To Burkini Or Not To Burkini: The Ages Of Men Deciding What Women Should Wear

When it comes to cultural assimilation, many parts of Europe have not been exemplary in the way they’ve dealt with the many minorities that have sought their land as refuge over the years, but none more so than France, whose problem with people who are lesser-white than the average they’re used to goes back to the time where it occupied much of Northern Africa and contributed to a mass exodus of people from those areas to serve as cheap labor for their home country.

The immigrants that flocked to France challenged the French about what it was to be as such: what is the French identity? What makes France as it is? How do we integrate such diversity into what we already know and take as scripture? Needless to say, the French model failed miserably.

Instead of integrating the laborers in French societies, they were settled along metropolitan areas with other destitute French, close enough to work but far enough from being part of actual French society, further widening the divide between “authentic” French and otherwise. Social programs, a hallmark of the French political system, also contributed to further encourage the differences between both population groups, further making the grounds for discrimination more fertile.

It is no coincidence, therefore, that in the France of today, and similarly to the African American situation in the United States, French jails have a much higher population of North African-origin inmates than of any other population, relative to their proportion of the general French populace.

As the French general public failed to grasp the fundamental problem at hand, the political rhetoric started to mirror the growing dismay from those immigrants. From having the French symbol “La Marianne” in a veil on the cover of Le Figaro, to tell people that France would become Muslim in 30 years, to people like Jean Marie Le Pen painting those immigrants as violent, uncontrollable, and who breed like rabbits.

It’s no wonder, therefore, that in 2004, the French state decided to ban the public use of the veil, much to the outcry of many Islamic and human rights group who saw the move as a gross encroachment on the rights of those women. The argument back then was that France, being a secular state, did not tolerate any signs of religiosity. The underlying tone, however, was that this secular state with an Christian undercurrent would not tolerate an apparent Islamization in its PR.

The rift between “immigrants” – French like everyone else but always viewed as lessers – and French continued to grow through the years, between attacks on Charlie Hebdo, to the terrorist attacks that overtook Paris and Nice, to the increasing rise of the Front National. Today, the clash of culture is taking place in a different way: French statesmen want to ban a conservative swimwear colloquially called the “Burkini” – a term merging both Burka and Bikini – in their attempt to preserve the semblance of the “liberated” image of France.

Introduced in Australia by a Muslim woman who tried to merge her religious and Australian lives, the piece of clothing soon became global. With the French bans, many people are purchasing them around the world in solidarity. The outcry against the French ban is deafening. The question of the matter, however, is why would such a ban be conceived in the first place?

This is a continuation of the French problem in trying to assimilate different parts of what makes France as it is into a modern identity that is holistic and inclusive. The French revolution slogan “equality, liberty, brotherhood” seems to only be applicable as long as you fit within the code of such a statement.

The ban is equal part Islamophobic and an attack on a woman’s freedom of expression. Would French police arrest a nun, for instance, who is wearing her religious clothing on a beach just because she is covered up? Would they arrest a swimmer clad in their sport clothes? Would they arrest any woman whose clothes attire conflicts with what they deem acceptable enough to fit within the narrowing, rather than broadening, confines of French culture of 2016?

Burkini - 2

The ban of the Burkini can be summarized as follows: men trying to impose a dress code on women who have already had a dress code enforced on them by men elsewhere who view their chastity as directly proportional to how much skin they cover up, never knowing that maybe, just maybe, the problem isn’t in the skin that is exposed or not, but rather in the minds that look at that skin in the first place.

Before Arabs and Muslims can be upset about France banning Burkinis, ins’t some introspection into what is happening in our own backyards warranted? How many of our cultures and countries coerce our women into covering every inch of them, whether they want to or not? How many of our cultures and countries treat women as second rate citizens just because they were not born men, limiting them with what those who were born men believe those women should be entitled for? How many of our cultures and countries have made women feel insecure just by walking down the streets with eyes that ravaged their bodies regardless of how covered up they were?

How many of our cultures and countries have stopped women from even going to the beach for fear of being viewed as nothing more than meat? How many of our cultures and countries have made wearing the hijab, and consequently items of clothing such as the burkini, as an indication of the woman wearing them – whether she wants to or not – essentially being a better person than the woman who decided not to? The fact of the matter is that women are more prone to be sexually harassed on our beaches, whether they were wearing a Burkini or a bikini, than in the beaches of France, even if they’re wearing nothing.

