Send in the clowns
Posted by adiamondinsunlight on July 6, 2008
No parade would be complete with clowns, and the Fourth of July parade we attended had several:
But these aren’t professional clowns – they’re volunteers. And they have a very interesting tie to the Middle East. Here’s where these clowns hail from:
That’s right: these clowns are all Halabi – they hail from Aleppo. They are all Shriners – an American offshoot of Freemasonry.
I know, I know: some of you are puffing yourselves up right now, getting ready to launch a long comment about how the Freemasons are a global conspiracy to take over the world. Or about how the Freemasons already have taken over the world. And, oh, by the way, they’re all secretly Jewish.
Maybe. I’ve looked into the conspiracy theories without finding any hard evidence, but since its nearly impossible to disprove to believers’ satisfaction, we may simply have to agree to disagree.
And in any case, in between their efforts to establish and/or sustain world domination, America’s Shriners put a great deal of time and effort into their Hospitals for Children, which provide no-cost care for children with burns, spinal issues and other serious medical conditions. Local chapters hold fundraisers for the Hospitals, and they also organize many patient events – hence the clowning.
If you look closely at Shriner clowns, you will notice that most have wrinkled faces. That’s because in order to be a Shriner, a man must first be a fairly advanced Freemason – a Master Mason (its just a title – don’t call these men if you need a new stone fence laid). So most Masons don’t become Shriners until they are, er, enjoying the fruits of maturity.
The Shriners incorporate a surprising amount of Arabic into their organization, starting with their official greeting: salam w `aleikum. The gathering of local chapters is called a divan (well, that’s Ottoman Turkish, but when the Shriners were founded in the 1870s, the lines between Ottoman and Arab were more blurred).
The local chapters themselves are named after Arabic men’s names, like the Abu Bakr chapter of Sioux City. Some of them are a bit more stereotypical, like the Aladdin Shriners chapter, and some are just odd, like the Mocha Shriners chapter of London, Ontario. And some are just laugh-out-loud funny, like the Wahabi Shriners of Jackson, Mississippi. Try to imagine how the average Saudi cleric would feel about a chapter named Wahabi 🙂 .
(I had great fun looking at the Shriner chapter names, although I noticed that there is no “Beirut” chapter, and not even a “Lebanon” chapter. You can have fun, too: here’s the listing.)
The Shriner clowns were a big hit at Friday’s parade – and for me, a nice link between the parts of the world I love.