Dear MTV Lebanon, Lebanese ARE Racist

There’s plenty that MTV could have covered in their news: A failed 25th attempt at electing a president, more debate and analysis over the Roumieh torture videos, SaudiLeaks cables, etc… The same applies to any Lebanese TV station, clearly.

Instead of covering what actually matters, however, MTV decides to be offended by a Ramadan series aired on its rival LBC. Why? Because, and I quote MTV, “it’s showing Lebanese in a wrong light by portraying them as racist towards Syrians.”

I’ve watched the video over and over again. I honestly have no idea what that TV station is smoking or what that reporter is drinking or what country Naccache is located in because it sure doesn’t feel like the country I’m in.

This is the report currently making rounds, and which will make your blood boil for its sheer narrow-mindedness, lala landness and utter ridiculousness:

I don’t know about MTV, but let me talk about the Lebanon I come from.

1) A few months ago, my hometown decided to enforce a curfew on Syrians. Because that wasn’t enough, some men decided they wanted to form night guard duties, weapons and all, against those Syrians. It wasn’t even a hidden thing. It was a Ebrine normality. In between their “guard” duties, some of those men physically assaulted many Syrians simply because they existed outside of their rooms beyond their forced curfew. A pregnant Syrian woman had to take permission to go out of her house to the hospital to give birth. And the examples are ever-flowing. You can read this article for more info (link).

2) A couple of years ago, Annahar decided to go around Beirut and ask a few Lebanese what they thought of the Syrian refugee presence in their countries. The result was the following video:

I’m particularly interested how someone saying, and I quote, “there are so many Syrians here we might as well call it Syria,” qualifies as tolerance. Or how “I’m afraid of walking on the streets now because there are more Syrians than Lebanese” is a sign of progressiveness. I digress. Let’s proceed.

3) Since MTV was beyond pissed about how that TV show portrayed Achrafieh, let’s see what was all around Achrafieh just a year ago. Luckily, the internet is a beautiful thing, so pictures are aplenty and here are pictures to you:

Again, I’m trying to see how such signs, years after the withdrawal of Syrian troops and a clear manifestation of Christian xenophobia in a heavily Christian region are an indication of how tolerant and open minded we are as Lebanese.

4) With the influx of Syrians into the country, many municipalities, like mine, decided to start curfews for Syrians. Many took this a step further as well. Some places had political parties also come up with posters for the purpose of doubling down on the increasing Syrian presence in Lebanon:

The posters translate into the following: “No Syrian is allowed in this area starting this date or they’ll be insulted, beaten along with whoever’s helping them.” Another one says: “Boycott illegal labor. Hire Lebanese.”

Nothing was done about this back then. Few were the voices that called these as they were, racist and degrading. But we went about our days normally. Have a TV series give the narrative to a Syrian FICTIVE character? Oh Lord no, our Lebanese oversensitive pride won’t have that.

5) It’s been only two days that the following picture made the rounds on social media. An AUB student took a picture of Syrians and captioned it, on Instagram with filters and all: “Many heads, but no brains. #Syrians.” The outrage at that student was entirely political. I’m willing to bet most of those outraged at him were so simply because his political background serves as fuel to their own political hatred, more so than for them being caring about Syrians per se. But still, it clearly shows that such mentalities exist today and are aplenty.

Syrians Racism Lebanon

6) Now that we’ve established that MTV lives in a separate realm of existence (let them talk to Stephen Hawking, he’d be interested), let’s go over a quick survey of the many things we’ve all heard about Syrians and Syria, among people that we all know: Oh look, a Syrian. Oh, there are too many Syrians, be careful. The best thing to come out of Syria is “el festo2 el 7alabi.” And let’s not start with all the homsi jokes, which is when we are taught to be racist towards Syrians the moment we become aware.

But dear MTV, many Lebanese are not racist towards Syrians only. They’re also racist to those of nationalities they deem lesser.

Don’t you remember the guy who wouldn’t shake hands with people who are black?

Don’t you remember that Mothers’ Day ad about special offers on maids?

Don’t you remember the countless MEA reports about racism aboard their airlines? 

Don’t you remember the many maids that lost their lives to abusive employers and have no laws to protect them?

Don’t you remember that picture of the purse getting a seat while the maid remains standing as her family has lunch? 