Tackling the abhorrent rise of Islamophobia in France cannot therefore occur without looking inside our own homes for once. Do we allow our women to wear whatever they want without conferring moral judgement on them for doing so? Do we give our women the freedoms that we believe they are being robbed of in France or elsewhere? Do we not pass judgement on those women who decide to go to the beach wearing a Bikini just because they felt like it, categorizing them as everything we believe women should not be?
The answer is no.

The resources France is putting into banning the Burkini are completely unnecessary. It’s a legislation that has become a farce: that of armed police officers assaulting decent women at the beach to strip them of their clothes. By coercing them out of a Burkini, the French state is doing to those women something that’s as bad as forcing them into one in the first place. It’s unfortunate that while standing as such a crossroads, France and the rest of Europe decide to make a U-turn rather than advance further into creating an environment where women can be free to choose whether they want to wear a Burkini or not. Instead, you have a bunch of men deciding they know, once more, what women want and what they should do. When ISIS tells Muslims they’re nothing but second class citizens in the West, one wonders, when does the West realize that its practices play right into ISIS’ hand?

Geagea and Aoun’s New Love Fest: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Samir Geagea and Michel Aoun

In a widely predicted move, LF leader Samir Geagea and FPM leader Michel Aoun came out with a political understanding yesterday that saw the former supporting the latter for Lebanon’s presidency, after about 33 failed attempts at electing a president and 30 years of the same practiced politics.

Lebanon’s Christian field was predominantly supportive. After all, the whole burying the hatchet fest that we saw on TV was done because Christianity, and Christians sure love seeing #TeamJesus in all its glory on Lebanese TV.

The Good:

We can now say that on January 18th, 2016, after around 30 years of feud, Samir Geagea and Michel Aoun finally saw eye to eye in something. A more zealous response would be: LET THEM KNOW NOW THAT CHRISTIANS WILL NEVER BE PUT ASIDE AGAIN, etc. But that’s not really the case.

It’s good to see a semblance of unity occur regardless of what that unity might mean. It’s good to see Geagea and Aoun talk things out.

But.

The Bad:

Many think that this move was visionary. The fact of the matter is it’s nothing other than reactionary to Saad Hariri nominating Sleiman Frangieh for president a few weeks ago. The only disturbance in the presidential race, protracted and dull as it was, was Saad Hariri’s deal back in November-December. That disturbance became the catalyst behind both the FPM and the LF’s deal today in order to “reclaim” their constitution-given Christian right.

How good can a move made in reaction and spite be, rather than it being foreseeing and contemplative, especially in the grand picture of Lebanese politics that not only requires foresight to navigate its murky waters? Why don’t you refer to Jumblat for that?

What this move does is not elevate the level of politics that Geagea and Aoun are practicing. It’s not a good thing that Lebanon’s Christian community is now practicing the same kind of tribal politics that the country’s other factions do. By “uniting,” Geagea and Aoun moved from their failed politics on a national level to failed politics on a sectarian level.

Yes, they were Christian leaders first and foremost, many of their policies had inter-sectarian tendencies. How will they move from here? Not in that way, clearly.

The move also comes to the backdrop of a 10 point agreement that the two forged over the past 6 months. It reads as follows:

Geagea Aoun Agreement

The agreement’s key points then are the following:

  • No use of weapons in case of conflict,
  • Supporting the Lebanese army in governing the entirety of Lebanon’s territories alone,
  • A Switzerland-esque foreign policy to get the country to avoid struggles,
  • Supporting UN resolutions,
  • A new electoral law.

Sure, those headlines are all wonderful, and looking at them with no critical thought warrants giving their alliance a second thought. But you can’t not be critical of Lebanese political talk, and the question therefore becomes: how will they do them?

The difference in ideology between Geagea and Aoun is not only related to their Civil War days: the two were supremely divergent even in times of “peace.” They have not agreed on an electoral law other than the Orthodox Law, and even that agreement was more about whose balls are bigger rather than it being done with political wisdom. They have not agreed on which kind of foreign policy they see best for the country. They have not agreed on which way is best to actually get the army to be the only rightful security force in the country, and how to implement all kinds of UN resolutions (hinting at ridding Hezbollah of its weapons).

Alliances need to have a minimum of common ideology. Establishing them just for the sake of common interests in the short run will prove, in the long run, to be detrimental, especially when it affects an entire community (in this case Lebanon’s Christians).

