A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

Archive for the ‘religion’ Category

Logorrhea, Mufti-Style

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on November 2, 2009

When it rains, it pours. and pours. and pours. and sometimes pours out so much that it starts to sound rabid. or maybe just very, very, very post-modern.

When I clicked on Naharnet’s evening headline, Jouzo: Let the Lebanese Maronite and the Rest of Lebanon Go Back to Syria, what I hoped to find were a few mis-translation gems. It never crossed my mind that this headline might in fact actually be what Mufti “dare to spell differently” Muhammed al Jouzo said. But apparently it was.

So. Let’s take this step by step.

In a statement on Sunday, Lebanese Sunni Mufti of Mt. Lebanon Sheikh Muhammed al-Jouzo said that “Lebanon has turned into an Arab Babylonian tower with its folkloric leaderships and new parliamentary faces only fit for exhibitions and decorations while the losers turn into sectarian symbols standing on the government’s doors” with their conditions hindering the formation of the government.

It must be hard to be the Sunni mufti of Mount Lebanon, an area historically low in Sunnis and high in other groups with elevated senses of their own importance. But sometimes getting up on a soapbox does more harm than good. Ancient Babylon was not Arab, and Lebanon’s leaders are not folkloric, unless “za’imi” now translates as “folkloric”. On the other hand, a MP campfire singalong would make for a priceless photo op. And I bet Sheikh Saad has a guitar.

“There are politicians who move from right to left and vice versa while their slogans change with the stock exchange. One day you see him a Gulf Arab and another day a Persian Iranian when a third time he becomes an American and then again a Russian. One day you see him an enemy of Syria and then again Syria’s best friend and so on. There are no principles, no morale, no charters and the ‘unity’ presidency stands bewildered before the political “Sufi-sectarianism”; next to the allies or to the opposition!” he added.

The Lebanese stock exchange changes basically only when Solidere does. The U.S. stock exchange, on the other hand, has been on a pleasant upward tick, Friday’s 250-point decline aside. Which bourse is he referring to here? And the only political figure who might possibly qualify for the bewildering khaliji-ajami-amerki-russi raqs is, of course, Yoda Bey. But even with him I’m skeptical. As for “Sufi-sectarianism” … hunh. I just don’t get it, but I’m trying. (Sunni Mevlevis twirl with hands up, Shii with hands down?)

“There’s no civilized nation in the world like that of our Great Lebanon. The Lebanese people abhor this category. To those I ask you, what’s your true identity? Who robs the electricity money, the foreign, internal, sea and land telecommunications’ money? A nation that lives the culture of hate with leaders leading them to sectarian wars, hating each other; hatred in the name of religion, in the name of sectarianism and in the name of the parties,” he added.

I’ve read this bit several times now, and I’m still wondering: which category is it that the Lebanese people abhor? Civilized? Nation? Great? Lebanon? And are they the “those” whom al Jouza addresses? (I think we all get the point of his question about robbery, but I don’t understand its connection to this bit about categories and abhorrence.) Condemning hate sounds more equitably distributed – “hating each other” – and hate is a good thing for a religious leader to condemn, even if his words are a bit vague.

“Our educated youth is faced with only one exit, that of emigration. They have grown to hate their country and their nationality and have traveled in quest of finding another one keen to protect their integrity and protect them from the politicians and their resentment,” he continued.

What? I’m not questioning the fact of emigration, but what other types of exits might there be? Mental? And as for “hating their country and their nationality” and journeying on some heroic quest to find another (a much nicer way of putting it than “trying for the American passport”), most overseas Lebanese I’ve met want nothing more than to return home.

This is the Lebanon of today, so why don’t all the people emigrate and offer our country as a gift to Syria and their infidels? Did not the Maronite come from Syria, so why not go back to it and along with them all of Lebanon and not just those who have missed Syria?,” he concluded.

Ah, the sectarian fun begins. Here’s where an Arabic original would be helpful (and here’s also where we reach and exceed the limits of back translation …), as well as a history lesson. By “infidels” does he mean the Alaouites who run Syria, or is suggesting that Syrians in general are irreligious? And what’s with the jibe at Maronites?

Finally, and just as a minor point: historically speaking, the Lebanese who wanted Lebanon to go back to Syria were the Sunnis. And only the Sunnis.


Posted in Americans, Arab world, Arabic, Beirut, Islam, Lebanon, religion, Syria, Uncategorized, words | 1 Comment »

Israeli zen.