We’re not only racist towards other nationalities. We’re also racist to each other. If you walk around MTV’s beloved Achrafieh, you are bound to find plenty of “Ra7 Tdall Jrasna Tde2” graffiti plastered around red crosses. Those newly coated with paint to keep their memory as fresh as their color. Who do you think they’re targeted to? Let’s just say it’s not someone who worships the Cross. For reference, I also have this to look at every morning:

 

 

People in Keserwan have endless stories about them chastising “el gharib.” The people of Tripoli are ridiculed by many because of the situation in their city. I have friends from Tripoli who changed their city on their CV because they know it decreases their chances to get hired. But please, tell me more about how we are not racist.

This isn’t to say that every single Lebanese is racist. There are many movements across the country to combat such mentalities. There are many people who are as far from racism as MTV is from being an objective and decent news outlet. The inherent problem isn’t only racism, it’s us pretending that there isn’t such a problem to begin with, it’s outlets like MTV – with substantial power and reach – engorging the ever-growing Lebanese ego, tapping it on the back, and telling it that there’s nothing wrong with you.

Fixing the problem starts with acknowledging it, not being offended by its existence. This is just shameful.

Lebanese Priest Caught On Video Sexually Assaulting A Woman

Rima Karaki is on a roll. After making international headlines around the world for shutting up the Islamist Hani Al Siba’i, her show’s most recent episode is dropping a bombshell of an equal, but less international, caliber.

A priest has been filmed on camera sexually harassing and assaulting a woman, from showing her his penis, asking her to jack him off, to asking her if her vagina was tidy and tight. It’s utterly disgusting.

It starts with a meeting with the priest over some business matter. Eventually, the man starts to hit on the reporter (he doesn’t know she is one, obviously). After inquiring about her living arrangements, he invites her to stay at his local.

From there on out, he starts to talk about his libido.

Lebanese Priest NewTV - 5

Suppose we want to sleep together.

 

In hypothetical scenarios of course. “Suppose we want to sleep together,” he tells her, before going on a tirade about his sexual prowess. Yes, he is 70 but he can still fuck like a stud. And he doesn’t take viagra!

Lebanese Priest NewTV - 8

I don’t do it more than twice a week. Even once sometimes.

 

He only sleeps around once or twice a week.

Lebanese Priest NewTV - 7

It has to be completely secret. My social status cannot permit gossip.

Lebanese Priest NewTV - 6

I’m a man and the woman I want should keep my position and dignity.

 

After all, he is a priest and his position in society demands high levels of privacy and secrecy. No gossip allowed when it comes to him, of course.

Lebanese Priest NewTV - 9

I want your vagina to be tidy and clean. Is it tight or loose?

 

And of course, the highlight of the conversation is to know whether her vagina, or as he calls it “at’out,” is clean and nice and whether it is tight or not.

Lebanese Priest NewTV - 1

I’ll pull it out and show it to you… take it…

Lebanese Priest NewTV - 2

Play with it… It’s soft.

 

And then there are the sexual advances, from flashing her his penis and asking her to jack him off and get it erect.

Lebanese Priest NewTV - 13

– Show me… Take it off. – Take what off?

 

To asking her to flash him as well.

Lebanese Priest NewTV - 10

– Get away from me. What do you want from me? – A kiss… and it’s enough.

 

To try and kiss her forcibly.

Lebanese Priest NewTV - 12

– Isn’t this against religion? – Why are you afraid?

 

To not even caring when she brings up that what he’s doing is against the religion he should be preaching. When it comes to being horny, that holy cloak is dropped like the last piece of leaf covering up Venus’ crotch. Here’s a link for the full video:

The tragedy of the matter doesn’t stop here. While watching the video and feeling horrified at what that man was doing, the true horror was on the right side of the screen in the comments section as people, including women, tried to DEFEND what he was doing.

NewTV Priest Lebanon Sex - 1

This is disgusting and has nothing to do with Christianity. The question to ask is why are they targeting only Christian religious men?

 

There were those who clearly see this as an anti-Christian campaign. Why else would anyone want to discuss this ever? Because Rima Karaki didn’t, just last week, make global ridicule of an Islamist!

NewTV Priest Lebanon Sex -2

He’s a wise-ass and she’s a slut. Her voice is irresistible.

