Bershka Lebanon Insulting The Virgin Mary

A friend of mine just sent my way the following shirt being sold by Bershka Lebanon for 49,000:

Bershka Shirt Lebanon Christianity - 1 Bershka Shirt Lebanon Christianity - 2

The shirt called Lady of Skulls features a Virgin Mary-esque image that cannot, even with the most out-of-the-box approaches, not be considered as a distortion of many Christians icons of Mary

I am not the most sensitive person when it comes to religious jabs. In fact, I think we need some of them more often so people can light off a little. Caricatures or comedic approaches to some religious symbols might be acceptable – they are to me – but demonizing religious holy figures for the sake of having fun such as in this case is, quite frankly, unacceptable. I find it revolting and offensive.

 

It’s not about freedom of expression or freedom to wear whatever you want. This isn’t a book I’m saying you should not be reading or a movie you shouldn’t be watching or a website you shouldn’t be exposed to. It’s about respecting other people’s beliefs to the point where you don’t shove a picture that is clearly offensive up their faces just because someone out there thought it was fashionable enough to be worn.

Perhaps this is acceptable in countries where views towards religion is more liberal but the only thing this will lead to here is tension because of a silly and quite frankly hideous shirt.

This isn’t how you advance communities towards religious liberalism and breed tolerance, love, peace for all and a bunch of other cliches. Good job Bershka Lebanon.

It seems a Santa Muerte shrine is opening in Lebanon soon. (Link)
Virgin Mary standing on crescent moon

My Salafist Friend

I was one of those people who, less than a year ago, equated Salafism with extremism. They were all bearded freaks who wanted nothing else but to establish the Islamist Republic of Lebanon and either kick me out of my home in the process or tax me for just being here.

It’s definitely a misconception. But can you really blame me? After all, the only thing I see of Salafists are those extremists who burn tires and talk endlessly about the struggle of Sunnis in Lebanon.

All of that changed when I got to know M. some more. I won’t say his full name and that’s not even his initial, just in case. He’s my colleague in medical school and I knew he was a devout Muslim but never knew he was a Salafist until he told me.

There he was: no beard, no robe, no constant angry rants about how Lebanon’s Sunnis should reign supreme even though he senses inequality in this country regarding his people, which is definitely not a work of fiction.

And I was taken off guard. This man was challenging every misconception I had about those people I had grown to be disgusted by and he was doing so not by trying to convince me about them not being as bad as they appear to be but simply by existing in the front row of our classroom.

M. later on gave me my pet cat. He didn’t ask for money for it – he simply had two Persian cats who like to reproduce and decided I should have one. Here’s how Katniss looks like today (link).

M. even read the many posts I had written about the reaction to The Innocence of Muslims and was even supportive of the content that criticized the very people that are associated with his branch of Sunni Islam.

M. is always the first Muslim of my friends who texts me on our religious holidays. Whether he’s traveling to Kuwait or in his home in Beirut, I can always expect a heart-warming greeting message. And the texts are not just addressed to me. He sends a personalized one to every Christian he knows. The more “moderate” Muslims I know and with whom I may be an even closer friend don’t do that. The Christians I know rarely text greetings as well.

Back in July, during a month we had as a clerkship at St. George’ Hospital in Achrafieh, we decided to have a group lunch at one of the nearby restaurants. It was there that we discussed his religious views. He explained that Salafism is one of many branches in Sunni Islam, sort of like those sects we have under the umbrella in Christianity. He explained that they differ with others in that they have a stricter view of the Quran. He told me about the struggles he has on daily basis while trying to reconcile his faith with the way of life. His worry at the time was that he cannot shake the hands of women at the hospital and is worried they would be offended.
To many, his struggle borderlines on the absurd. But who was I to judge?

M. doesn’t shove his religious views down everyone’s throat like other people in class do. In fact, he is often ridiculed by other students and even some doctors for asking about the benefits of abstinence in preventing some types of cancers and other diseases.

M. doesn’t believe that Christians should be second-class citizens in Lebanon. He believes they should not only be first-class citizens but if there’s only one A-class, they should be it. Why? Because he says they are the reason Lebanon isn’t more screwed up than it currently is and is different from our neighboring countries.