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on November 1, 2009

I have a love-hate relationship with the Jerusalem Post. Love the easy access to its archives; hate its stance on many issues. But this afternoon I’m simply impressed with its Naharnet-like ability to put even the most inane statements to good use.

The Post‘s article about the ongoing two-and-a-half-way spitfest between the Lebanese government and/or Hizbullah, and the Israeli government, is interesting for several reasons. First, note how it describes Ziad Baroud:

Israeli spying devices on foreign soil are a clear violation of international resolutions, Lebanese Interior Minister Ziad Baroud said during a visit to southern Lebanon on Sunday.

Baroud, a rising Maronite politician who was appointed interior minister in
2008 as a representative of Lebanese President Michel Suleiman’s bloc, expressed his “determination to continue to uncover espionage networks.”

Interesting. I can’t find any mention of Baroud as a Maronite in the New York Times – in fact, the only result I get when I search for “Maronite politician” is a  1993 article that mentions Michel Edde. To me it says a great deal about Israeli political culture (and, perhaps, the lingering presence of the SLA) that the Post can assume that “Maronite politician” is a term that readers will understand.

But what I really love about this article is the closing:

The Lebanese interior minister’s remarks came a day after Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon announced that Israel was gathering intelligence within Lebanon and would continue to do so until Hizbullah renounced its arms.

“During a conflict with an enemy, one must gather intelligence,” he said, adding that the conflict would end once peace with Lebanon was achieved.

The conflict will end when peace is achieved. Thank you, Mr. Ya’alon, for providing this Zen definition of the day.

Posted in Arab world, Beirut, citizenship, Israel, Lebanon, Palestine, religion, Uncategorized, words | Leave a Comment »

loving thy neighbor

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on July 29, 2009

Today’s post was intended to be a tour of Doha’s nightlife. But my eye was caught yesterday by two news stories – or rather, by the popular responses to each.

When it comes to Lebanon, I sometimes find it hard to follow Christ’s second commandment. And as a Christian, the neighbors I find harder to love are more often than not Lebanon’s Christians.

I don’t mean this post to be one of casting the first stone – after all, the United States has had its share of intra-Christian sectarian woes. I recall one of our childhood neighbors telling me that as a child his schoolmates demanded to see his horns, because as Protestants they had been told in church that Catholics have horns on their head like the Devil. But that was 50 years ago, and I am shocked by what I have read this week.

My first shock came from an article in Monday’s Daily Star about the current mayor of Broumanna, Waleed Rizk. Rizk, the town’s long-time vice-mayor, whatever that means, became mayor after the previous mayor, Pierre Achkar, stepped down in order to be eligible to run for Parliament in the recent elections.

That isn’t the shocking part – I think that requiring candidates for one post to give up their current post is not a bad idea, and one that the United States  might consider. What shocked me is the reaction of some Broumannis to the fact that their new mayor is Greek Orthodox and not Maronite:

Traditionally the mayor of Brummana is Maronite, usually running along family lines with Pierre’s own ancestors Georges, Chachine and Georges standing before him.

But, for the first time in Brummana’s history the position has been given not only to a vice mayor but to a Greek Orthodox candidate.

“Usually they say in Brummana the mayor has to be a Maronite, and the vice is Orthodox but now what has happened is I am the mayor and I am Orthodox,” says the newly-appointed Rizk. “When people come into the office surprised that I am Orthodox, I say ‘no, I am not Orthodox, I am simply Brummanese.’”

Rizk says this couldn’t have happened unless the last mayor was forced to step down to run in the parliamentary elections and forfeit his job, leaving little time for a new election.

But now Rizk is having to battle people’s perceptions. “Some people say I shouldn’t be mayor because of my religion, but because I am working hard I am making them start to forget this issue,” Rizk says. “And I do believe the Brummanese will soon forget about it.”

This was shock number one: that the sense of sectarian entitlement extends to the municipal level, and is so deeply felt. For an American equivalent, try substituting race:

“When people come into the office surprised that I am African-American, I say ‘no, I am not African-American, I am simply a New Yorker’.”

“Some people say I shouldn’t be mayor because of my race, but because I am working hard I am making them start to forget the issue.”

Lovely. But there was a second shock – Rizk the sectarian under-dog is also Rizk the very self-entitled member of a big family:

He says that there have always been two families in Brummana who had the ambition to be mayor – the Achkar family and the Rizk family, which caused many years of rivalry. “Our ancestors always used to fight, but now we need to put the past behind us – we are doing what is best for the municipality.”

