Earlier today, my phone buzzed with a breaking news notification about a patient being investigated for Ebola at a, as of now, unnamed Beirut hospital. An hour or so later, as I had figured, the patient turned out to have malaria. But that didn’t stop people from freaking out about the disease’s possibility of invading Lebanese territory. I mean, it’s only a matter of time anyway as Ebola is the only thing, possibly, that hasn’t strutted across our borders yet.
At an almost 30% chance of having Ebola spread to it, Lebanon is not at bay. 30% is a lot in medical terms. However, that isn’t to say that nothing is being done regarding the issue or that it’s being ignored as we’ve ignored almost every other pertinent matter that could potentially affect this country. I guess when it comes to health, people pay more attention.
In a matter of weeks, Ebola has become something that we, as medical professionals (or soon to be medical professionals), had to keep at the forefront of our minds as we saw patients in ERs or in any other setting for that matter for patients who have fever or a constellation of indicative symptoms.
Back in the old days, we’d start by asking about associated symptoms to try and draw a picture of a syndrome, a viral illness or any possible etiologies that made sense give the season, the condition of the patient, etc. Nowadays, we start by asking: have you had any recent travel history, sir?
Our cut-off to rule out Ebola in someone who presented from an endemic area, few as those people are, is about 3 weeks. I’ve seen people panic that they’ve encountered someone who visited Lebanon from Nigeria 3 months ago and are currently presenting with fever. No, it doesn’t work that way.
The Ministry of Health, in its capacities, has circulated memos to Lebanon’s hospital to educate employees, nurses and doctors about Ebola and about the proper ways to handle patients suspected with the disease. I have taken pictures of the memo in question, which you can find as follows:
When it comes to our airports, however, the story is entirely different. Sure, there’s probably not a massive influx of Lebanese coming from West Africa, but even with the global worry regarding the virus, there’s been basically zero measures at our airport to screen passengers or attempt to keep ebola in the back of their minds, just in case, especially in passengers from Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. I guess there are more important airport-related issues at hand, such as fixing that A/C.
The media, on another hand, isn’t doing a terrific job either at spreading awareness regarding the virus or educating people on it in order to decrease mass hysteria and help catch suspected cases earlier, in case they happen to be there as unlikely as that is.
In a way, Lebanon is better prepared for Ebola than it is for any of our average crisis. Our hospitals are well equipped and can handle such cases extremely well. We have excellent equipment and doctors and, believe it or not, excellent medical management – at least at Beirut’s major hospitals that is.
When it comes to Lebanon, there’s a lot of crazy that keeps going around. There must be something in the water. Scratch that. There’s no water for anything to be in it. So I assume it must be in the air.
A quick round on today’s quirky news reveals MTV’s twitter account getting hacked by pro-hezbollah goons who wanted to teach the anti-hezbollah network a lesson in resistance morals. Another round of crazy in Lebanon comes in the form of what I wrote yesterday, about guards in my hometown assaulting Syrians left and right, just because. But of course, as it is natural around this country, there would be something to steal the spotlight.
I swear, some things you just can’t make up.
The story goes as follows:
MP Nicolas Fattouch, of Zahle, known to be the one our government paid about 240 million dollars as compensation for shutting down his illegal quarries, was heading to the justice palace in order to file paperwork, I’m assuming yet another lawsuit.
The clerk there, a woman named Manale Daou, respectful and helpful as she is kindly asked the parliament member to wait for his turn. As it stands, Mr. Fattouch wouldn’t have it. “I am Nicolas Fattouch,” he said to her, “a member of the Lebanese parliament. I can’t wait.”
I guess some people are above the rules. Honestly, at this point I don’t know why any of us are even feigning shock, except the story gets better.