Is this how Christian rights are restored? By making Lebanon’s Christians more exclusive rather than inclusive? By making them more sequestered? By thirding the country instead of keeping it halved? By turning Christians from the entity that governed Lebanon’s dichotomy to another destabilizing agent in an unstable country?

Ignoring the differences that these two presented to Lebanon’s Christian community is the first step towards removing any semblance of democracy from that community. Difference is not to be feared in political contexts. Disregarding it is what’s scary.

The Ugly:

Geagea and Aoun made peace. But I have to wonder: what kind of peace?

They’re making the kind of peace that requires us to bury our heads in the sand, like the perpetual ostriches that our Lebanese existence has made us into; the kind of peace that does not deal with the past requiring such a peace to be made in the first place, effectively making it a recipe for impeding disaster.

The argument goes: other factions have done these peace making deals before, and as such Christians doing it should be celebrated. Making peace is good. But is it?

Is the peace made by Lebanon’s other war factions actual peace? The idea of making peace invokes stability. Is the country stable? Is making peace in spite of history not through it, as all those other factions have done, putting the country on the right path towards healing post our civil war?

I look around and see people from different sects still hating each other, still worried about the intentions of one another. I look around and see a political discourse that still gets those who have supposedly made up after our civil war to fear each other.

What kind of peace are they talking about then?

There are things that are a little too late, and this is one of them. Where was the common interest of Lebanon’s Christian community 30 years ago when these two were actively working on canceling each other out, when their wars tore apart Christian communities and left thousands of victims in their wake?

Yes, this is not the time to bring up war-time memories, but healing only starts with remembering.  Would there have been a need for such a “deal” to be made in 2016 had those two actually cared about the community they’re panicking about today back in the 1980s?

Peace cannot be made by those who only know war.

The Uglier:

I’m afraid to inform you my fellow Lebanese that this “alliance” does not, in any way, affect your life as a Lebanese in the ways that actually matter.

It will not bring you electricity.

It will not fix your garbage crisis.

It will not make your internet faster so you can stream Netflix.

It will not increase your minimum wage.

It will not make your passport worthwhile.

It will not stop the “SSSS” checks on your boarding passes and “random” checkups in airports.

It will not stop ISIS.

It will not extract the oil from our fields.

And, ironically, it does not even guarantee that a president be elected.

Our Lebanese reality cannot be changed when the same people who have been practicing their failed politics over us for 30 years start practicing their politics together.

The Funny:

To end this on a happier note, I can’t but share a few of the lighter tones with which some Lebanese handled the news, in the joke that this actually is:

Shame On LBCI and Lebanese Authorities For Cleaning Fadel Shaker’s Image

I don't usually use the acronym "LOL" but I feel it's entirely appropriate to the use of the word "قضية."

I don’t usually use the acronym “LOL” but I feel it’s entirely appropriate to the use of the word “قضية.”

Fadel Shaker is the Islamist who cried wolf.

It’s difficult to imagine Shaker as anything other than the bearded Islamist who did a 180 degrees flip from a blasphemous man living in the sin of his songs to one who suddenly saw the light and only wanted to sing to Allah, the one imprinted in our collective memory as Lebanon, who’s been present for only 3 years.

History goes back to 2012 when Shaker popped up in Downtown Beirut at a rally for Assir’s Islamists, harmless and fluffy as they were at the time. I remember how outraged people were at the time: what had he done? Why was he doing that to himself? I even did a meme (link).

Kiss Ahmad el Assir on the forehead he did, bringing Assir into the forefront of the Lebanese news cycle in the process. The rest is history. Flashforward 3 years later and Fadel Shaker is reborn. Do you think his middle name is now Jesus (Or Issa as he’d rather be known I’m sure)?

The beard is gone. The clothes have been replaced with a suit. The shabby looking man of 2012-2014 has suddenly reverted back to his state of pre-2012. How do we know all of this? Because Lebanon’s prime TV station, LBCI, secured a super exclusive interview with Fadel Shaker in which he tried to do the following:

  1. Claim his innocence,
  2. Claim his involvement with Al Assir was simple “sympathy,”
  3. Claim that his relationship with Assir was strained,
  4. Claim that it wasn’t him who killed Lebanese army soldiers,
  5. Essentially kiss Bahia Hariri’s behind, calling her their “big sister” and commanding her efforts into preventing further decompensation of the situation.