 

And there were those who blamed her for being a whore with an irresistible voice. How could any man resist?

NewTV Priest Lebanon Sex -3

Since this TV station and its reporters are whores, doing this report clearly shows that the priest is innocent… Would they dare do this to non-Christian religious men? Or is it because they know our religion is that of peace and mercy they attack us? A day will come where you will fall to the hands of people who will make sure you forget what your profession is.

 

And there’s the one who thinks NewTV and its reporters (females) are whores, which clearly shows that the priest is innocent. And of course NewTV wouldn’t do this had the religious man not been Christian. I mean, can they even?

NewTV Priest Lebanon Sex -4

They’re sending her to seduce him and then they’re glad they caught him… go home.

 

Support to the priest also comes from non-Christian Lebanese. When it comes to penises, men must stick together. How dare that woman try to seduce the priest?

NewTV Priest Lebanon Sex -6

Good for him. She’s a slut.

 

Certainly the woman is to blame.

NewTV Priest Lebanon Sex -7

Don’t you have anything other than religious men to talk about? Go see politicians and their actions. Disgusting media.

 

And it’s all clearly an LBC and NewTV led propaganda because there’s no way a priest can do this. The priest in question tried to defend his “honor” by accusing NewTV of fabricating the video and sending a woman to seduce him.

Not All Priests Are Bad… But This One Is Rotten:

Being born and raised Christian, going to a catholic school and being around churches all my life, I can attest to not all priests being bad. One bad priest does not ruin the whole. Some are men who actually follow the teachings of their religion and who try to help people to the best of their capacities.

This priest, however, is beyond rotten. What he’s doing cannot be defended. NewTV wouldn’t have sent an undercover reporter to his office hadn’t they known about his practices. They should have shown his face. They should have said his name.

How many women has he molested before? How many women has he sexually assaulted? How many women has he slept with? How many women thought they had no other options but to sleep with him? How many people has this priest terrorized through Sunday sermons into sexual repression, of fearing their bodies, for the sake of being chaste to God?

How disgusting is this man to think that “women seducing him” is an excuse to be such a revolting man whose vows of chastity were not only thrown out of the window, but burned at the altar of the Church he serves?

His Church should strip him of his cloak, and ban him from all his religious practices.

How horrifying is it to think that there are people in this country who think that just because someone is a priest or a religious man can absolve the horrible things that those people do? How scary is it that there are people, even now, who can fathom defending such a man just because of the way he prays and who think that TV stations have an ulterior motive other than to get people talking?

Do people really think that the Lebanese Church, whichever this priest belonged to, would have done anything about him even if they had known? The Vatican is barely doing anything about the pedophiles.

I’m sure this isn’t a one incident thing. There are probably plenty of priests and sheikhs in the country doing worse than this, to age groups that are even younger. Before you try and defend this scum or even agree with him that the station trapped him, think about all the people who have fallen victim to them and who don’t have a voice to defend them.

A priest does not a holy man make. Religion does not a good person make. Repeat after me.

Update:

New TV met with the priest for an interview that he requested. His name is Antoun Farah, currently the head of a Lebanese charity for the handicapped. Obviously, he claimed that the video is fabricated… but he refused to meet the woman whom he harassed. He was shown his face on the video without the blurs and he was still adamant that it wasn’t him.

How so, he was asked. I don’t know was his reply.

The fact that he’s not a priest practicing in a parish does not change anything in the way he should be dealt with. What’s scarier is that he was stopped from practicing in a Church due to a previous scandal that may have involved sexual harassment as well and still the Lebanese Church in charge of him did not think it would be best if he were stripped of his religious title.

Let me put it this way: if any priest is faced with anybody in front of them, naked to the skin and tempting them, it is their job not just to resist temptation but to cover those people up. Such a disgusting man.

Christians Are Disappearing From Lebanon

The infamous Lebanese Christian civil war slogan goes: “نحن هنا وهنا سنبقى.” If you google those words that translate to “we are here and this is where we’re staying,” you get plenty of Lebanese-centric references that can, even over 24 years after the theoretical end of the Civil War, get those same Christians riled up. As it stands, however, Harvard did some studies on behalf of the region, and the whole “نحن هنا وهنا سنبقى” slogan is not entirely correct.