Right. What if ‘what is best for the municipality’ were the creation of a mayoral position open not only to residents with varied religious backgrounds, but varied family backgrounds as well?

The third shock, as some of you may already suspect given the theme of this post, has been the reaction on assorted blogs and other websites to the wedding of Nayla Tueini and Malek Maktabi, such as these. (I don’t mean to pick on the Ouwet Front exclusively, but the Orange Room’s website is currently down and I’m searching primarily for comments in English.) There are a few voices of reason, but what I notice most is the vitriol of those unhappy with her marrying a Shia – some because she is a Christian MP, and some just because she is Christian.

I personally am not a great fan of Ms. Tueini (or of Mr. Maktabi’s talk show), but the explosive hostility of some of the commentators leaves me with a deep cold pit in my stomach. This type of irrational anger can be  deeply corrosive. On the other hand, both their Facebook pages are filled with congratulations, and at least those posting their anger online are still in conversation with others more sanguine about the ‘mariage’.

I don’t have a good conclusion to this post. I hope for better things in the future, am glad to see  any movement in the political system, and think that mixed marriages could be a major source of strength for the Lebanon of tomorrow.

And I’m looking very much forward to writing a nice quiet post about Doha nightlife tomorrow.

Posted in Americans, Arab world, Beirut, citizenship, Lebanon, politics, religion, vanity, women, words | Leave a Comment »

cousin months: Nisan

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on April 9, 2009

I don’t remember really learning the names of the months in Arabic classes. I remember learning the days of the week, and certainly learning how to count; and I also remember learning seasons. So I must have been taught the names of the months. But they didn’t stick. I only began keeping the names of the months in my head in spring 2002, when my Arabic teacher began requiring us to read the front-page news in Arabic before each class. I learned “Ayloul” – as in, “11 Ayloul” – and with that as my base, began learning the others.

But the names of the months that I learned bore no resemblance to the months referenced in history books, or carved in inscriptions on old buildings, which were generally the months of the Islamic calendar: Muharram, Safar, Rabi3 al-Awwal, and so on. It was a mystery, but then again I found many things about Arabic mysterious, so I didn’t think all that much of it. And when I did, people gave me different answers: the months I had learned were the Christian months; or they were the secular months; or the Arab nationalist months; or they were months created to fit the Western calendar. All of these made some sense: after all, “Aghostos” looked too much like “August” (named for Caesar Augustus) to be mere coincidence.

But then I moved abroad and learned that no one I knew used “Aghostos” in Syria or Lebanon. They used “Ab”. Fine: another mystery, but again, not a particularly gripping one.

But when I was looking up “Fasah”, “Pesach”, and “Paschal” earlier this week, I learned a bit more about the months, or at least about one month: Nisan, the month of April. And, I am embarrassed to admit, one of the places I went to learn this was Wikipedia.

(I cross-referenced Wikipedia’s wisdom with more scholarly sources, but since its piece on months has the advantage of being 1) all in one quote and 2) readable, I am quoting from it.)

Wikipedia’s entry on Arabic-language months notes that the Levantine calendar uses month names

“likely derived from the Aramaic names of the old Semitic lunisolar calendar, and the names Šubāṭ, ‘Ādār, Nīsān, ‘Ayyār, Tammūz, ‘Āb, Aylūl, and Tišrīn are cognate with the names of the approximately equivalent months of the Hebrew calendar: Shevat, Adar, Nisan, Iyar, Tammuz, Av, Elul, and Tishrei.”

Nisan is described elsewhere as a name originating in Mesopotamia and possibly Babylon specifically, and being positively associated with spring. Nisan 15 is considered the night of the Jewish exodus, and is commemmorated as the first night of Passover.

Today is the commemoration of the Last Supper (at least, for Western Christians), which some Christian traditions hold was also the first night of Passover.  It is my favorite day of the Christian calendar, because it ends with Christ’s Passion in the Garden – the moment when Jesus is at his most human, and afraid of the pain of dying. He asks God to take the “cup of suffering” away, if possible; but in the end he accepts God’s will. Its a very sad moment, but also a very sweet one.

Posted in Arabic, church, religion, time, words | Leave a Comment »

cousin words: eloquence, Easter, and Passover

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on April 7, 2009

Easter is a funny holiday in the United States: I see it as the space where our secularism and our commercialism mix. Christmas – which is technically a minor holiday for Christians, since Jesus’ birth is not what makes him the Messiah – is a federal holiday, while Easter – the major holiday – is not. (Easter always falls on a Sunday, of course, which would make assigning an Easter holiday more tricky; Good Friday would be the logical choice, but in the U.S., celebrating – well, marking – Good Friday in any measurable way is almost unheard of.)