Rumors about him trying to secure a deal to get out of the Palestinian camp of Ain el Helwe have been swirling for months through negotiations via intermediaries with the Lebanese authorities to secure his safe passage in return of him leaving his Islamist present behind.

In July 2014, he gave an interview to Lebanon24 (link) in which he essentially said almost verbatim what he told the LBC reporter who strung a report that turned Fadel Shaker from the Islamist to a pop star ready to take the microphone and sing next to Yara (if that’s not haram, I wouldn’t know).

The details of Fadel Shaker’s deal, according to Al Akhbar (link), are as follows:

  • He’s been trying to sort his situation ever since he ended up in Ain El Helwe in 2013,
  • His situation became increasingly difficult as he ran out of cash and his wife controlled his assets,
  • His “difficult situation” forced him into compromises,
  • Through a concert contractor called Imad Qanso, Fadel Shaker got into contact with Walid Ben Talal as well as Layal Al Solh who became his intermediaries with the government,
  • Layla Al Solh managed to get Shaker a deal with the Lebanese army that requires him to 1) return to his basic form and stop the fiery speeches against the army, 2) hire a lawyer to help him in his upcoming “trial” and 3) publicly cut all ties with Al Assir,
  • He got a lawyer called May Alkhansa, close to Hezbollah, after promising her “he hadn’t spilled one drop of blood,”
  • LBC was agreed upon to be the TV station to handle his rebirth, through a pre-prepared interview.

And despite all of this, I don’t blame Fadel Shaker for saying what he did. I don’t even blame Layla Al Solh and Walid Ben Talal for trying to get him off the hook. The latter is Saudi, so what did you expect? And his aunt is nothing more than his voice box, sadly.

The entities to blame here are 1) LBCI who, in typical Lebanese fashion, put the exclusivity of a news scoop ahead of what that scoop means, although in LBCI’s defense no Lebanese TV station would have said no, and 2) Lebanese authorities who are actually going through with such a deal.

By doing that report, LBCI – with all its influence – became nothing more than a mailbox to months long negotiations taking place behind closed doors between Shaker and Lebanese authorities in order to seal the deal and make sure Fadel Shaker turns out unscathed.

That report, being a rehash of a 2014 interview and with Fadel Shaker being prepped for the questions for weeks now, shows that there’s no substance to the content and no attempt at confronting Shaker regarding the terrible things that he did. LBCI shouldn’t have let him use their station to pass his agenda unchallenged, and contemplate the potential of him filling stadiums with fans again.

On the other hand, Fadel Shaker possibly facing trial means nothing. How long did Bilal Deqmaq stay in prison? How long did any of the Islamists caught up with Al Assir stay in prison? Will a few days in prison be enough? No.

By going into these negotiations with a terrorist just because “he saw the light,” our army and whichever authorities involved are saying that the blood of our army members is useless, that calling them pigs is okay and that all can be forgiven if you’re important enough to get away with it. Typical Lebanon.

Shame on Lebanese authorities who are ready to ignore everything just to come about to some deal.

How dim-witted do they think we are not to remember what he has done?

This is him calling the Lebanese army pigs and bragging that his gang killed two and wounded four:

This is him declaring jihad in Syria:

This is what he said of Ahmad el Assir:

“But then there was the assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri in 2005, with four Hezbollah militants accused by the international prosecutors. In May 2008 Hezbollah militias attacked Sunni Muslims in Beirut. To crown it all, they support [Syria’s president] Bashar al-Assad. Sunnis feel frustrated and they have no one to protect them. The sheikh [Assir] speaks the truth.” (link).

This is what he said of Lebanon (and the world’s) Shiites:

“In Syria they kill our Sunni brothers and destroy our mosques. They are prepared to kill all the Sunnis, all the way to the Gulf. They’re infidels, not Muslims. It’s not true the Qur’an is their book. They’re liars, they say one thing and do another.” (link).

This is what he said of his 2012-2015 path:

“That wasn’t my true calling. Thanks to the almighty, I now lead a religious life. I’m at peace. But I have no regrets about the past. It’s my duty to combat oppression and defend people who share my faith.” (link).

This is him in various loving positions with Ahmad el Assir and other terrorists:

Fadel Shaker is a 46 year old man without any disabilities who took decisions of which he was whole-heartedly convinced. If this had been a non-famous person, he would’ve been convicted and thrown in jail. He may have not killed (no one can know) but that doesn’t make him any less of a criminal.

