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The Daily Devil’s Dictionary: Mike Pence is Not Welcome to “Sit”

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Mike Pence © Gino Santa Maria

December 13, 2017 06:50 EDT

US Vice President Mike Pence takes a pounding in the Middle East.

We learned from various sources that, following President Donald Trump’s decision to transfer the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, Vice President Mike Pence is no longer welcome in the Middle East — not just by Muslims but also Christians. Significantly, Pope Tawadros II, leader of Egypt’s Coptic Church, stated that he was unwilling to meet with Pence because of Trump’s decision. The ancient Christian church politely “excused itself from hosting” the planned event.

According to Egyptian media, the grand imam of Cairo’s Al-Azhar Mosque also said that he would not meet Pence. In a quote The Daily Devil’s Dictionary cherishes for its wit, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb declared, “How can I sit with those who granted what they do not own to those who do not deserve it?”

Here is today’s 3D definition:


A verb signifying to show empathy, to engage in dialogue with, to build a rapport

Contextual Note

For some time, the trend in the US has been to assume that what people call the “Judeo-Christian” tradition implies an identity of point of view between Christians and Jews concerning Arabs and Muslims. To some extent that idea sums up Samuel Huntington’s notorious “clash of civilizations.

Nothing sums up that naive view better than the supposition of the US government that Middle Eastern Christians, like the majority of Evangelicals in the US, would jump on any occasion to stick it to the Muslims.

Historical and Cultural Note

In most Western cultures, people stand and shake hands to confirm a negotiated agreement, which is then understood as a binding contract, often with the purpose of transferring the title to some form of property. In other cultures, including Native Americans and Middle Easterners, concluding an agreement is likely to feel both more real and final when sitting, seen as a sign of sharing rather than of simply transferring ownership or attributing rights. To “sit” with someone embodies an act of constructing a relationship and confirming the ongoing process of deepening the sense of mutual sympathy between the parties.

We can only admire the pithy irony in Tayeb’s remark. Westerners hold the notion of property to be both absolute (ownership is inalienable) and binary (either you own the property in question or someone else owns it). For other cultures, real estate and most objects belong to no one, but can be used by many or easily lent at different moments for different purposes. This is particularly true of nomadic cultures.

Sheikh Tayeb cannot understand how the British, abetted by other Western governments, “granted” (in the form of propriety, entailing political control) the land occupied by a variety of people to one group of people — a group defined by a religion — whose claim to merit was the suffering they had endured at the hands of other Westerners.

*[In the age of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain, another American wit, the journalist Ambrose Bierce, produced a series of satirical definitions of commonly used terms, throwing light on their hidden meanings in real discourse. Bierce eventually collected and published them as a book, The Devil’s Dictionary, in 1911. We have shamelessly appropriated his title in the interest of continuing his wholesome pedagogical effort to enlighten generations of readers of the news.]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

Photo Credit: Gino Santa Maria /

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