Religion Demographics specialists Todd Johnson and Gina Zurlo have recently published a study (link) in the Harvard Journal of Middle Eastern Politics and Policies that examines the situation of Christians in the Middle East in general and in some of its countries in specific.

In general, they noted that the overall Christian population of the Middle East stood at 13.6% in 1910. That 13.6% decreased to a measly 4.2% in 2010. The projections for 2025 put the population at only 3.6%.

They attribute the shift to multiple reasons, including emigration due to wars, instability, the rise of Islamic extremism, etc…. But Lebanon is a focal point of the study due to the different nature of the country compared to the region, especially that they find the drop in the Christian population of Lebanon to be substantial. 

These are their findings:

 

In 1910, prior to the founding of the state of Greater Lebanon (catch up on your history book), Christians constituted about 77.5% of the population of what was the Mutasarrifate of Mount Lebanon. Before the Lebanese civil war, the portion of Lebanese Christians relative to the general population was approximated to 62.5%. 

Following the end of the civil war and in estimated numbers for 2010, Christians constituted 34% of the Lebanese population. This percentage is expected to drop even further come 2025 to about 30%. 

The reason for the decrease is explained as follows:

  1. The Lebanese civil war and the emigration of Christians to Western countries,
  2. Lower birth rate in the Lebanese Christian population due to their generally higher economic status,
  3. Increasingly decreasing role and influence at a national level.

It’s eye-opening to see in numbers what we know in theory.

Decreasing percentages don’t mean that Christians are going to be wiped off from the country quite yet. The decrease has less to do with the propaganda of ISIS’ threat to existence through fear instilled by fear-mongering politicians, but more to do with how things are in the country as things stand today in 2015.

The purpose of this post is not to elicit sectarian talk. This isn’t about Christians as a religious establishment as much as a demographical agglomeration. The role of Christians in the building of Lebanon is historically established, so losing them is a disaster to the country. Their role in the advancement of the country cannot be denied: all the country’s major universities and schools were formed by missionaries; even our hospitals emanated from Christian religious establishment.

Changing demographics is a natural process in any country’s lifespan. Populations age, their characteristics change, their constitution gets altered over the years. So the solution isn’t to panic about the changes, but to see what they mean.

The Lebanese problem isn’t only that its Christians are becoming less and less of its population, but that those same Christians cannot 1) agree on a future for the country and 2) see that their future lies in stopping to look at themselves as Christians but as Lebanese first and foremost who have a country they need to build, especially given that Lebanon is probably the only country in the region where they can be safe and hope for a country. God, country, family – not in that order.

What Lebanon in general and its Christians in particular need at this point is to finally realize that the only hope, regardless of how demographical percentages change, is the establishment of a secular state in Lebanon where people are not defined by the religion they are born into, but as citizens with rights and duties that are not adjusted to their prayer building.

Certainly, the notion is beyond delusional at this point as it requires a massive leap of forward thinking from the entire Lebanese population. But if Lebanese Christians can’t see the danger of clinging to the status quo where the status quo is as moving as quicksand, then they have more things to worry about than decreasing percentages over a bunch of decades.

Less slogans, more plans. Less chants to civil-war-leaders, more criticism and accountability. Less religious marriages, more civil marriages. Less this faculty’s dean has to be Christian, more this faculty’s dean has to be competent. Less let’s massively panic about Khaled el Daher, more let’s ignore and try to take the higher road.

The “نحن هنا وهنا سنبقى” slogan is easy to say, but it’s tough to implement with no president, political deadlock, rising poverty, no prospect for jobs, and the urge to get visas stamped on your passport the moment you receive your college degree. I guess it all doesn’t matter in the face of fiery existential chants. If only, though, the numbers lied. Build a country in which you’d want to stay, not just shout about staying.

#JeSuisAhmed: The World That Fears Muslims

Ahmed Merabet Charlie Hebdo Terrorism Kouachi brothers

A couple of days ago, I decided that my reaction to the Charlie Hebdo attack would be to share the covers that had those journalists killed. I didn’t say whether I agreed with their content because that wasn’t the point at the time, and freedom of speech, to me, was absolute, with satire at its heart, as it aims to reconcile reason with power. Enforcing limitations puts us on a slippery slope until Paris on January 7th becomes conceivable. The world isn’t where it is today because visionaries cowered from challenging their dogmas.