M. doesn’t believe the Islamic Sharia should be applied in Lebanon even though he doesn’t oppose it. And even though ideally he would like to live in a place where the Sharia is enforced, he says he will be the first Muslim to oppose such a thing happening in Lebanon because “we don’t live here alone.”

M. is actually with optional civil marriage in Lebanon. He was against it at first but after discussing the issue, he decided it wasn’t his place to enforce his views on everyone even though he doesn’t like the idea of civil marriage to begin with.

M. understands why the Orthodox Law came to exist. He comprehends the reasons that sparked such a law from becoming in the forefront of discussions. And he said he doesn’t mind if the law passes, although ideally he would prefer something less divisive.

After my daily encounters with M., I became a person who separates between Salafism and extremism. Salafism is a religious current that even Christianity has a counterpart for (Evangelicals in case you were wondering). Extremism is something that transcends religions and sects: we have it, they have it, everyone has it. Those Christians who hate Mohammads because they think they are the root of all the woes in the country are extremists. The Sunnis who turned Salafism into a taboo are extremists. The governmental policy which almost turned Salafism into a crime is an extremist.

My friend M. the Salafist, however, extremist he is not.

The Problem With Banning Pork and Alcohol At Some Lebanese Restaurants

Gino Raidy’s encounter at ZWZ’s Hamra Branch went viral across Lebanon’s internet community very fast. His shock that a restaurant like ZWZ, infamous for his Halloumi bacon sandwiches, would actually have a branch that wouldn’t serve anything non-conformant with Islamic sharia sparked some huge debate as is evident by the extensive response to his post which you can read here.

It is beyond perfectly understandable that such an issue would be considered by many as infringing on their basic freedom of eating whatever they want to eat. It is also beyond ironic that ZWZ Hamra might as well be the go-to restaurant for Lebanese pub-goers who drink themselves away a few meters away in Hamra’s infamous alleyway and other pubs.

So why would Islamic sharia be up and running in one place and completely shattered in another place? ZWZ’s diplomatic reply to the matter alluded to their leasing conditions: the person from whom they got their lease doesn’t allow pork and alcohol on the premises of his building and ZWZ had to conform.

The question, therefore, asks itself: couldn’t have ZWZ opened elsewhere?

The answer is: most probably not.

It’s easy to preach regarding the matter but the fact of the matter remains that landlords have the upper hand in cosmopolitan places like Hamra (despite what Homeland’s producers want you to believe) because of the extremely high demand for property and the low supply. Whatever a landlord wants, a landlord gets. And most companies have to deal with is as such despite their better judgement.

The fix for this is, obviously, stricter governmental regulations. But in a country where such an issue comes at possibly the lowest of importance in woes, such regulations will not be enforced anytime soon.

The issue, though, is not in disassociation with the general mood of the country.

This vigilante sharia applying is unacceptable. I’m not entirely sure if it’s legal as well. Is it allowed for someone to enforce something on their own property that is not legal across Lebanon? My gut tells me no. But Lebanese law has these sporadic eccentricities that make it baffling. And regardless of whether it’s legal or not, what is actually legal in Lebanon and is actually applied?

The only urban planning law that I know of pertaining to this matter is banning alcohol sales within a certain radius of any prayer house, including Churches. Christian areas do not conform with it while places like Tripoli apply it to the letter. You would be lucky to find a place in Tripoli with a carton of booze under the counter which they dispense to their most loyal customers only.

What is sure, however, is that this vigilante sharia is creating an even bigger divide in a country that doesn’t need more divisions to begin with, even among Muslims themselves because it’s not really about religion but about ideology. Banning alcohol and pork, which slowly turns places in a country that falls more on the liberal side in this deeply conservative region, slowly disassociates regions from each other: turning some more extreme while others become more liberal, the cultural and sectarian divide growing even bigger. The conservatives, subsequently, become more conservative. The less conservative folk become less so and the merry goes round. The clash between these ideologies would grow stronger.