“Of course sir,” Manale Daou replied, “but everyone has their turn.” So naturally, Nicolas Fattouch proceeded to quietly stand in line and wait his turn like the other desperate citizens in front of him stuck in Lebanese bureaucracy took out his hand and proceeded to punch Manale Daou in her throat. Because she told him to effectively take a number, like a regular Lebanese citizen, like you and I are supposed to do every single day.
The employees at the Justice Palace then intervened to get the MP off of Manale Daou’s neck. Fattouch’s bodyguards came to escort him out of the building, then LBC reported on it.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how I’m sure many MPs, represented by Mr. Fattouch, view you as a Lebanese citizen: irrelevant, worthless, a nuisance, a hurdle, a throat ready to be punched, a voice ready to be squashed.
Other MPs are doing the latter by extending their mandate for a reported two years, yet again. They’re also suing people who dare speak up against their practices, using your tax money to drag you through a Lebanese circle of legal hell. Fattoush did the former, and will walk away unscathed, untouched, and possibly congratulated by his bodyguard, his people over in Zahle for being the epitome of Lebanese “roujoule,” not standing down to that pest at the Justice Palace. Women should know their place. Lebanese people should know their places.
In an ideal world, Manale Daou would be able to sue Mr. Fattouch for assault. And she would win. And she would throw him in jail for a few months, topped off with a hefty fine, which is only fair given the amount he was given out of our tax money for his illegal business’s demise.
In an ideal world, other MPs would stand against their comrade and denounce his behavior. Instead of calling for their next session to be about yet another renewal of parliamentary mandate, they’d call for a session to effectively strip Mr. Fattouch off of his diplomatic immunity, making him as vulnerable to the very fragile Lebanese law as people who aren’t immune are.
In an ideal world, what MP Fattouch did is considered political suicide. It’s an Anthony Weiner-level scandal, or even worse. At least the latter kept it digital. Mr. Fattouch would then never see the inside of parliament ever again, except on one of those tours that happen every now and then to show Lebanese citizens how beautiful the empty hall of that useless building is.
Enough with utopian paragraphs, I suppose. In corrupt, maimed, fragmented, despicable and fragmented Lebanon, there are varying degrees of inequality. There are those who are irrelevant, who view rules as something to make everyone’s lives easier, who think there’s a beauty to order and weep at its nonexistence over here, among other things. And there are those who are above standing in line, above the law, above being called corrupt and above facing repercussions for assaulting a woman in broad daylight, at her workplace, in front of her coworkers and leaving the scene without batting an eyelid. In today’s Lebanon, the only discourse pertaining to Fattouch will go as follows: Wayn yo? Just going about my day, bro.
You are irrelevant. Bask in the hopelessness.
Update: Manale Daou has reportedly apologized to MP Fattoush and a judge has reconciled the two. What a shame.
The sign says: welcome to Ebrine. Huddled on a bunch of hills east of Batroun, my hometown is considered as one of the area’s largest. It is Maronite by excellence. The sign could have also said welcome to Maronistan and you’d still be within realms of accuracy.
Growing up, I never truly fit there but I liked it nonetheless. It was peaceful, serene, had amazing scenery and, at the time, I thought it provided everything that I needed. Little did I know that a whole spectrum existed beyond the realms of those 7 hills, 2000 voters and dozen Churches.
My hometown has also lately become a hub where Syrian refugees and workers have aggregated in substantial numbers, or at least as substantial a number can be to tick off the brains of townsfolk that I had thought were kind. I was wrong.
The argument went: “if those Syrians got slingshots, they’d be able to overtake us.” Yes, 500 Syrians with slingshots overtaking a town of about 4000 people. Because that made a whole lot of sense. So some people in my hometown, without a municipality due to political bickering, decided to devise an ingenious idea: set up guard duty, whereby men whose ages range from prepubescent to senile made sure those Syrians were kept in line, whatever it took.