In today’s world, however, freedom of speech is a reflection of the hypocritical scope with which we view things. In this relative specter, even satire becomes cruel when it’s aimed at the weak who aren’t allowed to answer back. Two days after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, this is our chance to sit down and talk.

Everyone’s up in flames over how Muslims aren’t condemning the Charlie Hebdo attacks enough. Over how they haven’t condemned ISIS enough. Over how they aren’t condemning themselves enough. Well, they have over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over again.

Where have you been throughout all of this? Thinking Muslim was a member of a small village of 1.57 billion where everyone’s alike: a terrorist, a pest, an apostate to modern values in need of serious reconsideration of his religious views. But never a person who could be a victim and who is, in fact, innocent  – at least until proven guilty.

And then you call them off when they actually do what you’re asking of them.

Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 5.11.12 PM

The victims of every attack carried out by extremists are not just those who died and whose memory perseveres in us, the media and then, when the calamity subsides, every bigot who uses their name to propagate their own version of extremism that is as toxic, but less deadly, perched on top of podiums, preaching about liberties while advocating for many to be denied of them.

The victims of the Paris attacks are that Muslim, whose kebab shop and Mosque were burned, who had absolutely nothing to do with the attack except in some amalgamation of Ahmad and terrorist.

They’re that Muslim who was afraid of going to the vigils to honor the dead of a publication that offended again and again, who was petrified at how people would view her hijab or his beard now, terrified at what it would mean to be on January 8th, 2015.

They’re that Muslim who watched in horror as the news of Paris unfolded, who gasped at the video showing the Muslim cop Ahmed Merabet being shot to death, told his children to go into their room to prevent them from seeing what he was seeing on TV and is worried daily at the poison they’re getting exposed to.

They’re the Muslim who has nothing to do with France but is told he is responsible for the actions of some French Muslims. They’re your Muslim friend at whom you looked with different sight today.

They’re that Muslim that is slowly being driven over the edge and who will come to endorse – nay, want to participate – one day in actions like those that took place in Paris yesterday.

They’re that foreign student who is now worried about what this means to his future. They’re that person trying to seek a better life for his family, whose chances are now completely in tatters.

What we demand of every single one of those Muslims is to condemn, apologize, and shout from every minaret how they are against what some of their lot are doing today, because if they don’t, then they are terrorists too.

Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 5.16.10 PM

Defending free speech by telling someone exactly what to say. Isn’t that ironic given that whole shenanigan involving sin and first stone to be cast?

In today’s world, I – born Christian, now who cares – am never lumped with the Christians who have caused two world wars, a holocaust, several other wars, the endless support for the state of Israel and the massacre of Palestinians, the endless encroachment over the riches of Africa, the rise of Neo-Nazi parties across Europe and the many attacks they have been committed in my name.

I am never asked to condemn en masse those protests in Germany where it was called for the expulsion of impure breeds, whose religion is not original to Europe – ironic as that is – and whose skin color is not as fair.

I am also never faced with existential questions about Christianity when those Neo-Nazis kill for their brand of extremism, as has happened in Norway in 2011, an assault which ended the life of 77 people.

I am never asked to apologize for Aurora, Sandy Hook Elementary, to assess Christianity’s potential for the modern world after the 1 million in Iraq that died, because of a war that is there to defend my freedom, my rights, my security, my Jesus-given right for oil.

I am never considered as violent for contributing to the instability of Pakistan and leading to the loss of 140+ of its children in Peshawar. Those are just Muslims killing other Muslims.

Jews are never faced with retribution for their continuous slaughter of Palestinians, the last of which was in Gaza this past summer, where 600 Palestinian children died. They are never asked to apologize for their constant rape of Palestinian land, for never-ending settlements, for their constant erosion of the rights of the people with whom they are forcibly sharing the land.

In today’s world, that same Muslim we are more than willing to burn at the stake is never allowed to be offended or else he’s deemed an extremist as the world-given badge of modernity gets taken away.

Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 5.09.22 PM

 

Meanwhile, holocaust portrayals can cause uproars; Charlie Hebdo in 2009 fired and had that same artist sued for hate speech for drawing a Jewish caricature of Sarkozy, and even Christians are allowed to be offended by portrayals of Christ and the Virgin Mary.

