In the Lebanese newspaper the Daily Star, distinguished Syrian poet Adonis reflects on poetry, religious fanaticism, and the conflict that is tearing apart his home country. Among other things, Adonis says that all the great Arabic-language poets have been resolutely secular and suspicion of religious zealotry. Here's an excerpt from the article:
The poet – who belongs to the same sect of Islam as Syrian President Bashar Assad – wrote to the leader in 2011 calling for a democratic transition.
Now he sees hope in poetry.
“Poetry cannot slit a child’s throat,” said Adonis, the pen name of Ali Ahmad Said Esber, “nor kill a man or destroy a museum.”
Calling for a separation between religion and state, he said poets could play an important role in bringing this about.
“Arab poetry has always been against God,” he said. “There are no great poets in our history who were great believers like for example [Paul] Claudel in France.”
“The future lies in secularism,” he added. “I had said one cannot stage a secular revolution with people emerging from the mosque to demonstrate. A revolution is one thing and the mosque another.”
Adonis said poetry would never be stifled.
“As long as death is there – and death exists – there will be poetry,” he said.
“Poetry will never be silenced.”
Image of Adonis via english.alarabiya.net.