Those guards were self appointed, related to whoever felt it was his moral duty to protect the holy Christians of Ebrine from the fictive threat of Daesh looming among those dark Arab faces coming in from that desert to the East. Their duties were also entirely dependent on whatever they felt like doing. They circulated fliers, forcing shops to put them on their storefronts, to make sure that order is kept: you have to make sure the Syrians renting at your places are registered. You are not to hire Syrians to do work around the town. You are not to let those Syrians do anything that any normal human being is supposed to be able to do, because they are not worthy.
Day X of guarding. A Syrian woman goes into labor in my hometown. It takes her husband an hour between calling this or that to be able to get his wife out of their apartment, into a car and in to the nearest hospital so she can deliver her child. One more Syrian to protect those God-fearing Christians from. What a tragedy.
Day Y of guarding. A male Syrian worker is kept up by his employer at work beyond the 8PM curfew time for Syrians that the guards of my hometown set up for them. He complains about it because of how worried he was at the impeding hell he’d have to go through at the hands of those guards, manifesting primarily by a lovely town policeman who has been around as far as I can remember, bolstered by a support from the Frangieh household, that has seen him pull through a bunch of corruption scandals and still maintain his position. When that worker reached his home, he had the phone number of his employer at the ready, as the latter had told him to do, to ask the guards to call him. Our town’s policeman looked at that Syrian for a minute and told him: say this to your employer, slapping him across the face so hard he was left with a bruise over his left eye for the following week.
Day Z of guarding. Another male Syrian arrived from Syria to join his family at the very welcoming town of Ebrine. That young Syrian, aged in the early 20s, didn’t know of the rules that some random self-appointed people at that town had set up. So at 9PM, on the second day of him being in Lebanon, he decided to leave his house and visit a shop at the town renowned for opening late in order to purchase groceries. He was spotted by our town’s policeman. Why are you here was not even asked. Are you not aware of the rules was not even thrown out in the air. The next thing you know, that policeman was hitting that young Syrian like his entire existence depended on it. A few minutes later, he was joined by 5 or 6 other young men from Ebrine, with all their built up testosterone, and they let that young man have it. It wasn’t until his father showed up, and saw his son being tossed around from one macho to the next that they stopped. My son isn’t aware of your rules, he told them. He’s only been here for two days, he pleaded. What a shame.
I presume a bunch of thank yous are in order:
THANK YOU to those guards who found it’s their Jesus-given right to protect the townspeople against the nonexistent dangers of Daesh at the heart of Maronistan. I’ve never felt safer, or at ease at Ebrine as I do now. 1984 is alive and well. Bravo, bravo. Applause everyone.
THANK YOU to the Qa’em Makam of Batroun for turning a blind eye to the practices of those guards and the arbitrary rules they’re setting up for everyone and the sheer immaturity with which they are governing a town that has no actual governing body. Bravo, bravo. Applause everyone.
THANK YOU to my hometown’s policeman, roaming around with that SUV on which “Baladiyyat Ebrine” is plastered across. I am eternally grateful to those muscles you used to beat up unknowing Syrians whose only fault was them being Syrians renting at the premises of someone you didn’t like. I am eternally grateful to you being the man that you are because if it hadn’t been for that, none of us would be safe and sound. None. Bravo, bravo. Applause everyone.
THANK YOU to the Frangieh household which has stuck with that policeman through thick and thin. Pistachio goes a long way round this town. Corruption? Who cares. Madness? Nobody gives a shit. Bravo, bravo. Applause everyone.
THANK YOU to the people of Ebrine who haven’t spoken up against the guards roaming their streets, who believe their presence is absolutely normal, who think those duties are actually protecting them and who have forgotten how it is to live under duress, under an all-seeing eye monitoring your every move. What goes around comes around, indeed. Bravo, bravo. Applause everyone.
THANK YOU to the Lebanese government, in all its facets, for turning a blind eye to the rising self-governance taking place across the Lebanese republic. Extending the mandate of parliament is definitely more important. Bravo, bravo. Applause everyone.