The king of romance is planning a comeback. It’s no longer his “duty to combat oppression and defend people who share his faith,” everyone else be damned. And Lebanon’s very own LBCI is spear-heading that comeback. Perhaps they are dying for another Elissa duet?

The fact of the matter is the only romance he should be singing is to his cell mates in Roumieh, bending over, calling them allah. But that’s not what LBCI or the Lebanese authorities want. In Lebanon, justice is served only to those who are weak enough not to challenge it.

Those Worthless Lives Of The Middle East

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Those worthless people of Gaza. How many have died since Tuesday? It doesn’t even matter but I’ll list the number anyway: 154, and those 154 people don’t matter. Some will chant praises to their martyrdom and others will lament how their lives were lost, but they are but a number in a conflict that won’t end, a number to be buried deep in the Arab subconscious between seasons of Arab Idol, Ahla Sot and Elissa’s albums. Gaza was still an open air prison a few years ago and it will remain an open air prison a few years from now. It’s just only remembered at specific instants when their going gets slightly tougher. We get infuriated at the hypocrisy that Israel killing Arabs includes when its entire existence can be taken back, in one way or another, to Western guilt over the Jewish holocaust. But when you come to think of it, are Arabs even entitled to be sad for the people of Gaza who are dying, whose homes are being demolished just so muscles can be flexed and whose deaths are being ridiculed on certain TV channels just because they don’t fit with the rhetoric of the axis currently ruling the world? How are the people of Gaza dying exactly? Is it Israeli planes? Or is it the Arab oil fueling those planes? Or is it the Arab silent towards Israeli plans? Or is it those Arabs making sure their borders with Gaza stay closed, securing that open air prison until who knows when? Or is it the Arab slumber that only finds mild wakefulness sporadically, in Twitter or Facebook hashtags, never trying to speak out against their own regimes, in bed with those killing the people of Gaza, because they are providing them with the biggest mall on Earth and a great shopping experience to boot?

Those worthless people of Syria. How many Syrians have died in the past 3 or so years? How many digits has that number reached by now? As is the case with Gaza, this too doesn’t even matter, but I’ll list it anyway: 170,000. That six digit figure comprises entire families, men, women, children who will never have the future that a few years back was rightfully theirs. The biggest injustice, however, towards those Syrians isn’t just that their death, in the grand scheme of things, might not actually matter, but the fact that their deaths are also not an absolute truth among the Arabs infuriated by Israel’s actions. How many of those crying over Gaza now actually cared as the toll in Syria rose from one digit to the next? How many of those crying wolf over ABC, BBC, CNN or MTV Lebanon actually watch TV stations that do the exact same thing to those people of Syria? Those six digit lives are nothing more than a bargaining chip in a conflict that is greater than they’ll ever be individually. Those lives don’t fit with their grand political scheme of choice and are a mere tool in the attempt to stop the big bad Sunni monster.

Those worthless people of Lebanon. There’s no estimate of those that died between 1975 and 2014. Our parents had hoped way back when they decided to stay in this country that things would get better for us, with all the lives lost to fight for causes that they believed in. But things are still the same. Young men and women fought for causes and died only to have the people they fought for forget them the moment a glimpse of power flashed in front of their eyes. And things are still the same today. From one explosion to the next, from burned flesh on Beirut’s asphalt to spoiled breakfasts in Tripoli, to acts defending the country against armies now killing innocents in Gaza, the lives of our countrymen being lost are also simple digits that will keep on adding up until who knows when because we never learn.

The causes are not similar, and the conflicts are not the same. But the people involved are dying with one thing in common: their deaths only serve to escalate numbers without changing anything. How many had to die in Gaza before the collective Arab consciousness decided to budge, before the Arab league figured it should convene or before Egypt figured it should come up with a ceasefire plan with their BFFs? How many more have to die until it is realized that the current status quo regarding the region’s countries and regarding the attitude towards Israel does not simply work? When will Arabs learn that building the world’s tallest structure, biggest artificial island and hosting the World Cup aren’t what really matter when their own people are being slaughtered like sheep right on their doorstep as they sit around and eat their fancy iftars on this bloody Ramadan?

I am a 24 year old Lebanese who lives in a country of violence in a sea of even more violence, and I do not know how to be violent. I do not believe violence is the key to any solution for this region, but I am one of very few voices in a culture that sings weapons in song, brands them on flags and salutes the world with them as they chant takbirs for everyone to hear, a culture that, for instance, doesn’t really want to see Palestine free as much as go to heaven as martyrs for that purpose.

