Neither Aoun Nor Geagea Is Defending Lebanese Christian “Rights”

Preamble:
The following is what the LF, FPM, Kataeb and Marada agreed upon in Bkerke:

“The parties convening have decided not to run based on the 1960 law and consider the law at hand as one that consecrates the injustice towards Christians. The parties convening have also agreed on the need to take a firm stance against the 1960 law in fear of having this law forced as a reality when the nomination window is open. It is also important to affirm that this law is rejected and is non-viable as a reference to run for elections.”

The electoral reality today:
As the nomination window for the 1960s law closes, the ministry of interior has tabulated 706 nominees, which contain more than 20 candidates for each of parties that agreed upon the above preamble. Talk about “not running” and taking a stance against the “unjust” law at hand.

Let’s talk electoral laws:

This isn’t the only part as to why these politicians are doing a terribly bad job but it’s the most current and as such deserves being dissected in grosso modo to draw a frame for the discussion.

Michel Aoun started out against the Orthodox Law and supportive of the law proposed by the government (13 districts with proportional representation). He later on switched stances to support the Orthodox Law because other Christian parties jumped on the bandwagon (the LF were the first to support this law publicly), effectively becoming the law’s main defender despite him fully knowing that the law will never, ever see the light of the day. If by some miracle the Christian consensus around it were to make it to parliament, the law wouldn’t pass the president. And if the president ended up signing it, the constitutional council might have probably found it unconstitutional. Aoun knew this and knew it well. He also knew that the only reason he was getting support from Hezbollah over the law was because Hezbollah didn’t lose any Shiite seats with it and would use it to boost him among Christians, not because they are deeply concerned for the rights of Christians. He also knew that the support Nabih Berri gave the law was lukewarm at best. That’s why he kept his options open and gave us another electoral option: one proportional representation district. All other laws were rejected, as was obvious by his party’s practices and as is their right.

Samir Geagea started out with the neatly-cut 50 district laws which makes sure his party gets a majority in parliament. When that law received no outside support, he switched to the Orthodox Law and became a prime defender of that law… until he hit the roadblack set forth by his allies regarding the law and for a while it seemed he was taking on the Future movement and Jumblat by marching on with the Orthodox Law. At one point, Geagea’s breathing space came in the form of a Bkerke agreement to put the Orthodox Law on hold and to find a law that brings more consensus. So he effectively killed off the Orthodox Law and started running a campaign against it, only to be “surprised” by an anti-Geagea campaign from FPM supporters and a bishop who obviously went beyond his jurisdiction. Shouldn’t they stick to masses and baptism?

The problem with Christians and the electoral law is two-fold.

  1. In the most optimistic of scenarios, we are 40% of the voting population which has to vote for 50% of parliament.
  2. Lebanese Christians are the only sectarian component of Lebanese society which have a true form of “democracy” whereby despite their numbers, the 50-50 division between Aoun and Geagea renders them meaningless.

Parliamentarian representation has two components as well. Let’s call them a horizontal and a vertical factor. The horizontal factor is an MP’s sect and the vertical factor is his region. The Orthodox law tackles one but not the other. The question, therefore, asks itself: How is Aoun defending “my” electoral rights when he supports a law he knows will not pass and when the other law he supports is one that basically makes “my” vote irrelevant (not that I personally care), effectively not allowing me to make the decisive choice in ANY of the Christian MPs?

And how is Geagea defending “my” electoral rights when his support of electoral laws is almost always apparently contingent upon what his allies believe is best, despite his best attempts not to make it look that way? And how is it defending “my” rights to be a staunch supporter of a law one day and have your media work staunchly on portraying it the “best” for “Christian rights,” effectively convincing most Christians of this, only to trash it when the wind blows differently?

How are both Geagea and Aoun defending “my” rights when they both refused a Kataeb proposal of personal electoral districts which effectively fixes the two-fold problem I have presented earlier? How are they defending “my” rights when the probable reason of their refusal is because personal districts limits their parties’ influence? How are they defending “my” rights when they don’t really care for “my” parliamentarian representation as much as their parliamentarian share?