Some people, like those guards and that policeman, deserve Daesh. So, in frank Lebanese let me tell them: tfeh.
“We came to slaughter you, Cross worshipers,” is the sentence that made headline news in Lebanon a couple of days ago, as the people of the Northern city Al-Mina woke up to find it branded on one of their Churches. It came a day after Crosses were burned in Ain el Helwe and “the Islamic State is coming” was drawn up on other Churches in the country.
As a natural consequence to such exciting development, the news cycle will now go as follows:
1) Insert priest from Church in question spewing hate,
2) Insert local Christian lamenting about being threatened and being afraid,
3) Insert Muslim figure saying they do not support the graffiti,
4) Insert some high ranking figure saying they’re opening an investigation,
5) Insert pictures of personnel wiping the graffiti away, followed by political analysts salivating over the golden goose: the start of Christian persecution in Lebanon is finally here. Get ready for a Lebanese Maaloula soon. Or take up arms.
The saddest facet to the lives of Lebanese Christians today is that many are indeed taking up arms or considering it. Even Christian politicians are no longer hiding it. The ISIS threat is tangible and a decent enough excuse to uncover practices that have undoubtedly been taking place for a long time now. Lebanon is, perhaps still unofficially, in a race of arms, again.
I’ve heard people all around the place discussing taking up arms, being ready to fight and die. I’ve seen people who not only want to hold up arms but are thirsty for it, reminiscing over days and years that most would rather be forgotten. Those people are not middle aged men who were active during the war; they are university students, educated youth who don’t know what war is and whose expertise in weaponry extends to the occasional summer season bird hunting.
The talk about taking up arms has become near omniscient among Christians today. If you tell the people that such a race for arms is futile, the retort is typically always: they’re doing worse, and yes perhaps they are, but is that an enough excuse to further push the country and its already fragile communities off the cliff it’s decidedly running towards? Is the reply that “we must be ready” enough for such an undertaking given that there’s probably nothing for us to be ready for?
I, for one, am not afraid of ISIS, even as they knock on Arsal’s doors and find insurgents in select cities across the country, I still don’t feel remotely threatened by such an entity and I believe neither should other Lebanese Christians, regardless of their degree of religiosity for one simple reason: Their situation in Lebanon is grossly different from the situation of Christians in Syria or Iraq. The community here is far stronger, much more represented, has a bigger national footprint than their Syrian or Iraqi counterparts, who have been systematically decimated, be it in numbers or in political power, for several years now.
What makes me afraid, however, is that the households of people that I know are now being turned into barracks, that their closets are being filled with riffles instead of clothes, that the people I know and once thought were docile creatures are increasingly ready to pounce, when there’s no reason to.
What makes me afraid is that people that had for the past few years been the main buffer in the country against war are turning that buffer into a catalyst. How can Christians stay in a country they’re actively working on destroying, even if that’s not really their aim?
What makes me afraid is not a threat that needs a near miracle to find a footprint in Lebanon, but of the fact that even with such a threat looming at our doors, our politicians still can’t agree on electing a president, arguably the highest Christian position in the country, to lead. They can’t even agree on the best way to handle ISIS. Even in such extreme and drastic circumstances, Lebanon’s Christian communities are as fragmented as they’ve ever been.
With every graffiti proclaiming the rise of an Islamic state on your churches, with every news of injustice befalling Christians in the Near East and with every rise in the fear you’re having, you are faced with two options.
You can take up arms and get ready to fight again in a war that will probably not befall upon us. You can do as everyone else is doing and learn how to kill, dub it defending yourself, and make sure it’s in your own hands, not in the hands of a feeble government and its army.
Or you can ask yourself the question branded on those bracelets you wear: what would Jesus do? Odds are He would painted over the graffiti, restored the churches, remained the buffer this country desperately needs between its two clashing sides and sought normality.