There are a lot of things that we are not allowed to do towards those countries. We can’t do like that Norwegian doctor and visit Gaza to help in whatever way we can. Protesting the regimes of the countries filling this region has also become a dangerous matter even though those tyrant regimes do much worse to their own people than possibly even Israel, regardless of whether such a notion is even entertained by people of the region or not. The only thing we are left with is our voices and platforms to express those voices and try to change perspectives, but does the region even have a clear plan towards using modern day media in order to fight the Israeli rampage? Is there a way for us to get a clear message across when we can’t even agree on what that message should be? Are we not also losing the war of information and misinformation that, in this day and age, has become as tactically important as rockets and blasts and tanks especially with the looming threat of treason over our heads when the message we need to get across is to those whose existence we are not allowed to acknowledge? Is there a way for us to make the lives lost in the countries of the region slightly less worthless than they are as we remain completely and irrevocably lost, unable to do anything about it but be angry about biased media reporting, portrayals of the people dying as terrorists and the blindness of a world that never really had sight to begin with?

May all those people’s pieces rest in peace.

The Lebanese MPs Who Haven’t Signed On The Domestic Abuse Law

Update: According to the NGO Kafa, who just issued the following clarification, the Domestic Abuse law has not been put up to a vote in parliament yet and is still stuck at its respective committee. The list of MPs circulating online is of those who approve to ratify the domestic abuse law in a way to make it more protective. The list gathered below is of the MPs who have not signed such a document yet due to parliament shutting down and is apparently not reflective of whether they have approved the law or not as such a vote has yet to take place. 

A list of Lebanese MPs who tried to pass the domestic abuse law is being circulated around the internet. While those MPs should be applauded for their enthusiasm and – sadly in this country – courage for taking a stance regarding this matter, the fact that three Lebanese women – two in the past month – have fallen victim to domestic abuse is making this particular matter a top priority.

Domestic abuse is not a joke. We all know it. It’s sad that we have to say it. Looking at who’s in parliament at the moment and at the list of MPs who supported the bill, here’s a list of the MPs who did not sign on the bill ratification in question.

The list you’re about to read encompasses MPs from different religious, different political parties and – interestingly – also features a woman.

  1. Nayla Tueini – Future Movement
  2. Michel Pharaon – Independent In M14
  3. Hani Kobeissi – Amal Movement
  4. Nohad el Machnouk – Future Movement
  5. Saad Hariri – Future Movement
  6. Ammar Houry – Future Movement
  7. Imad el Hout – Future Movement
  8. Ghazi Aridi – PSP
  9. Khaled Zahraman – Future Movement
  10. Khaled El Daher – Future Movement
  11. Mouiine El Merhebi – Future Movement
  12. Khodr Habib – Future Movement
  13. Hachem Alameddine – Future Movement
  14. Kassem Abdulaziz – Safadi Bloc
  15. Mohammad Safadi – Safadi Bloc
  16. Najib Mikati – Tripoli MP
  17. Ahmad Karami – Tripoli MP
  18. Samir El Jisr – Future Movement
  19. Mohammad Kabbara – Independent Within M14
  20. Badr Wannous – Future Movement
  21. Robert  Fadel – Independent Within M14
  22. Farid Makari – Future Movement
  23. Nicolas Ghosn – Future Movement
  24. Abbas Hachem – FPM
  25. Michel Aoun – FPM
  26. Nabil Nicolas – FPM
  27. Ghassan Moukheiber – FPM
  28. Michel Murr – Independent
  29. Alain Aoun – FPM
  30. Ali Ammar – Hezbollah
  31. Bilal Farhat – Hezbollah
  32. Fady el Aawar – Aley MP
  33. Talal Arslan – Aley MP
  34. Akram Chehayeb – PSP
  35. Walid Jumblatt – PSP
  36. Elie Aoun – PSP
  37. Nehme Tohme – PSP
  38. Alaeddine Terro – PSP
  39. Ibrahim Najjar – Future Movement
  40. Fouad Siniora – Future Movement
  41. Nabih Berri – Amal Movement
  42. Ali Osseiran – Amal Movement
  43. Michel Moussa – Amal Movement
  44. Ali Khreis – Amal Movement
  45. Mohammad Fneish – Hezbollah
  46. Nawwaf Moussawi – Hezbollah
  47. Ali Ahmad Bazzi – Amal Movement
  48. Ayoub Hmayed – Amal Movement
  49. Hassan Fadlallah – Hezbollah
  50. Abdellatif Zein – Amal Movement
  51. Yassine Jaber – Amal Movement
  52. Mohammad Raad – Hezbollah
  53. Ali Hassan Khalil – Amal Movement
  54. Ali Fayyad – Hezbollah
  55. Anwar Khalil – Amal Movement
  56. Kassem Hachem – Ba’ath Party
  57. Assaad Hardan – SSNP
  58. Jamal Jarrah – Future Movement
  59. Ziad el Kadiri – Future Movement
  60. Wael Abou Faour – PSP
  61. Robert Ghanem – Independent Within M14
  62. Nicolas Fattouche – Zahle MP
  63. Assem Araji – Zahle MP
  64. Okab Sakr – Zahle MP
  65. Hussein Moussawi – Hezbollah
  66. Hussein El Hage Hassan – Hezbollah
  67. Nawwar el Sahili – Hezbollah
  68. Ali Mekdad – Hezbollah
  69. Ghazi Zaiter – Amal Movement
  70. Assem Qanso – Ba’ath Party
  71. Elwalid Succariyeh – Hezbollah
  72. Kamel Rifaii – Islamic Action Front