I Liked Geagea:

I would be lying if I said my mind doesn’t lean one way in the Aoun-Geagea dichotomy. There’s nothing wrong in supporting any of these two men. In fact, I personally believe that between 2005 and 2010, Samir Geagea had a near parcours-sans-faute in Lebanese politics. His discourse was Lebanon-centric. He was moving his party away from the common misconception (at least back then) that it was a Christian party by the Christians for the Christians. They even actively worked to kill off the Lebanese Forces typical symbol of that cut cross. But not today.

Nowadays, the discussion of both men is as Christian-centric as it gets. The more Christian-centric one of them gets, the more Christian-centric the other goes. And I may be a minority in thinking this but I really don’t believe “my rights” are best served in the rhetoric being spewed by both men and their supporters all over the place and even some priests and bishops.

“My” rights are also not served, in my opinion, when the rhetoric being employed is one that is only leading to increase the divide in the country and not work towards trying to fix things. When Aoun completely ignores the fact that his ally Hezbollah is fighting in support of the Syrian army in Al Qusayr, how is that defending “my rights?” How is it defending “my” rights when a politician such as Aoun is completely silent, effectively supporting, the practices of Hezbollah in defending an army and a regime whose main purpose was to destroy my rights as a Christian in Lebanon for years and years? How is it defending “my” rights when the only arguments used on the matter are ones revolving around Jabhet el Nusra and the rise of Sunni extremism while completely ignoring the equally dangerous Shiite extremism and political brainwashing at hand?

On the other hand, how is it “right-defending” for Geagea to completely ignore the rise of the Ahmad el Assir phenomenon or at least not actively work towards decreasing it? What about is his silence regarding the Future Movement’s involvement in fueling the Syrian crisis with his support of the rebels? What about his silence on the Lebanese Sunni extremists who are entering the fights in Syria in support of one of the sides, effectively becoming the same version of Aoun on the other side of Sunni-Shia divide?

Both Aoun and Geagea are taking parts in the Sunni-Shia problem that Lebanon is facing today and their parts are not healthy, not even in the least. Instead of making Christians a form of link between those two components of Lebanese society, our politicians are working on getting those components further apart with their near-blind support of whatever they do and whatever they commit to. It’s not in our best interest as Christians to take either position from the Sunni-Shia struggle at hand. It’s not in our best interest to take the sides we’re taking. It’s also not in our best interest to stand on the sidelines and cheer. The best way to fight for “our” rights is to take the right stance at the right time. At the current time, that stance is the following: get the parties involved not to drag the Syrian war into Lebanese territory, which will lead to more degradation of Christian rights.

A Lack of Vision?

With Aoun coming out against the extension of parliament’s mandate (at least until now) and Geagea possibly announcing his stance in a few hours, I have to wonder: are our politicians truly out of imagination or resources to succumb to the status quo this way? And how is it defending “my” rights when, in one way or another, they both don’t take the fight the long way home and contribute to transforming this country from a growing democracy to a growing dictatorship? That’s the only way really to categorize our parliament extending its mandate for itself.

Is there any guarantee that, in case parliament extends its mandate for two years, our politicians will actually reach a new electoral law? No.

Is there any guarantee that, in case parliament extends its mandate for two years, the security situation will become better enough to hold elections? No.

Why not, for instance, ratify the 1960 law in the following way: divide Akkar in two districts, bring the Maronite seat of Tripoli to Batroun, move a few seats from Beirut 3 to Beirut 1, move a few seats from West Bekaa (where 20% of the population is Christian and gets 4 seats out of 6) and put them somewhere else?

Why not run elections based on that ratified 1960 law, upon which Christians might be able to choose around 50 of their representatives, with an agreement to have parliament work day in and day out in order to reach an electoral law after which it dissolves and we hold new elections? It even has the same guarantees as the extension scenario.

The democratic process in this country has to be upheld. Any talks about modifying it because (insert any form of non-viable argument) does nothing to defend “my” rights as a Lebanese first and foremost.

People Like Us:

I believe or at least I hope that this sentiment is shared by many Lebanese Christians today. It baffles me how Lebanese politicians somehow believe they talk on behalf of every single Lebanese when there are people like us who don’t agree with almost any of their practices nowadays.

I, for one, believe no one represents me today and I kindly request them all to back off “my rights.”