Look at them burning our Crosses. Look at them drawing those things on our Churches. Look at their sheikhs and their Friday sermons. Yes, those things are happening true, but how hypocritical is it to be appalled by such things when Lebanese Christians have done similar things as well? And in the grand scheme of things how irrelevant is a graffiti and how useless is burning a piece of wood, regardless of its meaning, at a time when there are so many more important things taking place, at a time when it’s perhaps more important to ignore and turn that other cheek?
I returned home yesterday evening to find a brand new graffiti on one of the buildings next to my apartment in Achrafieh. “The Crusaders are staying in Lebanon,” it said. I chuckled as I took a picture of it. What was the point of such a graffiti in the middle to Achrafieh, an area that won’t have anything ISIS related unless it’s the burning of their flag? What was the point of such an “empowering” slogan in an area whose people don’t remotely need so? Isn’t it preaching to the choir? But then again, when have Lebanese Christians not been hung up on the superficialities of them being Christians in Lebanon? Some things will never change. What would Jesus do? Probably not this.
Move away Game of Thrones, Lebanon is in full swing to make sure the ground is fertile – no pun – for our very own dark aged winter.
After minster of Justice Achraf Rifi decided there’s nothing more important than to go after those who burned the ISIS flag in Achrafieh, our ministry of telecommunication, spear-headed by Abdul Menhem Youssef, is aiming to stop Lebanese citizens from watching porn, by banning ISPs and Internet providers from letting citizens access a select number of sites, which are:
Didn’t you hear, people? Our government is all about making sure the collective morals of the Lebanese community remain intact. After all, is there anything other than porn in Lebanon today that could be leading to the massive and tangible decline in manners?
In the grand scheme of Lebanese things, we have other liberties being violated than the freedom to have a wider array of porn websites. As it stands, other porn websites will still remain available for whoever likes to feast their senses and bodily fluids, but what precedence are we setting with such measures, especially at a time like this when there are much, much graver things that warrant bans?
At the top of my head, before banning porn, the ministry of telecommunication should ban access to every single video on the internet showing anyone, especially Lebanese army personnel, being killed by Da’esh.
The ministry of telecommunication should also consider banning websites or platforms whose sole purpose is to perpetuate the message of ISIS, effectively making sure gullible minds don’t fall prey to it.
Between the arrest of 27 men recently for engaging in homosexual acts at a local Beiruti Hammam, and the current war against porn websites, one cannot but wonder what is this ongoing onslaught by the Lebanese establishment against sex lately?
If I were the Lebanese minister of telecommunication, I wouldn’t ban any porn websites. I would propagate them, aggressively so, hoping that some youth out there would get the release it needs to ease the horned up tension among the Lebanese populace. It’s not a coincidence that the more liberated a society is, sexually, the more peaceful it is.
But forget about all that, today Lebanese telecom ministry is telling Da’esh and its likes, with perhaps small but significant steps: Let them cum.
There are many things that Ashraf Rifi should care about, as the minister of justice in Lebanon today.
For instance, as a man from Tripoli he should care about the fact his own city is in deep hell right now, sinking further and further as days go by. He should care about his own people back there who are afraid of speaking up against the militants that could pop up at anytime, threaten their security. He should care about those same people who are too afraid to exist in their homes right now.
Ashraf Rifi should care about the fact that our policemen can arrest anyone they please without cause, keep them in jails and drag them through messy bureaucratic processes until they get bored, and there’s nothing anyone can do about that.
Ashraf Rifi should care about the fact that our entire Lebanese legal system is aimed at a way to decimate our women’s potential, robbing them of the ability to pass on their citizenship to their children, of having equal inheritance sometimes, of having equal pay with their XY counterpart and, among other examples, of being able to open a miserable bank account for their children without the consent of those children’s father.
Ashraf Rifi should care about how ISIS is threatening the very fragile fabrics of Lebanese society, of how they are beheading our own army members. He should care about the grave injustice that befell Ali El Sayyed, that army member whose family had to see him die in pictures, incidentally a Sunni – the people Rifi likes to kiss up to for popularity.