We think so little of the world’s Muslims that their deaths are a natural event, never worth a discussion. We think so low of them that we believe it’s unfathomable for them to comprehend our cherished values of freedom, democracy, and autonomy, despite those concepts – in the same context of worldwide hypocrisy – being relative: only given to those who can afford them, to those powerful enough to claim them.

How can we explain, for instance, to the Muslim Palestinian in Gaza what human rights are or what freedom is, while that same Palestinian is genuinly expected to wholly understand how it is to be a French free man in France?

How can we explain to the Muslim women of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf that they can do whatever they want with their bodies when their own governments that keep on oppressing them are maintained by the same countries where women are, in theory, liberated, open, sexual, and can drive?

How can we explain to that Saudi blogger who is now facing 10 years in jail and 1000 lashes for speaking up what freedom of speech actually means?

How can we explain what freedom is to Muslims living in dictatorships, under systems that are kept there by the same countries demanding of those same Muslims to be free and worldly and Western?

We are so blinded by prejudice and hate that we can’t see who actually benefits from the attacks in Paris on January 7th.

Those are people like Marine Le Pen, who doesn’t see how the construct of modern French society has a lot to do with why January 7th happened, whose message of hate will now resonate clearer in the minds of the French and who will spear-head a regression of the theoretical values of the French state. She has already started sharpening her harpoon.

They’re people like the far-right in every corner of the world whose flags might as well be those of ISIS with inverted colors. They’re people like Netenyahu whose own brand of terrorism is never labeled as such and who will use the attacks in Paris to further advocate for the need of escalation in his terror.

They’re heads of nations like Qatar and Saudi Arabia who proclaim moderation for the world to be fooled, and spread hatred wherever they go, as they buy their way to a majority share in the European continent.

Imagine for a moment that this had been a parallel world, where we are an impoverished minority, whose countries are taken up for their natural resources, whose heads are so blinded by wealth and power they can’t see themselves being manipulated, whose poor are among the poorest of the world, whose children die of famine and war, whose lives are not judged in absolute value, whose lands are a matter of debate, whose opinions are not free, would we be asked to condemn too?

I do not understand Islam nor do I pretend to do so. I don’t know what true Islam is, the same way I don’t know what true Christianity or true Judaism are, and I don’t believe anyone truly knows – all three remain ideological constructs that are open to interpretation within frames that are entirely individualistic. Hence,  I cannot defend religions as a dogma nor am I doing so.

We say that we can root out Muslim extremism by force: by forcing them to be apologetic, by forcing ourselves over their homes, by launching missiles, armies, and rockets. That is not the case. The only way to weed out the Islamists, extremists and terrorists is to empower those Muslims who are being killed by those same extremists when they speak up, whose voices are being silenced by the mainstream voices around the world that refuse to listen, and who are not allowed to fill the vacuum in their reputation as it’s slowly eaten away by the mole in their midst. We empower them by listening, by not taking away the stability in their countries, by not making sure their countries, communities and societies never amount to anything, and by not believing the cause of their hardship is the religion they worship.

There are three ways this can deconstruct. We can either maintain things as they are, ignore any lesson Paris is trying to teach us, and carry on. We can make things worse, lump 1.57 billion Muslim with ISIS, Al Qaeda, or Taliban and assume that they’re all out there to assassinate freedom, democracy, and human rights.

Or you can ignore the hate speech, tell that terrified Muslim that there’s someone who gets it, doesn’t require him to condemn, doesn’t attribute 1.57 billions to the actions of one and understands that the actions of that one are more related to societal constructs than to religion, who knows that he too has autonomy, and needs freedom, and seeks a better life for his children, and that praying while looking at Mecca and kneeling down is essentially the same as looking at an altar and standing up, and that this world is very cruel to anyone who is different from the norms, and that it is okay to be angry and not to be okay with how things are, that you should be Charlie, and Ahmed and all shades in between, and that it is okay to be a human who just happens to be Muslim.

Extremism in Lebanon: Why Are You Shocked The Red Cross Was Banned From A Mosque?

Breaking news out of Lebanon today, because those are very few and scarce, but a Red Cross volunteer had his colleagues banned from entering the mosque where his family was receiving condolences for the passing of his grandmother, just because they were wearing their logo, which happens to be – well – a Cross, albeit having nothing to do with religion.