Perhaps it is ZWZ’s right not to serve alcohol and pork on some of its premises. But when there’s no regulation to dictate this, the question asks itself: what’s the limit for this sort of “freedom” for restaurants? When does imposing restrictions on others, even those who share your religious views, crosses the line of freedom? And is it truly permissible to say that, due to the presence of alternatives, discussing the presence of Sharia-abiding restaurants should not be allowed?

 

Could Patriarch Raï Become The Next Pope?

The conclave of Cardinals in charge of electing the new pope to replace Benedict XVI is currently underway at the Sistine chapel in the Vatican. You’re out of luck if you are a Roman tourist at this time of year – you can blame Benedict’s old age for that.

As it is with papal elections, there is no clear frontrunner as of this point. The myth goes that the cardinals leave their choice to the holy spirit through copious amounts of prayers and holiness. That is if you believe the holy spirit is a combination of politics, geographic, demographics and whatnot.

Eventually, any Pope nowadays is chosen based on one premise only: strengthening the position of the Catholic Church around the world. The late pope John Paul II led one of the biggest developments the Catholic Church had seen when it comes to the Youth, especially in popularity. Benedict’s undeclared job was to contain this surge that John Paul caused in a more Christian, usable, framework.

Today, the Catholic church is stuck at the edge of a steep cliff with the following predicaments:

  1. Decreasing worshippers across the world,
  2. Rise in Christian persecution in certain parts of the world,
  3. Sex-related scandals that plague Catholic priests more often than none,
  4. Corruption scandals that always seem to find a foothold,
  5. The issues of abortion, same-sex marriage and other thorny issues.

Seeing as the Catholic church is firm in its position regarding abortion, same-sex marriages (despite some recent breakthroughs in that regard), stem cell research and the like, I believe point #5 is not even an option in the voters’ mindset. Corruption and sex-related scandals are issues that Cardinals feel should be best kept in-house, not influencing the decision of choosing a Pope who will lead a Church not only based on those two criteria. The stances of the Catholic church regarding the many sex abuse cases that were revealed is a testament to that – if anything, it reminds me of typical elderly Lebanese women whose job in life is to cover up any wrongdoing in their family and showcase it to the world in positive light. Cardinals are similar to those elderly women in that regard.

The most important framework for Cardinals voting today is the following: help Christians around the world stay Christians and lessen the numbers of Christians who are deciding not to be so anymore. There’s little that a Pope can do when it comes to decreasing worshippers – after all, how do you convince people who lack faith that they should have it? It’s impossible. But what the papal conclave of Cardinals can affect is the persecution of Christian minorities across the world, notably in the Middle East.

Pope Benedict’s XVI’s visit to Lebanon back in September – his last major visit to any country before his resignation – was not out of the blue. Him demanding Patriarch Raï to go to Syria and hold mass there, which sparked an insane reaction, was also not out of the blue. Small steps they may be, sure, but for the faithful who still cling to their belief despite the hardships, a patriarch or a Pope acknowledging their strife is some very important business.

The question, therefore, asks itself: Could Patriarch Raï be the dark horse to be elected as the upcoming Pope?

Many Lebanese have already set Facebook pages to that effect, out of enthusiasm mostly, as if a liking a Facebook page to demand our patriarch be instated as Pope is actually beneficial or worth it. But that’s how things are with us – we always take things to Facebook.

However, I have thought about it lately and come to conclude that Mr. Raï could have a decent, albeit slight chance, at becoming the world’s next Pope for the following reasons:

  1. If the main focus is to target the persecution of Christians in the world, what better option than the head of the Christian majority in the location where Christians are targeted the most? The Middle East.
  2. Former pope Benedict’s XVI’s visit to Lebanon was, in part, to sign the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation (text) in which the Vatican goes on and on about the crucial importance of the Church in the Middle East.
  3. A Pope from the Middle East would set the wheels for true Muslim-Christian dialogue, which is what this deeply religious and troubled region needs and the Vatican knows this.
  4. Patriarch Raï is age appropriate to be pope. He is only 73. He also speaks several languages fluently, as is required of Lebanese bishops.
  5. Patriarch Raï does not come from a country where priest sex scandals are aplenty and being relatively unknown to the vote has a rather “cleaner” slate than his counterparts. He was also elected as an assistant to the interim Pope over the past week.