Today, the only thing Ashraf Rifi cares about is making sure you burning the ISIS flag in Lebanon is illegal, instead of going after the people supporting ISIS in Lebanon or stopping people from flying it on their cars and balconies. Why so? Because it has the emblem of the prophet Muhammad and has the slogan: There is no god but God on it, effectively making it a Muslim holy entity.
Today, Ashraf Rifi is not being a minister of justice for the entirety of Lebanon but for his very narrow Sunni sect, to the extremists there who are actually appalled at some people in Achrafieh burning a flag that has the name of their prophet on it.
Today, Ashraf Rifi doesn’t really care about being a politician for an entire country with a holistic approach towards every single person in that country. He wants to be a politician for a specific group, working to make sure he pleases that specific group at all times, at a time when such rhetoric, ideals and attitudes are extremely, extremely dangerous.
There are many things we can do to fight ISIS in Lebanon that are not military. We can be aware people who have some context and understanding towards each other, first and foremost, in order to have the minimum amount of required dialogue to establish some form of agreement on where we want Lebanon today to head.
We can transcend our petty, narrow-minded and limited sects and not fall back to what is familiar, as Rifi is doing, like most of Lebanon’s sunni politicians today: going back to what they believe boosts their popularity, gives them sectarian cred, makes them stronger and gives them more clout.
Today, Ashraf Rifi has it all wrong. Instead of doing what he should have done as a minister of justice, he is inciting sectarianism at a time when this is the last thing anyone should do, especially a politician like him, in a government aimed at ruling the entire country, not just the Sunni sect.
The ISIS flag has holy Muslims symbols, but burning it is not insulting Islam, it’s a protest to what ISIS is doing to the people of Iraq, the people of Syria, the people of Lebanon and to our Lebanese army. It’s a protest against the beheading of James Foley, Ali Al Sayyed, the many, many more Sunni muslims who were killed by ISIS and whose deaths are ignored by many. The real insult to Islam here is the existence of ISIS.
What Ashraf Rifi is asking for today is an insult to those people first and foremost and not an insult to Islam. It’s an insult to the intellect of any Lebanese person who wants their freedom of expression to remain intact in this country. It’s an insult to every single Sunni who’s having their entire reputation tarnished as a sect that doesn’t accept others, is still hung up on shallow appearances and is going more and more in its own bubble.
Sunnis in Lebanon today have many, many problems. Their politicians are one of those problems. In Lebanon today, it’s fine to burn a flag with the star of David. It’s fine to burn a flag with a Cross. But when it comes to burning the flag of a terrorist organization, all bets are off?
We need bold statements like Aliaa Magda Elmahdy’s against ISIS. We need to burn their flag. We need to rise beyond their terrorism. We need to get over the limited view of religion at a time when the people of ISIS are using religion to kill people.
If the prophet Muhammad were alive today, he’d be the first person burning that flag down. Ashraf Rifi should have known better.
For a country that prides itself with its religious diversity, branding it as a tourism slogan and all the cliche that comes with it, we sure are extremely ignorant when it comes to those who don’t belong to the sect we were born in.
I’ve been wondering lately about how it must be to a Lebanese Sunni in Lebanon today, to be a person who has to constantly wonder whether the person facing you is secretly wondering whether you are an ISIS member in disguise or whether your mother is sympathetic with the terrorists in Arsal or whether your entire existence is directed at implanting the Islamic State in our land.
I’ve been realizing, upon pondering over the issue, that if I were a Lebanese Sunni today, I’d be angry.
Somehow it is assumed that being a Sunni automatically means army hate and support of the murder or kidnapping of its members. Even the army’s blood is a matter of hypocrisy, or how could you explain how the murder of Samer Hanna was easily dismissed as an honest mistake for failure to inform?