“Sad” Lebanese News: Myriam Klink Doesn’t Run For Elections

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I can hear you weeping all the way over here. But after much talk on the matter, all with a brief stint on a reality TV show devoted for the matter, Myriam Klink hasn’t run for Lebanon’s upcoming elections, if they will happen to begin with.

Her name is not among the list of Orthodox candidates for Metn (link) and she has denied running as well via a statement (link).

Of course Klink not running wasn’t her choice. She pulled up in her pink hummer in front of the ministry of interior and had all the necessary papers ready when she received a phone call from someone who threatened her with the electoral boogeyman also known as “teshtib.” At that point, her manager decided that the political situation in the country is too unsafe and dirty for Klink to run so he took the papers and money and ran out of the car with Klink running after him.

Now THAT is something I would have loved to see. If only the 706 people that ran for elections had a “Johnny” to take away their money and papers and get them to chase after him. For those who are disappointed Myriam Klink’s legs won’t make it to parliament, fear not. Nathalie Fadlallah is keeping your hopes alive with her running for the Maronite seat in Tripoli, which is odd since she had declared she was running for the Orthodox seat in Koura earlier (link). I guess she doesn’t know which way she prays, not that she would win anyway.

I, for one, would have liked to see Myriam Klink in parliament. At least she’d serve as some change from the likes of Abdul Latif Zein, who at 81 has served in parliament for 53 years and is running again this time around.

The Conclusion of Dahye’s Missiles: Tripoli Is Not a Lebanese City

2 missiles fell in Beirut today, targeting Hezbollah’s stronghold Dahyeh. Nobody knows why the missiles were fired.
They could be to serve as further proof for the need to extend parliament’s mandate. They could be to show that Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria is not inhumane but very needed.
They could have a multitude of reasons. But I don’t really care.

Minutes after Dahyeh was hit with the two missiles, the level of panic rose to enormous levels. Lebanese media was all over it with live coverage from the sites of the missile launch, conspiracy theories along the lines of المؤامرة على سوريا were being thrown around, to name a few.

Our minister of interior Marwan Charbel was the first Lebanese official to visit the site in question. More will soon follow because can you imagine them not visiting an area that was just targeted with two missiles?

Guess again.

Over the past week, the capital of North Lebanon was hit with thousands of missiles and mortars, 1200 of which fell in one single night.

How many official visits happened to the city? Zero.

How extensive was the media coverage for the battles? Let me quote a friend of mine who has been following the news very closely: “I was honestly convinced the electoral law was the most important thing taking place today.”

Did you know that snipers are still shooting aplenty across the city?

Even the politicians of Tripoli were quicker to condemn the missiles of Beirut than the missiles of their own city.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have reached the realization we’ve all been pondering over for a long time now. It may be within the confines of our beloved and much-spoke about 10452km2 but the Northern city of Tripoli might not be effectively part of this country at all. And we never had such temporally close examples to back that claim up.

We complain about some media’s hypocrisy in the way they talk of the region’s conflicts. And yet we do it, and we keep doing it. The missiles that hit Tripoli are not as important. The latest toll of 31 dead which fell in the recent battles is not important. The reasons why Tripoli is being victim for repeated battles are never spoken about. The citizens of the city who live in terror for days and nights are never really cared about. They are as irrelevant as the city they call home.

What is this Lebanon you speak to me about? Hold on while I push the snooze button on Dahye’s missiles and the 3 injured Syrians who are on their way to rehabilitation.

On Lebanon’s Liberation Day

Liberation day makes me proud.

It makes me proud as a Lebanese because it brought glory to my country.
It makes me proud as a Northerner who had never set foot in his country’s South until this past December that it gave me back my country’s other side.
It makes me proud as a human being because all those people, many of whom are my dear friends, became part of a country again, regardless of how fragmented that country may be. It makes me proud because the sacrifices of those same people for years and years under the tyranny of a foreign army and Lebanese mercenaries came to a triumphant end.

Liberation day makes me sad as well.

It makes me sad because another side of the country’s similar struggles will never be looked upon the same way.
It makes me sad because its meaning is being ridiculed by people out of sheer political gerrymandering.
It makes me sad because the same people that made it are now ruining it with every single drop of Lebanese blood falling in Al Qusayr.

