Academic journal article Arab Studies Quarterly

Clovis Maksoud: The Departed, Who Is Forever Present

Academic journal article Arab Studies Quarterly

Clovis Maksoud: The Departed, Who Is Forever Present

Article excerpt

This moving tribute to Dr, Maksoud was read at al-Hewar's memorial service and first appeared on the pages of al-Safir. We chose to publish it here as an example of Maksoud's exceedingly rare ability among Arab statesmen to inspire different generations of Arabs to carry on with the national struggle,

Dr, Clovis Maksoud has left us but will stay forever in the hearts and minds of his devotees as a shining light for all humanity, calling for peace and justice everywhere, He will also remain an undimmed light of the pan-Arabist flame and be forever present among us,

The first time I met him was in 1959 when I was still a third-year student at the college of commerce of Cairo's Ain Shams University, Maksoud was scheduled to lead a panel discussion on the recently concluded unity of Egypt and Syria, One of his memorable statements, it turned out, was, "What is even better than the act of union itself, is to strive and protect and preserve it ourselves," My second meeting with him was in 1999, at Washington, DC, when I ran into him when in the company of his dedicated and accomplished late wife, Hala Salam, As I reminded him of our previous meeting during the Cairo panel, he protested with his usual quick wit that I was about to reveal his exact age, This was also an occasion to share some of my latest poetry with him, which he seemed to appreciate, requesting that I supply him with all of my future work, So, occasionally I would reach him by phone and hear his words of encouragement about their political content, When the Arab Spring changed course, he asked me pointedly to make sure that my compositions conveyed the right message,

I also continued to follow his writings on Arab Hewar Internet post, One such dialogue session centered on the life and work of the Druze Palestinian poet Samih al-Qassem, which was preceded by a similar event held at the Jerusalem Fund, Dr, Maksoud was the main speaker at this meeting, focusing his remarks as expected on the challenges facing the homeland, Arab nationalism, and the Palestine question, When I finished speaking and eulogizing al-Qassem, Maksoud embraced me and declared loudly, "Some here are still optimistic," meaning heeding his call to "keep the faith," He added that we, Arabs, should never lose hope since our cause will last for generations to come, His faith in the destiny of the Arab homeland always astonished me, particularly since he never projected any specific political ideology or sectarian views, He remained always a dedicated pan-Arabist within a tolerant humanist framework and never allowed anything or anyone to compromise his ideals, He also remained anchored in realism and positive thinking, encouraging others to stay the course, Unsurprisingly, his core commitment to the Palestine cause, which he never abandoned, earned him a befitting burial, all wrapped up in the Palestinian flag to symbolize his tenacious commitment to Palestinian rights,

After returning to my home state of Texas, I mulled over his last words, especially, his call to all Arabs not to lose faith, This inspired my last poem, which I dedicated to his memory, titled, "Despair Is the Enemy of Humankind, Love Is the Way of God," The English version of this piece was eventually edited and translated by a dear friend, award-winning Palestinian American poet, Naomi Shihab Nye, and a one-time chancellor of the Academy of American Poets (2009), Naomi's father, the late Aziz Shihab, who hailed from Šinjel, a village in the Jerusalem area, was a longtime friend, It was her idea that the poem should be forwarded to Pope Francis II and to former president, Jimmy Carter, The Vatican responded with a particularly heart-warming message on behalf of the Holy Father, conveying His blessings for the man who inspired me to write these verses, Maksoud's last exhortations to me still wring in my ears, "we shall never resign from hope," It is these inspiring commands which keep the beacon of hope alive and the memory of this exceptional man who was my older brother, my guide, and the beloved of all humanity forever burning in my heart,

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