When Lebanese army officers acted out against protesters in Mar Mkhayel, in Beirut’s southern suburb, those army personnel were reprimanded and put on trial. MP Hashem even went out to say that the incidents are a “massacre.” No one cared at the time. Few remember that now. Stances against the army are also a matter of hypocrisy and in the eye of the beholder.
Terrorists, Terrorists Everywhere:
When Charles Ayoub decided to bring some attention to himself and his “newspaper” by fabricating a story about the banning of Crosses in a Sunni Lebanese city, people were not quick to investigate but to judge. Those Sunnis are all terrorists. They want to eradicate us from our land à la نحن هنا وهنا سنبقى .
All hell broke loose, rightfully so, when the mayor of Tripoli banned beer ads in the city. But when this and this happened in Tyre a couple of years ago, before ISIS and all those Sunni terrorists, no one blinked an eye, because alcohol is haram, but when Tripoli did it, it was all about the Sunnis wanting to enforce the Sharia in Lebanon.
Ahrar Sunna Baalbek:
Lebanese Tweeps were also not only quick but exceedingly enthusiastic about a Twitter account proclaiming itself to represent the free Sunnis of Baalbek. No one had known who was operating the account at the time but everyone assumed the content must be real. Sunnis are all terrorists. When the operator of the account turned out to be a Hezbollah supporter, everyone who had quoted it feverishly to point fingers was quick to dismiss him as just “another lost youth.”
One Year Later:
One year ago today, Tripoli was blasted in two of its mosques. It was fated that both explosions wouldn’t work according to plan, which was to maximize casualties. The result, however, was almost 50 people dead, including many children, and a city that saw its biggest acts of terrorism since the Civil War. By all standards, the Tripoli explosions – the first aimed at such a massive agglomeration of civilians in the country – should have shocked Lebanon into a different state of being. Nobody, however, cared. The perpetrators were even identified. They were not Sunni extremists. They were, in fact, Syrian regime sympathizers, and still nobody cared. Few expressed anger, indignation, was appalled, offended, disgusted, scared and worried about themselves. I guess terrorism is only scary when it affects non-Sunnis and is perpetrated by Sunnis.
Hezbollah Hearts Syria:
Hezbollah decided to go to Syria to help its BFFs combat a rising mostly-Sunni opposition. The fights were hidden at first, denied, but widely known among anyone with a critical mind. Soon enough, Hezbollah was admitting to a growing list of casualties of young Lebanese men, at the prime of their lives, coming in from Syrian fights. Today, the list of Hezbollah militants who died in Syria is around 500. Today as well, if you dare speak out against what Hezbollah is doing in Syria, you are painted as an ISIS sympathizer who wants to bring them into the country – because somehow, a Shiite militant group fighting Sunnis does not put fuel on a centuries old fire between Shiites and Sunnis.
It all goes back to that day. The glorious day of May 7th as some would put it, when militants stormed Sunni areas of Beirut in retaliation of governmental decisions that affected their reach and power. The cover-up? Our government is working undercover for the Israelis in dismantling the opposition. The result? A complete disintegration of the fragile relations between Lebanon’s Sunni and Shiite sects, reflected first and foremost in the political status quo that has been perpetuated since that day as Lebanon’s Shiites finally assumed the banner of the country’s strongest and most powerful sect. Tripoli, arguably Lebanon’s biggest Sunni agglomeration, started its spiral decline during that period as well. The rise of Lebanese Sunni extremism and the rise of Assir were a consequence of that day too.
Assir went to ski. Assir went to the beach. Assir took his four wives shopping. Assir took his three hundred children biking. Assir went to the bathroom. Assir made a speech. Assir belched. Assir did this or that. And it was all documented, like a bonafide Lebanese version of the Truman Show. Assir turned out to be irrelevant. His lasting effect on the perception of the Sunni sect and on the fabrics of Sunni society as well, with his fiery messages of hate, were not as irrelevant. The perception of the Lebanese Sunni sect, with the rise of Assir, became mostly seen through that lens.