The reasons may not be supremely compelling to have someone become Pope, sure. But they’re still viable enough to put Mr. Raï on the papal map. I’m not even sure if Mr. Raï can be a good pope but he might become one.  And frankly, him getting elected sort of scares me.

The Miserable Maronites of Lebanon

Today is the day when Maronites across Lebanon get a surge of pride on the memory of St. Maroun, the sect’s founder.

Throughout the day, if you were “lucky” enough to come from Lebanon’s bible belt and have a lot of deeply religious friends, you’ll be swamped with Facebook statuses and pictures to glorify the day. Many celebratory dinners will be held across the country as well. It is one of those occasions.

This is the day for Maronites across Lebanon to feel empowered and self-sufficient and whatever floats their boat when it comes to self glorification.

The truth, however, is that today – February 9th, 2013 – as Lebanon’s Maronites rise to a fake glory on the day of their founder, they couldn’t be more wretched.

I’ll start with yours truly.

I was born in a Maronite family whose dose of religiousness grew as I grew. I dabbled with religion. Sometimes I grew into it, more often than not I grew out of it. My lack of ignorance when it comes to what the sect box on my ID contains led many to label me as a Christian extremist. I didn’t mind it.

But today, the only thing Maronite about me is probably what’s written next to my name on the voters list. It’s not about lack of faith. It’s not about atheism. It’s about a state of utter disgust with the social aspect that “my” sect has become and what it has made me, by default, in the process.

Today, Maronites in the country are forced to live in fear. I don’t think our fears are in any way justified. Do you know what’s the only reason that justifies us living in fear? It’s because Michel Aoun and Samir Geagea said we should be afraid.

The former told us we should panic from the impeding rise of Islamists in Syria and behold, Maronites across the land started gearing up for the apocalypse.

The latter has shoved the threat of Hezbollah’s weapons down our throats, making it a constant fixture in our daily lives, that the only thing we see as we go about our lives normally now is weapons. Illegal weapons everywhere.

Whenever our major “Maronite” politicians tell us to do something, we do it. Not because we want to – but because there’s an inherent conviction among the majority of Maronites that those leaders know best. Our critical thinking capacities are not just dismal, they are becoming non-existent.

Case in point? The electoral law. How many Maronites support the Orthodox Gathering Law? I suppose they are a lot. Are those Maronites truly convinced by the law? I doubt but they don’t know they’re not really convinced.

All they know is that their political reference came out in support of the law and gave them a set of arguments for them to wrap their heads around. Fast forward a few days later and the whole idea is now sitting comfortably in their brains, equipped with a full arsenal of conviction as if it was there for months. And then try to tell them otherwise. Try to ask any Maronite today about which law they see best and their answer will be what their politician of choice told you. Go on, try it.

We are a people that has become so weak that we can’t even stand up to the horrendous and absolute lack of qualification that flow from every single “Maronite” politician today.

Today, the road leading up to the main villages of my district has fallen into a serious state of disrepair. I wrote about it before (link) and observed an interesting reaction regarding the issue. The LF’ers blamed Gebran Bassil for the road. The Aounists blamed the district’s two MPs. Both LF’ers and Aounists are joined by the fact that their cars are getting screwed whenever they want to drive on that road – but they can’t even get together to get it fixed because God forbid their holy politician of choice be the one to blame.

What’s worse is that we are more than utterly convinced that those politicians are sacred.

Try to tell a Aounist that Gebran Bassil or Michel Aoun are not the people that Jesus meant when He said “whoever is without sin, cast the first stone.”

Try to tell a Lebanese Forces supporter that the “hakim” is not the saint they want him to be or that the Lebanese Forces are slacking off with how they’re handling things, letting themselves be dragged into quarrels revolving around those epic never-ending Christian rights.