First with the story was the Facebook page “Stop Cultural Terrorism in Lebanon,” and at thousands of Facebook shares and likes, as well as having the story picked up by various news outlets now, it has definitely gone around, as well as have people in shock and anger.

I’m here to ask the very simple question: why?

To those who are shocked, I wonder if you’ve been so disconnected from life in this country lately that you haven’t noticed the fervent rise of extremism all around you. This isn’t exclusive to a single sect or religion. Of course, some get blamed more than others because it’s more popular to do so, but it is a tangible reality everywhere and in the hearts of many people around you, including people you know.

The time for you to be shocked was years ago. It was when hearing about things such as ISIS was not common place in your news. It was when people didn’t come up with excuses here and excuses there for their religious folks of choice to come off unscathed. It was when people weren’t made to believe that their entire existence in this country depended on the existence of their religious sect. It was when the discussion of an electoral law was not only about a law that allowed people of one sect to vote for that sect’s MPs. It was when I didn’t wake up every morning to the following graffiti outside my building:

Spotted in Achrafieh

Spotted in Achrafieh

The time to be shocked, disappointed, mortified, appalled or whatever you are feeling right now is long behind us. What you can and should do now is hope this is an incident that won’t set precedence, which I think is the case. This was probably the case of a few goons with near subzero IQs and near illiterate education levels deciding to flex their Allah-given muscles, as has become quite customary around this country.

Those people won’t care about explanations that the Cross on the Red Cross’ vest is not actually Christian. They won’t care that women wearing the Hijab can enter Churches whenever they want, albeit to increasing groans, and that people wearing Crosses can enter Mosques whenever they want. No, those are the people whose existence we have loved to dismiss for so long now, toning it down until we made them irrelevant in our minds.

The truth of the matter is that as everything in this country, this too will pass. You will forget about in a couple of days as something more media-grabbing happens. You may be reminded of it by some politician down the road who wants to cash in some political coins, of course.

What I hope this transpires into is more support for the Red Cross, this truly noble organization in the country that has transcended sects and political lines and religions to help people just for the sake of humanity. You want to be mad at those who didn’t let those Red Cross volunteers in at a wake? Go donate.

Ironically, at a time when some Lebanese retards were upset the Red Cross could have entered a Mosque, the Pope was praying at the Blue Mosque in Turkey. Contrast Lebanon with the following picture. As they say, a picture is worth a 1000 words. I’ve probably written something close to that by now, so you get the picture.
Pope Francis is shown the Sultan Ahmet mosque, popularly known as the Blue Mosque, by Mufti of Istanbul, Rahmi Yaran, during his visit to Istanbul

Would You Wait for a Miracle?

20131024-202846.jpg

I have a two month old patient, whose bed is way too big for and who hasn’t cried in my presence once. She has blue eyes, which I could barely see through her constantly dilated pupils. Her skin is whiter than snow and colder than ice. She’s not responsive. She has more peripherals connected to her body than a body of that size should handle.

My two month old patient, precious and young as she is, is brain dead.

For a while, my friends and I lamented her young life. She is a person who will never live. She will never utter the words mom, she will never walk, she will never ride a bike. She will never even have solid food. Why was she being kept alive? Why  was she being put in such pain?

The medical aspect in us couldn’t understand the point of keeping life tethered to that girl. It didn’t make any sense. There’s no way she will wake up again. There’s no way she will recover. For all matters and purposes, that girl who has lived for two months exists no more.

But still, her parents kept her alive adorning her bed with rosaries and religious icons as they prayed by her bedside.

“I know it’s over,” I overheard her mom say while crying. “But I’m hoping He’d look down at her and see how such a precious creature she is and help her.”

And the mother would ask us: what will happen if things worked out with her? What will you see? Isn’t she snoring? What is that sound?

We’d answer in a way to stay true to the medicine without squashing her hopes. Hope, in this case, is a double-edged sword.

They were waiting for a miracle. My friends would even chuckle at the thought. But even though I also thought it was absurd, I just felt terribly, terribly sorry for what that mother had to go through, seeing her daughter’s shell in front of her: alive but not.