Hariri & Co:
In a country where sects are bulked and extrapolated to the single political figure that represents them, Lebanon’s Sunnis have been stranded since 2011 when Hezbollah orchestrated the governmental coup that overtook Hariri and literally kicked him out of the country for a three year sabbatical between Paris, a broken leg in the Alps and occasional pilgrimages to Saudi Arabia. The effect of the Future Movement, Lebanon’s moderate Sunni political group, started dwindling to the pleasure of little Orangey Christian folks. Its ranks, with the absence of their unified leadership, began to crack both financially and politically. Dissidents began to show as its MPs started to stray from the moderate message that FM employed for its Lebanese politics, and the people followed.
The international tribunal for Lebanon, appointed by the United Nations to investigate the assassination of Rafic Hariri and a growing list of figures after him had come to the conclusion that Hezbollah was responsible for the assassination. Trusting the STL, however, meant you are a member of the imperialistic American controversy aimed at dismantling Lebanese society. Your only option in Lebanon today is to consider the STL a clear attempt at weakening Hezbollah in the face of Israel. There are no other variables allowed to you.
In a decent country, the above list wouldn’t matter. In fact, the above issues would be a matter of national debate – as they should – as to the best way to approach the divided fabrics in our society and assure social justice to all in a civil society, which we don’t have and probably never will. We cannot, however, keep ignoring that there is a grave injustice in the media, in our minds and in our daily lives towards each other, especially the Lebanese Sunni sect, portrayed today as the prime fighter for the rights of the Islamic State in Lebanon. Once upon a time, I overhead a Lebanese say that he believes all the people of Arsal should be killed, women, children, elderly and men – just because they harbored Syrian refugees. He then added that it’s what Lebanese Sunnis have always done. This is not normal nor is it acceptable.
In the sectarian Lebanon of today, if a Sunni had written this post that you’re reading now, you’d have dismissed him as another one of those extremist sympathizers who hate the army, want Israel to eradicate Hezbollah and are against the current of what is perceived to be the Lebanese way of life. There’s more to the Lebanese sectarian reality today than the last few years have brought to us with their actions, reactions and actions again. The culmination of those past few years, however, is a Lebanese society today that is in a silent war.
The majority of Lebanese Sunnis are moderates, as is the case with Lebanon’s other sects, which is what has allowed this country to exist for as long as it has despite the many troubles along the way. The magnifying glass of the media, the people and everything in between is on the minority, regardless of how substantial it is, that does not believe in moderation.
If I were a Lebanese Sunni, I’d find what’s happening to be unfair. I’d be horrified at the way Lebanese media is portraying me, at how other Lebanese people of other sects that aren’t much better – even today – think of me. I’d be appalled that most Lebanese Christians fear me when most of them are closeted extremists who’d pick up the nearest riffle and go to war if they had the chance. I’d be appalled that Lebanese Sunnis have the country’s poorest and most illiterate populations, out of which emanate the extremism attributed to the entire sect today, and still the brush paints the entire wall black.
If I were an uneducated Sunni with nothing in sight but religion and being too easily susceptible for brainwashing, it would be a sure slippery slope for me until I become a militia man who hates the army, becomes active against it and raises the لا اله الا الله flag on my balcony.
The Lebanese situation is almost textbook-like, but we are too blinded, too prejudiced and too politically non-neutral to have a sane discussion about what must be done. Extremist Lebanese Sunnis must be eradicated, it is said. The problem is that their eradication, as is presumed forcibly, will lead to other groups that are more extreme and that can do worse things. Know why we have extremists before lashing out at their existence. What we need today is to understand why radicalization is happening in our country, why we suddenly hear of Lebanese suicide bombers, of Lebanese who go to fight for greater causes, whatever it might be. Are we ready as a country for that? I guess the correct response to that is: are you fucking kidding me?