This year, Easter and Passover fall quite close to one another: Passover begins this Thursday, April 9, while Easter – at least for Western Christians – falls on Sunday, April 12. I like it when the two holidays come at the same time: its a nice reminder of how closely connected our three cousin religions are.

And in Arabic, they are even more closely connected: in fact, they are the same word. Both “Easter” and “Passover” are known as “عيد الفصح” in Arabic – Eid al-Fasah (accent on the first “a”). What does “fasah” mean, you might ask. Well, my dictionary is not particularly helpful: “afsaha”, the verb form, means “to celebrate Easter or Passover”, and “fasah” means “Easter (Chr.); Passover or Pesach (Jud.)”.

Pesach is the key word here, I think: substitute an “f” for the “P”, as often happens with Arabic, shift from a Hebrew “kha” to an Arabic “Haa” (just think of all those ear-twisting Israeli pronunciations of “hummus”) and “Pesach” becomes “fasah”. And if you push “Pesach” a bit further, you get “paschal” – like “paschal lamb”, which refers in the Old Testament to the lambs sacrificed so that Jews could mark their houses with their blood, as a sign that the Angel of Death should pass them by. In the New Testament, the paschal lamb is Jesus. (And for you French speakers, cela vous donne le mot  “Pâques”.)

I assume here that Hebrew is the original and the Arabic an importation, for chronological reasons. But I am also delighted to see that “afsaha” and “fasah”, which celebrate the major holidays of two of the three Abrahamic cousin religions, have a linguistic cousin of their own: the other “afsaha”.

This “afsaha” has nothing to do with religion, but everything to do with Arabic: it means to speak clearly and eloquently, in pure and elegant Arabic, and it gives us the word that all Arabic students know: fusHa.

Happy speaking, eloquent or no, and happy Eid al-Fasah preparations for those of you who are celebrating.

Posted in Americans, Arabic, religion, words | 1 Comment »

becoming a bab

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on March 2, 2009

Yesterday morning I found myself in another animated online discussion with my friend H, about assorted religious issues. We often disagree, but we are usually able to do so – as negotiators suggest – without being disagreeable. Yesterday we covered a wide range of topics, most swirling around the tension between ecumenicalism (which accepts other faiths as they are) and conversion (which does not).

We had been chatting for at least half an hour, and our conversation  while friendly – after all, we have several years invested in one another, not to mention assorted family connections – had grown fairly heated. It – and we – needed a little leavening.

So when H Arabicized a Christian sacrament, I couldn’t help but laugh.

You’ve been babtised, diamond, haven’t you? H wrote.

I mean babtized, he wrote in the next line, changing his spelling from British to American.

As many of you know, Arabic does not use the letter “p”. And as many of you also know, the word “bab” in Arabic means “door”, in both the literal and metaphoric senses.

And, of course, in the US, people jokingly ask someone to move out of the way by saying: “You make a better door than a window”.

I don’t like to think of myself as an obstructing force, so I’ll focus on the other aspect of the word bab: that like all doors, it opens onto something else – a home, an adventure, a new thought.

In that sense, I would like to think that yes, I have been babtized. I would like to be a door for others 🙂 .

Posted in Americans, Arabic, church, friends, Islam, Qur'an, religion, words | Leave a Comment »

the mechanical Turk

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on February 19, 2009

I’ve been on an Ottoman kick recently, as you may have noticed. One of my more recent Ottoman jags started with a magazine’s casual reference to Amazon’s work-for-hire service, “Mechanical Turk“. The site, whose motto is “Artificial Artificial Intelligence”, connects employers and independent contractors willing to do online tasks that require human, rather than machine, intelligence for piecework rates.

Amazon’s enterprise is always interesting, but what made me curious was the name. What is a mechanical Turk, and why is it Turkish?

Since I was on Amazon’s website anyway, I turned to its book offerings, and found:


It turns out that the “mechanical Turk” was a machine designed by an Austrian tinkerer and scientist in the late 1700s – a time when machines that could simulate some aspect of animal or human life were apparently all the rage at Europe’s courts. On the more charming side was a torso of a boy playing the flute, whose wind-up gears actually produced a flute-like sound. On the less charming side was a replica of a duck, whose primary enchantment was that when fed, his wind-up gears took the food through the process of digestion, including the excretions at the end. Ugh.

