These are some of the etiquettes when eating. However our Arab brothers, or Syrians to be more precise, lack these basic manners. It is not unusual to see Syrians fight over food, even though there is more than enough for everyone. It is not unusual to see them throw away food even though this food they are eating is far better than the food their own mothers prepare for them at home. It is not unusual to see them walk away after eating leaving a big mess for someone else to clean up after them. . And the sight of a typical kitchen sink is just appalling. During my time in Syria, I have only met a handful of Syrians who are strict on keeping the kitchen clean, may Allāh make more such brothers.
5) Getting angry over the haqq if it is against them
Another common trait among our Arab brothers is to get offended if you bring their errors to their attention. A Muslim should accept the haqq from wherever it comes, even if the one showing you your error does so in a stern way.
6) Administration work (“Bukrah inshāAllāh”)
Unfortunately in the Arab world, building a structure and administrating it is not one of their strong points. There are many flaws and errors in putting an Arab in charge, especially if he is uneducated (which sadly is the majority).
It is common to hear an Arab in administration reply with the words “bukrah inshāAllāh” (which means “hopefully tomorrow”) or in plain English, “I’m too lazy, leave me alone and come back some other time!
A German brother I know was continuously going to the Bail Al-Māl office requesting for a refrigerator for his house after he got married, and after a duration of about a month of being continuously told “bukrah inshāAllāh” (i.e. come back tomorrow), the German brother got very frustrated and caused a slight scene, and only after raising his voice in anger did they finally tell him there was one ready for him, which he got that same day.
7) Sleeping habits
In ribāt, everyone does their few hours of guarding while the others rest. During night hours, when our shift is complete, we wake up the next person about 5 minutes before his shift. However with most Syrians, you would need to wake them up a good 15 minutes before their shift. Some Syrians are such heavy sleepers that even shaking and kicking them would not wake them up. There was one Syrian brother who was so hard to wake up for Fajr prayer. I would call his name, shake him, poke him, turn him over, yet this guy would be totally knocked out cold. On one occasion, I was continuously waking him up after every 5 minutes for about half an hour. It so happened that I had to literally drag him out of the room by his foot to get him to go and do wudhoo’ for Fajr prayer.
Another irritating feature of Arabs is that due to them being heavy sleepers, they see no problem in speaking very loud while others are fast asleep (or even trying to sleep).
9) Treating animals badly
From the very moment I arrived in the Turkish airport, I was greeted by Syrian beggars. Professionals who make a living off of other people’s generosity and kind-heartedness. In the airport you may be confronted by a ‘poor’ Syrian man who is trying to get enough money to book a flight to another country. These beggars are professionals and it is advised not to give them anything, not even a second glance.
When people first come to Shām they are somewhat naive and inexperienced with beggars so they may give a lot of money to a professional beggar. Most beggars here in Syria are fraudsters who take advantage of the Muhājirīn.
11) Dealing with shop keepers
Here in Syria Dawlah (Daesh) has a reputation of being wealthy. The average Syrian looks at a Dawlah brother as a walking bank, and unfortunately shop keepers are no exception. So many times when asking a shop keeper for the price of an item, he would contemplating for a while then give you a higher price.
This is something which every single Dawlah brother has experienced. Wherever Dawlah goes, shop keepers benefit
12) Driving ‘skills’
13) Empty words
Another aspect of the Syrian culture which one may find relatively unique is when they say things which they may not necessarily mean. For example, the phrase “a turīd shay’?” [Tr. “Do you want anything?”] is used metaphorically to end a discussion you may be having with someone on the roadside, rather than as a genuine question to assist the other person. It’s just a kind way to end the conversation, nothing more.
What I have mentioned above is in no way meant to ridicule the Syrian culture, nor do I intend to mock the Arabs as a whole. Allāh created us into nations and tribes so that we may get to know each other, and the culture of Arabs is just something which is unique and differs dramatically from the Western lifestyle.