Liberation day makes me pitiful too.

It makes me pity those who are so politically blind today that they cannot be proud of the day’s meaning.
It makes me pity those who are so hateful on sectarian lines that those liberated are not of us and will never be us.
It makes me pity those who were liberated and still think, thirteen years later, that their liberation entitles them to so much more than others.
It makes me pity the people that fought for this liberation and who are destroying its meaning with their massive brainwashing.

I remember being a 10 year old whose mother told him that his South is now liberated. I remember feeling concerned back then. I still feel concerned today. Happy liberation day to those who still care.

Why The Lebanese Government Is Silent On Tripoli

Every once in a while, the city I once referred to as “3enna” by mistake becomes a place I force myself to go the extra mile to recognize.
The last time such heavy fights broke out in the city, we were all in outrage at how media couldn’t care less about the people dying and the innocent lives in danger. Today, the outrage over Tripoli’s worst night since the Civil War is gravitating towards a government that is as apathetic as apathy goes.

However, are we supposed to expect anything more from our government? Tripoli’s Ministers and MPs go on air to voice their disdain and condemnation over what’s going on. What’s actually happening, though, is that in the other side of the room is one of their henchmen waiting on a phone to issue further instructions to the fighters on both sides of the battles.

Najib Mikati feigns peace. But he probably has men fighting. Mohammad el Safadi feigns innocence. But he probably has men fighting too. Have you ever seen how Bab el Tebbane worships Kabbara? Why do you think that is? You don’t have to over think it really.

The solution for Tripoli isn’t political. If it were, all those politicians asking for calm and peace would have succeeded by now. The problem is that those same politicians want to perpetuate the status quo, because this status quo works and does wonders for them and their careers.
It keeps the city poor for them to do their “charity” work.It keeps the city relevant politically for them to make a “political” dent and remain in the country’s political spotlight.

Perhaps the solution for Tripoli is for a side of the battle to actually win. Perhaps the problem in this country is that we have never had a clear winner and a clear loser in anything, not elections, not the war and not even those sporadic battles in Tripoli which we’ve gotten used to.

Until then, my thoughts go to all the people spending their days and nights in absolute terror in the city I’ve come to love, a place that doesn’t deserve the hand it’s dealt.

Disgusting Lebanese Basketball

I used to follow Lebanese basketball as much as I can. I supported Sagesse. Not because of the party they are apparently affiliated with but because I grew up in a house that supported them because it had alumnus from that school and – for a while – they were the best.

However, I believe I’m not the only one who finds Lebanese sports in general and basketball in particular, seeing as it’s the most popular Lebanese sport, to be downright disgusting lately. Even our football league is miserable – not that it was in better shape before. Check this link out.

Every single game to be held lately has to be postponed for some amount of time in order to get the fans to cool off… politically, even the games of teams many thought were irrelevant or had no political backing. Even the Lebanese president now has his own basketball applaud squad in the form of the Amchit team. And here I was thinking I was way behind the times in not knowing Champville was FPM-centric.

I’ve been so disassociated from what was happening actually that I had no idea until recently about all the major scandals that were taking place, most of which were politically coated sport affairs. Most of them revolved around my former go-to team Sagesse and a growing rivalry with Champville with some businessmen thrown in the fold. The “scandal” was all about the Lebanese Forces and the Free Patriotic Movement. Then try to tell a supporter of either parties who’s absolutely elated by what went down that this isn’t how things should go: “Man, l ouwet reb7et...” or “Shou baddna, 3al tayyar ma bi3alle2.”

Every single team playing today has a go-to political affiliation. They are not playing the game, they’re playing for their politician. If they win, they bring his reputation pride. If they lose, it’s his reputation that’s on the line. But fear not, the “supporters” will wreck havoc and make sure no one takes their political affiliation lightly.

But Lebanon’s basketball league is but an absolutely minute representation of the even more disgusting state of Lebanese politics today: the election law “talks” leading to nowhere, the visits between smiling foes when you know they are bottling in every single curse word known to man, the ultra tense mood regarding everything there is. We’re not getting anywhere. Deadlines are looming. And here we are applauding.