The mechanical Turk was something else – more impressive than any other machine of its day, because it seemed to be able to think. The machine (see image on the book cover above) was a large contraption: a semi-solid table, which housed the machine’s gears, and the figure of an Ottoman Turk. What the machine did was to play chess.

I’m not much of a chess player, but apparently the ability to play chess is one litmus test for machine intelligence, because chess requires strategic thinking. In other words, the mechanical Turk seemed to possess artificial intelligence.

What we know now – and what Amazon’s Mechanical Turk plays with – is that the machine’s gears were just for show. A person hid inside the box and manipulated the Ottoman Turk’s arm to make each chess move – meaning that this artificial intelligence was really human intelligence supported by artifice.

I don’t have anything insightful to say about the science side of this story, and I’m not too impressed by the mechanical Turk’s creator. Why didn’t he put his skills to work designing a machine that did work, even if it couldn’t play chess? I found myself wondering as I read the book.

Maybe that question shows my own lack of imagination – or my own hidebound morality. In any case, what really interests me is why he decided to make the figure Turkish – why not dress him as a fellow Austrian, or even another European?

I think I know the answer: the Ottoman Empire was Austria’s historic rival. An Ottoman Turk must have appeared a much more intimidating competitor than a Frenchman, or even a British subject. From the descriptions that cropped up in the book, however, it also made him seem much more alien – and maybe a bit sinister.

Here is one example:

An article [published in 1820] in the [London-based] New Monthly Magazine … proclaimed that “this cunning infidel (for he assumes the figure of a Turk) drives kings, and castles, and knights before him with more than moral sagacity, and with his inferior hand; and, except in a very few instances of drawn games, has beaten the most skillful chess-players in Europe.” (p. 128)

Ah, infidel – one of my favorite, we’re-all-cousins-under-Abraham, words.

Here is another, taken from the mechanical Turk’s tour of Philadelphia, Boston, and New York in the 1830s:

Silas Weir Mitchell, a Philadelphia doctor who attended Maelzel’s show as a child, later recallted that “the Turk, with his oriental silence and rolling eyes, would haunt your nightly visions for many an evening thereafter.” (p. 172)

Glad to see that we Americans were so free of stereotypes. If the figure had been dressed as an Austrian, would Dr. Mitchell have referred to his “Tyrolean silence”, do you think?

Posted in Americans, art, construction, religion, research, time, Turkey | 1 Comment »

starting from scratch: a new beginning

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on January 21, 2009

My aunt has posted the full text of President Obama’s inaugural address yesterday – you can read it here.

The elements that I found most inspiring were his call to service, his reference to the United States as a country of multiple faiths, his invitation to the Muslim world to seek a “new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect”, and – thanks to my friend A, with whom I had a long conversation yesterday evening – his call for what I would term a kind of moral realism: “To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.” This is an approach more nuanced than the Bush Administration’s “you’re either with us or against us” regime-changing steamroller, and less cynical than the “don’t ask, don’t tell” acceptance of dictators that characterizes flat realism.

And anyone willing to fight against corruption and deceit – putting transparency in the place of wasta, putting honesty in the place of lies – is fighting the good fight, as far as I am concerned.

And for our part, here in the United States we have our homework cut out for us – particularly when it comes to partnering with the Muslim world.

This was the “Joke of the week” in last week’s Time Out New York. Read it – its hysterical:


Or it would be, if most Ethiopians were in fact Muslim. The CIA World Factbook, my go-to online reference source, states that Ethiopians are:

Christian 60.8% (Orthodox 50.6%, Protestant 10.2%), Muslim 32.8%, traditional 4.6%, other 1.8%

Not that I think we shouldn’t exclude Ethiopia from this new climate of “mutual interest and mutual respect” – but perhaps we could demonstrate our respect by first getting our assumptions right :).

Posted in Americans, citizenship, humor, Islam, media, religion | 3 Comments »

targeted hiring

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on January 6, 2009

What caught my eye about this want-ad initially, of course, was the specification for “female” secretaries:


But specifying neighborhoods, too? I’m trying to tell myself that the company simply wants to hire employees women whose commutes will be short enough to deter absenteeism – but I’m skeptical.

Anyone else?

Posted in advertising, Arab world, Beirut, Lebanon, religion | 7 Comments »

liquor licenses at home and abroad

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on December 7, 2008

Years ago, during my first summer in Damascus, I was fascinated to learn that Syria’s laws prohibit serving alcohol within so many meters of a mosque – or at least, this is how the law was explained to me. It made sense – after all, most believers agree that Islam does not welcome alcohol – although a Christian friend later mentioned that similar rules apply to churches. And really, what worshiper would like to come out of a service to find disco music and drunken revelry just next door?

