Saba Shami ... A cause in a man
By: Ghassan Abu Diab/Arab America Contributing Writer
I knew Saba Shami, “Abu Yusuf,” as he liked to be called, and accompanied him for more than ten years, in the United States of America, specifically in its capital, Washington DC, where the political arena is for the real gladiators, and where the “survival” is “for the strongest” in the competitive domains of advocacy where you find causes from all over the world. Where hundreds of billions of dollars are spent to pass a bill, to detail a penalty, to withdraw an accusation, or even to “polish” a figure, in the capital of international decision-making.
“Saba Labib al-Boutros al-Shami, is from a village in the north of Palestine, named “Al-Maghar.” That’s how “Saba” introduced himself, he used his words accompanied be a sharp gaze. In a moment, he was able to weight the person whom he is talking to, beyond the names and titles that meant nothing to him. He was an expert in men, and capable to discover, in a few words, with “whom” he was speaking. He never ran for any position in his life; he was always content with being a leader of leaders.
The cause for Saba was like his “wife”. He carried it like his “cigar” and drank it with his coffee, he took it with the “Palestinian falafel ” that he was keen to knead with his hands “from scratch”, for “the Besties only”, and I had the luck to be one of them. Wherever the case needed a “man”, Saba was a thousand men in a man, and wherever the case lacked a gladiator, the first gladiator would you see is him in the front lines. When Saba walked, dozens would walk behind him, He represented a leader protecting the community, and they protecting him in return.
He told me once: “We have to learn how to defend our causes, we do not lack resources, we do not lack men, we lack stability, determination, and leadership. He practiced his own art of leadership in his own way, and with his style, and succeeded in all occasions, to be the Arab first man in Virginia, And with a very echoed voice, in its capital, Richmond, to the extent that the support of the “NDPAC” that Saba founded, and with official endorsement, a candidate can make sure being elected is a matter of a few steps.
Al-Shami carried a great legacy, his father and grandfather were the vanguard of the Arabists and the left wings in Palestine, his father was a community leader. The contributions of his family formed an additional impetus for him, to continue and move forward. He was able to penetrate- despite his Catholic Christian identity-the Maronite Christian community in the United States, “Maronism is the Christianity of the Middle East” – he said, and likewise he was able to befriend Sunni Islam, even political Islam in the “Brotherhood” sense was for him a “useful” ally, “The cause needs everyone.” He used to repeat, and ask The “American Muslim Brotherhood” never objected having this “Nazare” attending their “open” ceremonies, likewise he did not find an affront, with his clarity and intellectual presence, the neighborhood of “those with long beards and a fringed mustache”. Originally I am Shami-a “levantant”, meaning from SHAM, from Damascus, according to him, the Middle East is either diverse, or it is not.
Saba Shami, it can be said that he was never defeated in politics, his only defeat was when he faced cancer. The malignant disease shattered the legend of the iconic man. A whole year he spent fighting It.
“We won”. He told me over the phone two weeks ago … a week later, he was weak and tired… Chemotherapy and radiation therapy destroyed the cancer cell in the sinuses, but it grew again very vigorously in the spinal cord, then spread to the brain, then mortality. Saba is gone, and everyone who is ever born shall die. He was a man for all of time and the cause will live forever in his memory.
Dr. Ghassan Bou Diab is the founder of the Global forum for religions and Humanity, and king center for research and strategic studies. Besides his academic and consultancy career, He is a political and religious diversity analyst, joined ARAB AMERICA as a contributing writer.
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