By Jesse Wood
Dec. 14, 2012. Sam Wazan, author of The Last Moderate Muslim, has many stories from growing up during Lebanon’s 15-year civil war that he will share during “Ending the Violence in the Middle East,” a talk and book signing at The Dancing Moon in downtown Boone on Saturday, Dec. 15, at 4 p.m.
For most of his childhood, he said it was just like living in a Western city with discos and night clubs where live bands were playing Western music. However just before his 11th birthday in 1975, the civil war broke out.
“We had to alternate from stairways and underground depots depending on the escalating battles outside,” Wazan said. “For the first two years at the beginning of the war, we didn’t know how to get used to the new world. After that we got configured into the combat zone in the capital of Beirut.”
One year before the civil war ended in 1989, he searched for a way out with the goal of immigrating to the United States. At that point in time, he experienced “shell-shock syndrome,” his calf muscles froze at the sound of explosions during struggles to find shelter.
“That’s when I decided I had to find another way to live,” Wazan said.
The American Embassy in Lebanon was bombed as was the airport, so he went to the American Embassy in Damascus, Syria to try to score a visa. During his travels to the embassy in Damascus, Lebanese and Syrian armies were fighting, so he had to find an alternate route through mountains.
“It was a highly, risky decision,” Wazan said. “It was a pretty difficult time but not a really difficult decision.”
At the age of 25 he arrived in the U.S., experiencing the story book American Dream by working his way up from a minimum-wage job in a movie theater to eventually becoming the president of a software company. Now he is an author and speaks at college campuses across the country.
As darkly fascinating and tragic as his world was in Lebanon, that isn’t the main point of his book or his talks. He has a positive, grassroots message and a path to peace for the Middle East that he wants to share.
In a press release, he stated his message was that “upholding humanity and civility above all differences neutralizes geopolitical forces fueled by faith-based hostilities. He will unveil an insightful and authentic route map for peace in the Middle East.”
Speaking on Friday afternoon, he said, “I wrote this book because I found myself disenchanted with many of the experts who answered the wrong questions in an intelligently, ignorant way, and I felt the need to be an authentic voice for what really happens in reality, not just from an expert who studied and researched the Middle East.”
He added, however, that many are “good, well-meaning, professional experts,” but others are speaking inaccurately about the matters of Islam and the Middle East and the conflict between Israel and Palestine.
“I want people to not think that we can only win an understanding by listening only to political leaders or former military leaders who have blood on their hands,” Wazan said. “I want people to get to this [talk and book signing] to have an understanding of the root causes of the conflicts in the Middle East.”
He spoke of mothers who have lost children and has a vendetta on her mind and heart, a father who lost loved ones and wants vengeance, a clerk, rabbi or priest who is giving sermons of hate and propagating and rallying masses around violence, the rhetoric that children are subscribing to when they sit at the dining room table.
“And there are many more root causes,” Wazan said, adding that he is not pro-Palestine or pro-Israel.
“I am for catalyzing peace and ending the suffering of premature death regardless of the face of the person.”
Learn more at www.samwazan.com. His novel will be available for signing after the talk. The Dancing Moon is located at 553 West King Street in downtown Boone.
Critical Acclaim for Sam Wazan and The Last Moderate Muslim
“Wazan’s ability to step away from the ingrained thought-patterns of his childhood and embrace a new, inclusive world-view offers great hope for bringing peace and prosperity to the Middle East!”
—Christie Kahill, Program and Resource Manager at Queens City Forward.
The Last Moderate Muslim responds to the pain, suffering, disability, and premature death caused by the geopolitical and religious violence. Wazan separates perceptions from the reality of the Middle East; therefore, the novel is an expose’ of the culture of Muslims and other faiths, and a rendition of the root causes of the chronic conflicts. The story line and thematic encounters between characters embed the ways and means to inject civility in the region.
“An apt comparison to The Kite Runner … a page burner of a story. An inside perspective on so many of the underlying dynamics that define the turmoil of this region.”
—Roger R. Baumgarte, PHD, Former Professor of Psychology at Winthrop University.