I assumed that these laws reflected the religious sensitivities of people in the Levant, and filed away the information in the “interesting facts” folder of my brain. But yesterday I was reminded that I live in a country that is also filled with religious sensitivities. After reading a letter to the editor questioning how a midtown church could receive a liquor license for its new restaurant, I did a bit of research and learned that most US state and city laws restrict liquor licenses – and especially bars – to a set distance from houses of worship and schools.

Here is the relevant section of New York State law:

    7. No retail license for on-premises consumption shall be granted  for
  any premises which shall be

    (a)  on  the  same  street  or avenue and within two hundred feet of a
  building occupied exclusively as a school, church,  synagogue  or  other
  place of worship or

    (b)  in a city, town or village having a population of twenty thousand
  or more within five hundred feet of  three  or  more  existing  premises
  licensed and operating pursuant to the provisions of this section;

    (c) the measurements in paragraphs (a) and (b) of this subdivision are
  to be taken in straight lines from the center of the nearest entrance of
  the premises sought to be licensed to the center of the nearest entrance
  of  such  school,  church, synagogue or other place of worship or to the
  center of the nearest  entrance  of  each  such  premises  licensed  and
  operating  pursuant  to the provisions of this section; except, however,
  that no renewal license shall be denied because of such  restriction  to
  any  premises  so  located  which  were maintained as a bona fide hotel,
  restaurant, catering establishment or  club  on  or  prior  to  December
  fifth,  nineteen hundred thirty-three; and, except that no license shall
  be denied to any premises at which a license under this chapter has been
  in existence continuously from a date prior to the date when a  building
  on  the  same  street  or  avenue  and  within  two hundred feet of said
  premises has been occupied exclusively as a school, church, synagogue or
  other place of worship; and except that no license shall  be  denied  to
  any  premises,  which  is  within  five  hundred  feet  of three or more
  existing premises licensed and operating pursuant to the  provisions  of
  this  section,  at  which  a  license  under  this  chapter  has been in
  existence continuously on or prior to November first,  nineteen  hundred
  ninety-three;  and  except  that this subdivision shall not be deemed to
  restrict the issuance of a hotel liquor license to a building used as  a
  hotel  and  in  which  a  restaurant liquor license currently exists for
  premises which serve as a dining room for guests  of  the  hotel  and  a
  caterer's license to a person using the permanent catering facilities of
  a  church,  synagogue  or  other  place of worship pursuant to a written
  agreement between such person and the  authorities  in  charge  of  such
  facilities.  The  liquor authority, in its discretion, may authorize the
  removal of any such licensed premises to a  different  location  on  the
  same  street  or avenue, within two hundred feet of said school, church,
  synagogue or other place of worship, provided that such new location  is
  not  within a closer distance to such school, church, synagogue or other
  place of worship.

    (d) Within the context of this subdivision, the word "entrance"  shall
  mean a door of a school, of a house of worship, or premises licensed and
  operating  pursuant to the provisions of this section or of the premises
  sought to be licensed, regularly used to give ingress to students of the
  school,  to  the  general  public attending the place of worship, and to
  patrons or guests of the premises licensed and operating pursuant to the
  provisions of this section or of the premises  sought  to  be  licensed,
  except  that where a school or house of worship or premises licensed and
  operating pursuant to the provisions of this section is set back from  a
  public  thoroughfare,  the  walkway  or  stairs leading to any such door
  shall be deemed an entrance; and the measurement shall be taken  to  the
  center of the walkway or stairs at the point where it meets the building
  line  or  public thoroughfare. A door which has no exterior hardware, or
  which is used solely as an emergency or fire exit,  or  for  maintenance
  purposes,  or which leads directly to a part of a building not regularly
  used by the general public or patrons, is not deemed an "entrance".

Very interesting. Establishments that serve alcohol are thus restricted not only in terms of their distance from schools and houses of worship, but also in terms of how many there can be in a particular area relative to the size of the overall population. I am not sure whether New York’s population is simply so large that the population requirement is satisfied, or whether it has been granted a general exemption, but there definitely are a lot of bars and restaurants clustered together here, in both the city and the boroughs.

In any case, I am glad to have had the chance to think again about the many ways in which we on both sides of the world are alike – and for the reminder of how far I sometimes travel in order to learn more about my home country 🙂 .

Posted in Americans, Arab world, beer, Damascus, New York, nightlife, religion, research | 6 Comments »