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By: Qais Ghanem

Democracy, Deity and Death

Pages: 132 Ratings: 4.6
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Four Arabs, with completely different religious backgrounds and beliefs, meet regularly at a London café, despite those differences. There, they respectfully debate the issues of democracy, death and deity. First one is a young devout Muslim from Yemen. The second one is a middle-aged Lebanese Christian homosexual. The third one is a retired secular Egyptian Professor of Biology with a German education. The fourth one is a middle-aged Egyptian Bank Manageress, who discarded all her Islamic traditions and beliefs. 

Qais Ghanem immigrated to Canada in 1970. He graduated in medicine from the University of Edinburgh. Specialty training in public health, pediatrics, and neurology took place at Queen’s, McMaster, Michigan, Sanaa, and finally, Ottawa U. Dr. Qais Ghanem has remained Clinical Professor U of O, President Canadian Society of Clinical Neurophysiologists, and Director of Sleep/Neurophysiology Lab, Military, Ottawa, and Monfort H.

Customer Reviews
23 reviews
23 reviews
  • TAREK FATAH, Toronto, Canada, Authhor of "Chasing a Mirage"

    These are the ‘Four Arabs’ who fill Qais Ghanem’s 130-page book with their opinions and discussions on ‘Democracy, Deity and Death,’ which is the sub-title of his book, but in essence, page after page, these four Arabs primarily discuss Islam as well as Sharia the 8th century laws whose weight has become the burden a billion Muslims today.
    Every Muslim home should have a copy of ‘Four Arabs’ and they will find in it a reflection of the discussions all of us have, in varying degrees. Dr. Ghanem has done us all a tremendous favour and a service in using fiction to lay bare the truth we are told never to utter in public lest the ‘kufaar’ find a chink in non-existent armour.
    Part of Review by TAREK FATAH , famous Toronto Author of Chasing a Mirage

  • Elie M Nasrallah, Ottawa, Canada, Immigration Consultant and author of “Hostage to History: The Cultural Collapse of the 21st Arab World.”

    Taboos are absent from this masterpiece of current Arab catastrophic conditions. Search as long as you wish, no taboo will be found, and that is the genius of this timely and timeless book!

    As someone who was born in Lebanon and educated during my adolescent years in the town of Zahle ( chapter four), I found the reference to Sam as a brilliant metaphor for that alluring town and Lebanon as well.

    The tribal references by Adonis are also relevant. One British general once remarked that “most states of the Arab world are tribes with flags except Egypt and Tunisia.”

    Cafe Mocha is the cafe of the Arab world made easy, accessible and mandatory.

    As someone who wrote a book titled “Hostage to History: The Cultural Collapse of the 21st Century Arab World,” I find this fictional narrative as compelling and pertinent as any factual description and academic examination of the ailing body politics of Arab decline.

    In fiction and non-fiction books and studies, one fact becomes clear: To join modernity and renew their golden age, Arabs must adopt the workable solution of modernity; the separation of church/mosque from politics.

    That protects both domains and ensures freedom for all.

    Democracy, deity, and fear of death are all examined in a surgical way that only a doctor like Qais Ghanem is capable of.

    I my opinion, the book would have been even more compelling had it contained two men and two women of opposite views politically and religiously. One modern and liberal woman, and another conservative and ultra-religious.

    Their debate would have added immensely to the emancipation of woman as the book envisions and aims toward. There shall be no taboo...!!!

    Elie M Nasrallah, author of “Hostage to History: The Cultural Collapse of the 21st Arab World.”

  • Prof. Abdullah D

    5 out of 5 stars
    Comments on Qais Ghanem’s book The Four Arabs

    This is a fascinating book. I could not put it down and finished it within 24 hours!

    Four Arabs: an old Egyptian who is a professor in Edinburgh; his banker niece in London; her gay Christian male friend who is a real estate agent; and a conservative cleric meet on several occasions in London. They have one thing in common: an intense interest in what’s happening in the Middle East, with its failure to deal with modernity, its dysfunctional political systems, corrupt dictators, poor education and many inequities, not the least of which revolves around women’s rights.

    The author cleverly uses his characters to debate these issues. Apart from the cleric, who provides the conservative understanding of Islam, the others are equally cleverly used by the author to raise and discuss controversial issues on the nature of divinity, scripture, our origin and destiny, dogma, identity, sexual orientation, the absence of a free press in Middle Eastern countries, whether there are “chosen” peoples on earth, and many other topics.

    Readers, especially those originating in the Middle East, will find this book to be very provocative but also very interesting. It is bound to be read widely and will be seen as a mini-encyclopaedia, a veritable curriculum, and a great conversation starter!

    I highly recommend it to all who want to understand the Middle East and its three monotheistic traditions. It is both hopeful, in that the characters express hope for change, for the way in which the religions, and especially Islam, will find peace with modernity; and gloomy, in that the people being discussed still cannot let go of their great historical achievements, haven’t learned, and are unlikely ever, to learn how to use logic (!!), and always fail to listen to each other, and so consensus among them is impossible. There are undoubtedly some minor exaggerations, but the writing is fluid, the momentum never wanes, and everything is all done so beautifully, with great dollops of heart-warming humour!

  • Lyndee Wolf

    The frank and honest discussions between characters with different worldviews offer a model of respectful debate for our times. While the subtitle is: A Discussion by Four Arabs, the book really applies to all of us and the often complex conversations we need to embrace in our diverse society. In essence, how we can disagree (respectfully) with one another and yet still get along.

    Another worthwhile read I just finished by the same author is: My Arab Spring My Canada.