The tension on the courts is the tension on the streets. The words going across fields are the words we hear on TV. The slogans shouted are a regurgitation of the ones our politicians franchise.

Talk about sportsmanship. At least someone mathematically wins in basketball. Lebanese politics, on the other hand, is all in the eye of the beholder supporter.

The Myth of All Terrorists Are Muslim

Bad luck Muslims: they drew a deep sigh of relief when the Boston bombings turned out not to be done by a Saudi citizen… it turns out they were European Muslims who, ironically, are literally Caucasian. I guess racial profiling is out the question now?

I didn’t know that a simple comment on a BuzzFeed article from yours truly would spark a debate of over 50 comments and a hundred “likes.” The article in question was simply about the Islam leaning-Youtube page of one of the bombers. My comment was: how is this relevant?

Many sided with me. Many called me overly politically correct. Many others said that even though not all Muslims are terrorists, all the terrorists are Muslims.

If you ponder on that last statement, you are sure led to believe it’s true: the Boston Bombings, 9/11, etc…. However, it turned out to be the furthest thing possible from the truth.

There’s a hypocrisy when it comes to the categorization of “terrorism” in American media. For instance, the Aurora and Newton shootings were not carried out by a “terrorist” but by someone who was mentally unfit. If in a hypothetical scenario that person worshipped Allah instead of God, the “terrorist” label would have been used. Labels tend to stick.

The American and international media have been doing a “fantastic” job at highlighting select bits of acts of human violence and throwing them as representative of an entire sociological or religious aspect. Their portrayal of any violence that happens to come from Muslims tends to be sensationalized à la Middle Eastern way of reporting and, since their extent of knowledge regarding Islam and Muslims is very limited, it also comes off as ignorant. But not to those who take that media as scripture.

Moreover, the numbers to back up the “all terrorists are Muslim” claim is simply not there.

A study published by the FBI – could you get a better US-centric reference? – about the acts  of “terror” on US soil from 1980 till 2005 revealed approximately 318 terrorist attacks that varied in magnitude which break down in the following way:

Terrorism by event USA 1980-2005

Luckily enough, the numbers and data in that study have been turned into a pie-chart (here) that categorizes all the terrorist attacks by religion/ethnicity/background:

Terrorism Islam USASure, many things happened since 2005. But not all of those things were from Muslims. The above percentages may have fluctuated slightly but they’re still representative. For instance, Jewish extremism has over a period of 25 years committed more acts of terror in the United States than Muslims had. Now isn’t that interesting? Did any American know about this or is it hail-Israel and bomb-the-Muslims all the way?

To back this up even further, CNN published a study about the threat of Muslim-American terrorism. The study was done by Duke University and the University of Chapel Hill and found that the supposed danger of the radicalizing of Muslim-Americans post 9/11 has been severely exaggerated. The level is “small compared to other violent crime in America, but not insignificant.”

Violence Begets Violence:

The more societies across the world shut out, categorize and work against people just because they wear a headscarf or pray in a different way, the more these people will find refuge in doctrines that may not represent their true beliefs. The actively-fueled verbal, moral or even social violence only serves to increase the physical violence of those on the other side of the equation. There could be a linear relation there. Sure, the aforementioned premise is an over-simplification but talking about Saudi or Qatari policies of exporting radical Islam coupled with American policies in the region which help fuel this export will take forever.

Is there a growing trend of radicalizing in Islam? I only need to look at samples across my country to say the answer is yes. But fighting this growing radicalization doesn’t happen by clumping those who haven’t fallen prey to erroneous indoctrination with those who have anti-American, anti-West or anti-non-Islam agendas.

The whole point is: political correctness is perhaps something that we need in a time when it’s very easy to judge and lump people in a batch of stereotypes just because we think we know everything there is to know about them, especially when said-political correctness isn’t really coming from a higher moral ground as much as it’s emanating from actual reality.

Empathy isn’t a one-way street. Those terrorist Muslims are the ones dying in the tens and hundreds daily across the world today and it’s not only because they’re fighting among each other.

So next time someone wants to “kill all the Muslims,” know this: not all Muslims are terrorists and it’s a certainty that not all the terrorists are Muslims – not even half of them.

PS: A note from all those big bad Muslims to the people of Boston:

Boston Bombings Syria