[:en]A short article of different clippings about Freemasonry in Syria and how it was outlawed in Syria and Egypt
Freemasonry books sell well in Damascus. It is the one topic that every single person knows everything about, starting with cab drivers and street vendors onto university professors, scholars, and religious figures. For nearly forty years non-stop it is has been one of the hottest topics in the Syrian literature market. Hundreds of Masonic books are published each year by a host of imaginative journalists and self-proclaimed scholars who offer no real references to most of their material. To boost their sales, the book covers often show Masonic tools draped in blood, side-by-side with the Star of David. This “literature”—if the word so applies—accuses Freemasonry for every single problem in the Arab World for the last 100 years.
Humans love to find scapegoats for their weaknesses. They love to blame their wrongs on others—it’s always somebody else’s fault. This is common practice, dating back to the earliest records of history. Freemasonry is a perfect scapegoat for Arab writers, explaining an entire century of failures.
Anti-Mason authors love to use masonic symbols to make their case; the Dollar Bill with the All-Seeing eye, the 6-pointed star (wrongly referred to as the star of David), Satan-worshipping, manipulating society, and conspiring to overthrow world governments. Again, every single accusation made with such confidence by the self proclaimed zealots with not a single uncontested reference.
Freemasonry was formally outlawed by the Baath Party in August 1965. It was accused of being an “illegal secret society.”
Lodges were official, after all, always registered with the Syrian Government. They paid their taxes to the Ministry of Finance and reported to the Ministry of Social Affairs. This was similar to Aspiring Syrian members had to have a clean judicial record, accused of no felony or crime by the Syrian Justice. Before 1948, freemasons were the celebrated and uncontested “who’s who” of Damascene society.
Most of the Masonic documents of Damascus were destroyed by their authors and keepers weeks after creation of the ill-fated Syrian-Egyptian Union in 1958. Although Freemasonry was only outlawed in Egypt as late as 1964, Damascene Freemasons feared the wrath and erratic judgement of their new president, Gamal Abdul Nasser. Paranoia and the years of anger by socialists against the bourgeoisie who led Freemasonry’s select membership all attributed to Damascene Masons to simply shut down their lodges in the first weeks of March 1958.
Contrary to popular lore, one could not be invited into Freemasonry, or forced to become a member. Additionally, power and money are no prerequisites for joining the Ancient Craft. Rather, “men should be free, with good character.” Freemasonry teaches “mystical ascent of the soul and mind,” promulgating principles of morality and seeking to “advance brotherly love and charitable action among all,” both Masons and non-Masons. It claims to underline and promote truth, justice, equality, and charity.
One of the principle conditions for becoming a Mason, after all, is to believe in the Supreme Being, or “a supreme being.” Atheists are not admitted. Muslims are allowed to take their solemn oath on the Holy Quran; Christians on the Holy Bible. In fact both are asked to kiss the Holy Scripture. The letter “G” is central to all Orient lodge meetings, in reference to God, who Masons describe as the Great Architect of the Universe. This effectively makes Freemasonry a philosophical guide to religion—it completes and empowers one’s faith, rather than challenges it.
HISTORY & CONTRIBUTIONS OF MASONS TO DAMASCUS
Freemasonry dates back dates back to King Solomon Lodge established in April 1868 and included the then Ottoman governor of the city of Damascus, Mehmed Rashid Pasha, a 33-year old Freemason himself. The formation of the Lodge was supported by Lebanese Brethren from the Scottish Constitution Palestine Lodge of Beirut # 415 which was founded in 1861.
True to Masonic teachings, all of the lodges founded in Damascus were symbolically established east of the city with the focal point being the Grand Umayyad Mosque. Syria Lodge was opened in 1879 on Khaled Ibn al-Waleed Street in the affluent al-Qanawat district.
In 1898, the Noor Dimashq Lodge was chartered under the Grand Lodge of Scotland in the splendid Mi’zanet al-Shahem neighbourhood. Members of the Noor Dimashq Lodge and Qassioun Lodge whose membership led the process to “Arabize” the Faculty of Medicine at the Damascus University and one of them became the head of the University in the 1970s before becoming Minister of Higher Education. In 1923, they founded the Syrian University, the Arab Music Academy of Damascusand the Syrian Red Crescent. Qassioun Lodge members built a hospital for tuberculosis patients in Hay al-Akrad, and presented it as a gift to the Syrian Government in 1936. The Lodge also financed the publication of academic books and journals at the Greek Orthodox Press, presenting them as a gift to the Faculty of Medicine. One of its members even Syrians created the first national flag and the first national anthem, Humat al-Diyar, which replaced the La Marseillaiseanthem at all Masonic meetings.
By 1918, the end of the 1stWorld War, Syrian Freemasons had lodges in Damascus, Beirut, Zahle, Homs, Hama, Aleppo, Latakia, and Tripoli.
Syria Lodge membership was responsible for the creation of the private sector funded, public sector owned al-Mouasat Hospital behind the orchards of Mezzeh on the outskirts of the Syrian capital, in 1958. Syria Lodge pitched in during the building of the al-Mouwasat by funding its 13 patient-room, with all the equipment.
In 1928, al-Isaaf Lodge of Damascus #280 was founded in Damascus as an extension of Egyptian Freemasonry. Its members founded the Grand Lodge of Syria which included seven lodges in Damascus; al-Iman, al-Amal, al-Tawfiq, al-Andalus, al-Nahda, al-Ittihad, and al-Yarmouk.
Syrians preferred affiliation with the Scottish Grand Lodge over others as Scotland had always been regarded as “non-colonialist” masonic juridiction.[:]