I’ve been thinking about miracles ever since I was allocated that little girl. While they round on other patients and they reach her case, I often find myself thinking about the miracle she is waiting for. I don’t get miracles. I don’t know if I believe in them. I think I don’t. But if there’s anything about miracles that I’m sure of, it’s that they are unjust.

Then I thought about what I’d do if I had been the father whose daughter was in my patient’s bed, with tubes going out of her in order to keep her alive. My answer would have surely been a resounding: turn it off. Purely medical. Pure electrolytes. Pure CT scans. Pure EEGs. Pure data. Or so I thought.

Today, as I saw that woman crying over her daughter, I didn’t pity her. I was utterly shocked that what she was doing didn’t feel odd. It didn’t feel weak. It didn’t feel like something I would remotely try to ridicule, like many people I’ve encountered would. Because the shocking revelation was that I’m not so sure I can turn it off, in spite of al the data.

Would you?

 

Following Up on Beirut’s Soon-To-Be Destroyed Roman Hippodrome and The Best Way To Save It

Lebanon isn’t a place where much changes in a year. Seriously, if you look at where we were last year around this time and where we are today, you’ll see a lot of similarities. The only exception, perhaps, to our Lebanese reality is real estate, especially when it comes to all the contracting taking place in Downtown Beirut.

More than year ago, I wrote about the Roman Hippodrome that was soon to be destroyed in Beirut (link), in Wadi Bou Jmil next to the Jewish Synagogue. A lot has happened in a year. So courtesy of a piece (link) by Habib Battah, an LAU professor, published by the BBC, an update on Beirut’s Roman Hippodrome is in order:

  • The developer who wants to use the land is Marwan Kheireddine. Sounds familiar? He is a minister in Lebanon’s current government. Way to go for transparency.
  • The project that will see the destruction of the hippodrome is a gated community where only “elite” Lebanese will enter. In other words: you and I are off limits. Unless you can afford paying millions for a Downtown Beirut apartment.
  • According to Kheireddine, the site is not worth preserving. How does he know this? He hired an archeologist who said so. Yes, because such matters are most transparently handled by the people you buy into your service.
  • Kheireddine is offering 4000 squared meters of the land to turn into a museum of sorts that people could access. Because a Roman Hippodrome was meant to be contained within the parking lot of a building, right?
  • Plots around the site in question are said to contain other parts of the stadium and need to be properly excavated as well.
  • There is an immense shortage of archeologists in the country. The job of those archeologists is to make sure such transgressions never happen. But the government doesn’t seem to care about such an issue.
  • Beirut is not the only place where Lebanese archeological heritage is being destroyed left and right carelessly. In fact, what’s happening outside of Beirut in lesser known areas might be worse.
  • Concerned activists are trying their best to halt the development. But there will come a time when they won’t be able to do much anymore.

I remember back in 2005-2006 when a local cafe in Batroun was being built. The initial digging site revealed a Phoenician burial site, sarcophagi and all. People flocked to see what the site was all about. The following day, nothing survived to tell the tale. Today, instead of that entire burial site lies a cafe known for its shisha and its July 2012 drug scandal.

The Best Way To Save The Hippodrome:

Earlier in 2013, hell broke loose twice over ancient ruins in Beirut. The first time was because some henchmen at District S assaulted the same person who wrote the aforementioned BBC article over him taking pictures of the ruins they were busy dismantling to open up Beirut into the new Dubai-esque age (link). The second time was due to Lebanon’s possibly oldest Church getting discovered at another site where a Jean Nouvel hotel was to be built (link).

The discrepancy between the fate of sites one and two is striking. The former is still operation. The latter has been halted. Churches can do miracles? Believe, people.

Arguments about how priceless a monument is, how irreplaceable it is, how silly it is to replace it with a building, how rare it is to find such a thing in Lebanon, how economically profitable it would be to keep it and turn it into an attraction are all useless simply because most people don’t connect to them on a primal level, enough to get them rallied up.

The only way, apparently, to get to a result, force government to get involved and save such sites in Lebanon is to infuse a dose of religion in the stones. The more religious those stones, the more people get rallied up, the less our government can stand quiet as bulldozers raze through the field. Unfortunately for the hippodrome, there doesn’t seem to be an ancient church in its ruins as of now. Let’s hope that changes soon.

The following pictures are all courtesy of the BBC: