Way to go, Outlook! Way to go!
Over the past couple of days, the student newspaper in AUB has published two articles that will make your head roll. In one, a student proclaimed that homosexuality, being a choice, will lead to society becoming immoral, among other things. All the focus went to Mr. Sibai’s chef d’oeuvre. No one noticed another piece that ran in Outlook, written by Mr. Ali Kassem entitled: The Decline. You can read his “outstanding” article here.
The Decline of what you ask? Of Lebanese society that is, according to Mr. Kassem. Why is that? Because shorts have gone way too short for his liking.
1 – Clothes are a necessity. For many, they are a fashion statement, an expression of identity or simple social obligation. For some, they are lacking. We live in Lebanon and we spend most of our time at the American University of Beirut. Some people seem to think that such facts justify the lack of clothes, they do not. Without the details, foreigners have come to Lebanon and expressed their surprise as to the number of prostitutes present in the country and how such commerce is so widely and openly exercised. Naturally, it is not so but these foreigners seem to believe that what our fellow citizens wore befitted prostitutes.
Please, I need the details. I cannot but feel the need to know exactly which foreigners you’ve spoken to. Why so? Well, for many reasons. Unless this foreigner is coming from a very oppressed/conservative country (I shall throw Iran as an example, see what I did there?), what Lebanese men and women wear wouldn’t bother them at all. Why? Because people in his or her society would be wearing the exact same thing. Does that bother your, Mr. Kassem?
Besides, I fail to see how the correlation between “revealing” outfit, the extent of which is in the eye of the beholder obviously, can immediately spring up the correlation with prostitutes. Let me tell you exactly how saying that sounds: the wall is red, therefore you must be a biology student. Doesn’t it make sense much? Well, neither are you.
2 – Why would people not wear clothes? Attention seems to be the most obvious of answers but the degree to which people have went to please others is disturbing. The human being is a free being and enslaving one’s self to society is, simply put, an injustice. People may look at those that do not have much clothes on but they do not look in respect. The looks and their intentions vary, but they are never of respect.
But you see Mr. Kassem, people are wearing clothes. Them not wearing the clothes you want doesn’t mean they aren’t wearing any. It is here that I need to stop for a moment to define “nudity: having no clothes.” Do you see women with their breasts hanging loose around campus, Mr. Kassem? Because I sure didn’t. Regardless, I’m fairly certain you are not in a position to analyze why people wear what they do. Have you ever contemplated the possibility that it may just be more comfortable for them?
“It gets worse.” (Literally, that’s a quote). After a paragraph in which Mr. Kassem rambles on and on about how high school students were shocked by a guy’s shorts upon him entering Jafet, he makes a keen observation about how the attention women receive is inversely proportional to their shorts as well.
3 – It gets worse. Assuming that the students of this university, in particular, have decided that clothes are a social forced artifact and that they would not like to ascribe to such social norms they have the right to do so. Nevertheless, they will be held responsible, in both lives. The right they do not have is that of hurting others and that is exactly what they are doing. A certain number of students at this university ascribe themselves to certain religious norms and values that prevent them from materialism, this objectification of the female gender and this loss of self-respect. These people, upon seeing the show of materialism on display will get uncomfortable; their rights are transgressed upon. Upon seeing the saddening figures around our lovely campus they are led to places they do not wish to seek. Upon seeing the horrors on our campus, they are saddened, disrespected even.
Now we’re talking. Mr. Kassem, people not wearing what you think is appropriate doesn’t mean they see clothes as forced on them. May I ask Mr. Kassem, what would you think is worse in God’s eyes: someone not covering up just because some people like you find it offensive or someone trashing those that don’t do what they think is right?
You talk about certain students in AUB who follow religious norms that prevent them from materialism and whatnot. Yeah, right. Those people’s rights are transgressed upon when they see a woman wearing a shirt that shows cleavage, as you said. The concept that you fail to grasp Mr. Kassem is that similarly to how your people are free to cover up, others are free not to. The only difference is? They sure don’t find those who wear what you think is appropriate Mr. Kassem to be trangressing on their rights. Why’s that? Because what I wear is my business and mine alone. What my girlfriend wears is her business and hers alone. What your sister wears is her business and hers alone. You want to force your sister (or brother) to wear what your religion tells you to or what you feel is appropriate? Fine, be my guest. I won’t judge. But if my girlfriend’s going to offend you just because of something she wore, then we have a serious problem Mr. Kassem.
3 – Society has drawn low, very low. Lebanon, in fear of being called ‘backward’, has drawn low. I do not fear being called ‘backward’ because what I ask for is the very opposite of backwardness. I now it is the proper thing, the civil thing. Whether others do is their own matter. If the lack of clothes is a sign of modernity than (sic) pigs have outdone man for centuries.
Let me tell you what draws society low, Mr. Kassem. It is articles like the one you wrote that degrades who doesn’t follow the set of rules you think should be law. What makes society low, Mr. Kassem, it is the backward mentality that finds it permissible for it to judge left and right, up and down. What’s worse? It takes its judgements to be scripture. You know what’s driving Lebanese society backwards, Mr. Kassem? It’s the fact that there are people who think driving a society forward can only be done by that society repressing more and more until it curls up on itself like a cocoon. You know what’s bringing out the low in Lebanese society, Mr. Kassem? It is people who forget that they are, at the end of the day, not the whole country and act as if they were, be it politically, morally or socially.
You know what’s modernity Mr. Kassem? It is the fact that you can come from your house to AUB every day to see those “atrocities” without it taking you a day’s travel like it took your ancestors. It is you being able to type on your computer an article such as the one you wrote. Modernity, Mr. Kassem, is people knowing that there are others who are different, who will forever be different. And that’s something you cannot change – whether it’s their clothes, their taste…
The moment basic liberties become up for discussion is the moment we can kiss whatever modernity we have in Lebanon goodbye. Any discussion that infringes on people’s right to wear what they want, however silly that may be, opens the room for an infringement on other liberties. Mr. Kassem may not have a problem with that. But I do. Millions of Lebanese do.
So here’s how things should be, Mr. Kassem. You wear what you want. If your girlfriend wants to, let her wear whatever you want. But don’t make that into something that everyone should follow.
On a related note, Outlook, you are humiliating the reputation of the university that allows you to exist by running such articles in your newspaper.