Maronites have now been convinced that those “Christian rights” that our heads have been drilled with are truly what our politicians are after. The idea that “Christian rights” is simply a pre-electoral ploy to get our Maronite blood boiling before we go vote didn’t cross anyone’s mind. If our politicians are truly concerned for our rights, then why haven’t they done something about it already? If our politicians are truly convinced about the army, then why do all their statements drip with unprecedented hypocrisy? If our politicians truly care about our well-being in this country then why haven’t they actually done anything to improve it?

The answer is quite simple: because we have the memory span of a fish. If they don’t do it a few months before the elections, we won’t remember come the time to vote.

We get carried away with useless rhetoric of people who couldn’t care less about our interests and eventually transform that rhetoric, in our heads, to scripture. Try to tell a Maronite in Lebanon today that their rights are of having hospitals and schools, not about commanding the country again, and you might as well have committed some form of higher treason. Try to tell a Maronite in Lebanon that, contrary to popular belief, you don’t feel threatened at every waking moment of your life and you might as well have been committed to an asylum. Try to tell a Maronite in Lebanon today that those big bad Muslims are not really out there to get us at every kink in the road and you will get inundated with a slew of swear words against their “prophet.”

And while a lot of Lebanon is trying to go past the civil war mentality, many Maronites still live in it. Many are even proud of it. If you, as a Maronite, were born after the end of the civil war then your opinion is irrelevant. Their “struggle” during the civil war makes them experts and it turns you into a non-sensical nobody. They fail to see how living in 1975 when it’s 2013 is not only pathological, it’s also sickening. They fail to see that using the civil war to attempt to score points when it’s been over for 23 years is not only not healthy but downright despicable. They live in the past and revel in the fact that they do so.

So between living in constant fear, pretending as if we actually have political free will and getting swept away with dreams of a Maronite utopia, we have become a people that are beyond miserable at life in Lebanon. How many of us as Maronites will have the guts to actually stick it to all our politicians who are actively terrorizing us come election day? Not many. How many actually see those politicians as such? Well, considering I’ve been exposed to people who are voting for certain politicians because they “asked about them” during one of their electoral visits, I daresay I wouldn’t be going on a limb if I said not many. How many of us won’t be happy when, one day after the election’s results are out, our politician of choice proclaims to represent the Christians – especially Maronites – of Lebanon?

The reality is that with how we are being forced and forcing ourselves to live, our standards have gone down dramatically. Our religious extremism is rising exponentially and we can even fathom justifying it. We cling to the glories of days that are past in order to feel relevant in the present. We gloat about the president having to be Maronite by law because it gives us some form of security. We hyperventilate in joy whenever someone tells us they believe Maronites are the reason Lebanon exists. We pretend as if nothing is absolutely wrong in our communities, in our mentalities. We pretend as if all the blame is to be put on everyone else because they are the root of all problems in this country.

This is your yearly dose of a reality check.

My angry rant is also easily applicable to other sects in Lebanon. Because everyone is miserable. However, the moment someone from outside any sect criticizes it, people get offended. Even those who claim not to be sectarian. My prerogative, as a Maronite, is that I get to criticize how my sect has become, at least socially, all I want. And if this angers you, then I’m more than glad I hit a nerve.

Happy St. Maroun day.

Let’s Talk About The Rights of Lebanese Christians

Lebanese Christians are worried nowadays about their constitutional also known as God-given rights of having a firm grasp on political power again. They want to vote for their half of parliament, they want to restore the powers of the president, they want to be the tipping balance between the ongoing Shia-Sunni feud.

They want their right to their “former” glory.

This “need” to feel more relevant politically stems from a conviction that’s rising among Christians lately that their presence in Lebanon is threatened.
I have no idea where they get these ideas from to be quite honest. Even if Islamists end up ruling Syria, even if the devil himself ends up ruling Syria, their presence in the country is not threatened one bit by those bad Muslims, especially not the Muslims of Lebanon who, whether we want to admit it or not, share our same woes.

While admittedly the past 23 years have been quite harsh on this section of the Lebanese population and some things need to be fixed when it comes to their status in Lebanon especially when it comes to political representation, is political isolation really the solution for the Lebanese Christian predicament? Is our politicians counting the number of Christian voters across the country really in our interest?

