There are many things that Ashraf Rifi should care about, as the minister of justice in Lebanon today.
For instance, as a man from Tripoli he should care about the fact his own city is in deep hell right now, sinking further and further as days go by. He should care about his own people back there who are afraid of speaking up against the militants that could pop up at anytime, threaten their security. He should care about those same people who are too afraid to exist in their homes right now.
Ashraf Rifi should care about the fact that our policemen can arrest anyone they please without cause, keep them in jails and drag them through messy bureaucratic processes until they get bored, and there’s nothing anyone can do about that.
Ashraf Rifi should care about the fact that our entire Lebanese legal system is aimed at a way to decimate our women’s potential, robbing them of the ability to pass on their citizenship to their children, of having equal inheritance sometimes, of having equal pay with their XY counterpart and, among other examples, of being able to open a miserable bank account for their children without the consent of those children’s father.
Ashraf Rifi should care about how ISIS is threatening the very fragile fabrics of Lebanese society, of how they are beheading our own army members. He should care about the grave injustice that befell Ali El Sayyed, that army member whose family had to see him die in pictures, incidentally a Sunni – the people Rifi likes to kiss up to for popularity.
Today, the only thing Ashraf Rifi cares about is making sure you burning the ISIS flag in Lebanon is illegal, instead of going after the people supporting ISIS in Lebanon or stopping people from flying it on their cars and balconies. Why so? Because it has the emblem of the prophet Muhammad and has the slogan: There is no god but God on it, effectively making it a Muslim holy entity.
Today, Ashraf Rifi is not being a minister of justice for the entirety of Lebanon but for his very narrow Sunni sect, to the extremists there who are actually appalled at some people in Achrafieh burning a flag that has the name of their prophet on it.
Today, Ashraf Rifi doesn’t really care about being a politician for an entire country with a holistic approach towards every single person in that country. He wants to be a politician for a specific group, working to make sure he pleases that specific group at all times, at a time when such rhetoric, ideals and attitudes are extremely, extremely dangerous.
There are many things we can do to fight ISIS in Lebanon that are not military. We can be aware people who have some context and understanding towards each other, first and foremost, in order to have the minimum amount of required dialogue to establish some form of agreement on where we want Lebanon today to head.
We can transcend our petty, narrow-minded and limited sects and not fall back to what is familiar, as Rifi is doing, like most of Lebanon’s sunni politicians today: going back to what they believe boosts their popularity, gives them sectarian cred, makes them stronger and gives them more clout.
Today, Ashraf Rifi has it all wrong. Instead of doing what he should have done as a minister of justice, he is inciting sectarianism at a time when this is the last thing anyone should do, especially a politician like him, in a government aimed at ruling the entire country, not just the Sunni sect.
The ISIS flag has holy Muslims symbols, but burning it is not insulting Islam, it’s a protest to what ISIS is doing to the people of Iraq, the people of Syria, the people of Lebanon and to our Lebanese army. It’s a protest against the beheading of James Foley, Ali Al Sayyed, the many, many more Sunni muslims who were killed by ISIS and whose deaths are ignored by many. The real insult to Islam here is the existence of ISIS.
What Ashraf Rifi is asking for today is an insult to those people first and foremost and not an insult to Islam. It’s an insult to the intellect of any Lebanese person who wants their freedom of expression to remain intact in this country. It’s an insult to every single Sunni who’s having their entire reputation tarnished as a sect that doesn’t accept others, is still hung up on shallow appearances and is going more and more in its own bubble.
Sunnis in Lebanon today have many, many problems. Their politicians are one of those problems. In Lebanon today, it’s fine to burn a flag with the star of David. It’s fine to burn a flag with a Cross. But when it comes to burning the flag of a terrorist organization, all bets are off?
We need bold statements like Aliaa Magda Elmahdy’s against ISIS. We need to burn their flag. We need to rise beyond their terrorism. We need to get over the limited view of religion at a time when the people of ISIS are using religion to kill people.
If the prophet Muhammad were alive today, he’d be the first person burning that flag down. Ashraf Rifi should have known better.