  • Sylvia Laale

    4.0 out of 5 stars September 3, 2019

    I really REALLY enjoyed your book...I read it slowly so that I could absorb their thinking. Of course I felt most drawn to the thinking of Samia and Saleh...they sounded like people I would love to spend time with. I wished they had been with us at Potlucks 4 Peace. Same with Sam. although as he was a Christian I felt I understood him right from the beginning because after all I grew up in a Christian world while buried in a Jewish community. Initially I wished that they all still lived in the Middle East so I could get that perspective and then I realized that that perspective is not what I needed to hear. Sam, Samia and Saleh were so wise and universal in their thinking just because they had traveled and lived outside the cradle of Islam in the M-E. The imam taught me that...I found myself irritable with him at times and other times I just want to slap him up the side of his head...the absolute conviction he held of ‘truth’. As a younger person in my community in Hamilton I often raged internally at exactly the same behaviour and beliefs of the orthodox Jewish community of which I was a part. Once I left for university in TO I left Judaism behind and have never regretted allowed for my expansion into other ways of seeing beliefs, concepts, absolutism...and be able to listen, hear, accept how the other thinks (yet still getting irritable at absolutism)...and holding on to my openness to other ways of thinking (and of course as a good little human definitely believing that my way is the better way—how odd we humans are!). Good book Qais...write another one.

  • Andres Galia

    Is Religion the Problem?
    I have enjoyed reading the discussions presented in the book, even if I am not either a Muslim or Arab. Most of the issues discussed in the book are also applicable to other cultures and religions. The problem I found is that it is difficult to sustain an argument based on: “I follow what Allah dictates”, which is what roughly speaking, the Muslim character in the book says most of the time.

    The book is written in a clear and direct language, which I found very appropriate for the purposes I believe the author had in mind in writing the book.

    The author seems to believe that the main problem in the Arab world is due to religion. I am not so sure. I believe religion is one of the tools used to manipulate human beings. Religion is used not just in the Arab world but also in other religions and some of the characters recognize that. However, I believe that the main problem is not a religion but ignorance and the lack of a questioning attitude that ignorance brings in a human being.

    The Western world is no longer using religion to manipulate people because that is no longer sustainable in the West, but they have found other ways…

    Enjoyable book

  • Bill Fairbairn - Author of Newsboy, published by Austin Macauley

    A brainstormer on the Middle East

    Here, in one book by Qais Ghanem, we have a modern and ancient history of the Middle East named Democracy, Deity and Death.

    Four Arabs, one a woman, are seated around a table on several occasions in London, discussing what went wrong and how to right it. The book's four Arab debaters have different beliefs, but an intent interest on what is happening in the Middle East. The first, Abul Raheem, is a devout Muslim from Yemen, born in Wales, and who had moved back to Britain from the Middle East. The second, is Sam, a Lebanese Christian homosexual. The third is a retired Muslim Egyptian professor of biology named Saleh. The fourth is Samia, a London bank manager, who has discarded her Islamic tradition and beliefs.

    Qais Ghanem, himself an accomplished debater, had regularly met for coffee with a small bunch of elders like himself, Arab men, and a woman or two, in the Alta Vista area. “It goes without saying,” he writes, “that the conversations turn into a debate about the chaotic state of the Arab world.” Qais acknowledges the influence of other writers whom he terms more learned than himself on life in the present or the hereafter.

    As a book reviewer, I'm on par with Professor Abdulla Daar of Toronto, who saw Qais's book as a veritable Middle East curriculum for youth at a needy time. Haphazardly opening at page 54 I found this contemporary debate n women's rights:

    I conclude that Qais's mini-encyclopaedia, published by Austin Macauley of London, should be on western high-school-and-upward curriculums given the turmoil between East and West today. I did have first-hand insight as a journalist into European, African and North American countries, but insight only from what I read about in the Middle East. My closest experience was when I was on a passenger ship passing Aden on my way home to Scotland and now wishing the ship had called at the then British colony where Qais Ghanem was born.

    Qais describes his book to the billions who struggle with the concept of “what happens to them when they leave this world, how they should treat people of other faiths, and whether and why their faiths may be no better than the faiths of others, after all.” On resurrection, he quotes what American social theorist Stuart Chase wrote: “For those who believe no proof is necessary. But for those who do not believe, no proof is possible.”

    This book is well worth reading whether one believes or needs to believe, one way or the other.

  • Robert F Nelson

    Democracy, Deity and Death is the title of this seventh book by the Yemeni-Canadian physician, Dr Qais Ghanem. The subtitle, A Discussion by Four Arabs, gives a better summary of the content of the book, as Ghanem uses the device of four friends meeting regularly in a coffee shop in London and discussing, and sometimes arguing about, the current state of the Arab world and in particular, the interrelationship with the predominant religion, Islam. They bemoan the perceived current backwardness of the Arab countries in the Middle East and North Africa in comparison with the Western world. Some of the backwardnesses are attributed to a tendency to hark back several centuries when Arab influence extended across Africa to southern and western Europe and the yearn for past glories. However, they hold Islam as the main reason for stagnation, particularly with its resistance to any change and to maintain that the rules of the sixth century that may indeed have led to the glories of the centuries that followed need to be reinterpreted to be valid in today’s world. For non-Moslems, this book contains a great deal of enlightenment on Islam and the problems of the Middle East. However, I would think that it is more directed toward those who, having emigrated to the western world, must find themselves torn between maintaining old traditions, many of which are of undoubted value, and trying to adapt to their new homeland where freedom may seem unbounded but also lacking in guiding moral principles. The most value from reading this book will come to those who, still living in the East, have the courage to read it with an open mind. If so, there is the reason to hope that the spirit that gave rise to the “Arab Spring” will find inspiration to continue to fight for human dignity and freedom and will give way to a real “Arab Summer”. 

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