Are our rights as Christians really only summed up in us wanting to vote for 50% of an arguably stillborn parliament with members who don’t care about said rights to begin with outside of electoral-sectarian-fuel purposes? What is better for us as Christians, to vote for 64 useless parliament members without any qualifications just because of their “services,” their “name,” or their “political affiliation” just because it’s our “right” or to vote for less than 64 but actually qualified parliament members?

I find it ironic that Lebanese Christians want everyone to accept that the country’s president is one of them to rule over everyone else. But they can’t fathom how everyone else (Muslims) can get to choose a few of their MPs.

But I digress.

Is it my “right” as a Maronite from the North to choose the Maronite MP of Jezzine, an area I’ve never ever visited? Is it the right of a Maronite from Jezzine to choose my MP in the North just because he’s Maronite?
What does an MP’s sect have to do with guaranteeing rights? Why does an MP’s sect automatically means that person represents me? Does that restore our rights? Or does it violate them even more? Is an MP’s sect an automatic indication of their will to work, of their qualifications?

Is this how we get proper representation? Is this how we get “our rights?” Are “our rights” only summed up by having an MP from our corresponding religion represent us?

But yes, we, as Christians, do have rights that need to be accepted and acknowledged. We have the right to:

- Better roads: this (click here) is the current state of the main road in Batroun. It is my right as a Lebanese citizen first and foremost and as inhabitant of the region to have a decent road for my car. My Christian Maronite representatives are not providing me with this.

- Healthcare: how many decent hospitals do we have across the country? I can name three or four. And they are all in Beirut. Fact of the matter is most “Christian” areas have shortages in the healthcare system while it is our “right” to have a decent system to take care of us. I’ll take this even further: how many Christians in Lebanon cannot afford hospitalization due to rising costs? Isn’t it our “right” for a universal healthcare system to take care of us? I don’t see any “Christian” MP advocating this.

- Electricity: here comes the broken record again. Isn’t it our right in the 21st century to have more than 12 hours of electricity per day? Isn’t it our right not to have to pay two electricity bills per month just because our “Christian” ministries can’t even do a good job?

- Water: Beirut and Lebanon’s roads were flooded last week with water from the biggest storm to hit the country in years. A few days later, we were out of water. Is that acceptable? Isn’t it my “right” not to have water shortages in a country that’s arguably beyond rich in the substance?

- Internet: Don’t we, as Christians, have the right for decent Internet access in the 21st century? Shouldn’t we have access to speeds that don’t die whenever it rains, whenever it heats, whenever anything odd happens? Shouldn’t we have the right for a better infrastructure that’s installed and provided to us without corruption, without political propaganda and surely without us having to overpay for it?

- Security & Military Wings: Who among our “Christian” MPs is really working to boost security in this country? Who among our already-voted representatives can truly ensure our right for safety, our right not to become collateral damage due to some explosion somewhere? Who among our politicians is ensuring that some families don’t have military wings to threaten other people with?

- Wasta: isn’t it also my right to have the same chances for employment, for university admissions, for a proper life as the sons and daughters of our “Christian” MPs and ministers? Isn’t my right not to have to worry about being excluded from something I’m more than qualified to get into just because some other candidate knows someone who pulled some strings for him or her?

- Women: shouldn’t our Christian women be given the right to pass on the nationality to their children? Don’t they have the right to a state that protects them from abuse? Don’t they have the right for civil regulations that protect their rights?

- State of Law: isn’t it my right as a Christian to expect the non-smoking ban to be applied everywhere, not to have our tourism police in a deal with restaurants to violate the ban? Isn’t it my right as a Christian not to worry about people violating every single form of driving laws, of every single law known to man in this country? Don’t I have the right to live in a lawful state?

You know what’s the interesting thing about our “Christian” rights? They’re also the rights of those “Muslims” that we love to hate. They have the same rights in this country as we do. And they need their rights as much as we need ours.

We blame Lebanon’s Muslims of being blinded and of voting in sectarian ways to the same parties without any convincing reason. But it seems we have forgotten that we aren’t voting for reforms and qualifications as well, but to people who give us the same sense of belonging, the same sense of safety – to the same people who offer us a service a couple of days before elections and then forget about us for four years before they give us the allusion of fighting for “our rights” when the going gets tough.

Is it our Christian “right” to have a bigger say in our representatives? Perhaps so. After all, this is how Lebanon is made up. But it is our duty to have our say in these representatives count – in making sure that these representatives advocate for our rights as much as the rights of others who are not “of us.”

It is our right not to live in fear all the time. It is our duty not to blindly allow our politicians to make us afraid of everything else all the time.

The biggest threat to Lebanese Christians today isn’t the growing extremism around them, it’s the absolute neglect that they get from those representatives that we already voted for which leads us to leave the country and lose hope in it.

The biggest threat to Lebanese Christians are national policies which lead to the impoverishment of most of Lebanon while the focus is on making only select places more cosmopolitan. The latter areas become more liberal. The former areas fall into extremism and poverty and we panic about those “big bad Muslims” of Akkar and Bab el Tebbane being after us.

The biggest threat to Lebanese Christians today isn’t that we don’t vote for a full list of 64 Christian MPs. It is our mentality towards our own country: we have changed from people who founded the Greater State of Lebanon to people who just want their share of this country and the hell with everyone else.
And that, my fellow Christians, isn’t how we get our rights back.

The Most Sectarian Ad On Lebanese Television

OTV is currently running this Election Law promo ad in support of the “Orthodox Gathering Law” championed by the political party running OTV, the Free Patriotic Movement.

Here’s the ad:

I know firsthand that many people think this way – but to turn shameful political gossip that goes on behind closed doors into an ad that’s supposed to convince others of the same rhetoric is taking it way too far. This ad disgusts me.

But let me do what the ad does and say the following:

My name is Elie. I’m a Maronite from Batroun. At least that’s what my ID says *flashes new ID to the camera.* No matter what I do, I’ll be voting for Maronites. I don’t want to vote for Maronites only because I don’t believe they represent me.

You didn’t expect that now, did you?

There’s a fine line between proving a political point which I’m sure Aoun’s many MPs and politicians (à la son-in-law prodigy Gebran Bassil) are more than capable of doing and what the ad is all about. After all, part of the reason why I changed my opinion regarding the Orthodox Law (click here) was seeing an FPM MP named Simon Abi Ramia go on and on for ten minutes about how the Sunni vote is “killing off” Christians by drowning them out and choosing MPs that do not represent them. Such sectarian messages from MPs and TV promos such as the one in this post should not and will not be tolerated on any form of television.

Here’s a word for the politicians who believe that MPs selected by Sunnis do not represent me:

I, a Maronite Christian as we’ve already (and nauseatingly – because that’s a point that resonates apparently) established feel more represented by Nabil De Freige, Atef Majdalani, Samer Saadeh etc.. than by Assad Hardan or Emile Rahmeh.

You know what’s ironic? The FPM is supposed to be a “secular” party. At least that’s what my FPM-supporting friends kept shoving down my throat when I expressed discomfort with their party. “Oh you’re just being a Christian extremist” they said. “We embrace everyone,” they said.

The way I see it, the only thing the FPM is embracing lately with these disturbingly bad ads, with their horribly divisive rhetoric is a rising bout of Christian extremism. And Christian extremists today do not represent me.

Enjoy the ad by the only people in the country who care for your rights as Christians. Because, you know, Lebanon is made for you and no one else.

“Aux-armes, Chrétiens! Formez vos bataillons! Marchons, marchons! Qu’un sang impur (those darned Muslims) n’abreuve pas nos votes!” (this is a play on the French national anthem and translates to: to your arms, Christians. Form your battalions. Walk on, walk on so that impure blood doesn’t water down our votes.”) – this is the new slogan for the 2013 Elections.

Be ready for a lot of “we tried to restore your rights but THEY *points finger* didn’t let us” speeches over the next few months.