This is an updated version of this post to reflect the fact that the vote has not been put up to a vote and as such any assumption as to what these MPs, who haven’t signed the law’s ratification petition, would have voted is factually incorrect. 

Once Upon a Time in Maaloula

It was December 2010, slightly after Christmas, that I went to Maaloula as part of a two day stay in pre-war Syria.

The village was nestled up the mountains some 30 minutes away from Damascus. I had no idea what to expect there, other than some difference from the  souks and mosques that their country’s capital had to offer. I should have known that Maaloula would be drastically different – the driver had been talking a language I wasn’t understanding all the way. It was Aramaic.

Once upon a time, the Maaloula I visited was a calm village, part of a calmer and oppressed country. The people there seemed poor. They also seemed especially devout, asking us to take off our shoes as we visited Christian shrines for saints that Christians in Lebanon worshipped. The town’s houses were tightly packed together, haphazardly built, in a way that climbed up the mountain that overlooked the village. A statue of the Virgin Mary could be seen atop those mountains. I’m sure they figured she’d be protecting their homes.

I walked around the hills next to the village, patches of snow from a storm a few days prior still visible. The townspeople looked at us warily: just another batch of tourists who are coming and going, expecting some funky eccentricities. A few children were busy playing football on the tarmac across the street. They asked us to play but we didn’t have the luxury of living where they did. So we kept looking around.

The monastery we visited, Deir Mar Takla, where the relics of a renowned Saint reportedly lay, was not very different from several ones I had seen in Lebanon. But I guess it’s always more interesting just because it represents a minority, something different in the vast sea of sameness you had come to associate with the Syria I was visiting back then. I never thought that desolate town, huddled in those cold Syrian mountains, would become the focal point of Lebanese politics almost three years later.

I never gave Maaloula a second thought until today when I was told that the Syrian civil war had reached it and I was told that I should care about the lives of its people, just because they are Christians, more than the lives of all the Syrian civilians who have died since whatever’s taking place in Syria started back in 2011. There are varying levels to the value of a human life.

Maaloula became the centerpiece of a long-used argument revolving around the core foundation of Christian victimhood, because the presence of Christians in this region cannot be guaranteed but by dictators and oppressors. Let’s always choose the lesser evil.

I was also invited to #ActForMaaloula today, an admirable effort and all. But I have to wonder: aren’t Muslim villages worthy of me acting for them? Who am I supposed to act for in Maaloula exactly fully knowing that 90% of its people have apparently left their town? Am I supposed to act for the Churches that have not been touched according to all news services? Am I supposed to act just for the sake of acting so I can tell the entire world that I care about the likes of those who happened to be born into my religion just because they worship Jesus and don’t fast Ramadan?

Christians in this region are and apparently will always be dhimmis, precisely because of this rhetoric, whether they like it or not. They’re dhimmis because they’re always forced to ask for protection. They’re dhimmis because they’re always treated differently than the countries of which they are part. They’re dhimmis because they relish in the rhetoric that they are different, that their lives are more precious, that one needs to act for their sake but not the sake of others just because they have carried a Cross.

Being against the regime next door doesn’t mean we sympathize with the Islamists. It doesn’t mean some Lebanese politicians, who remember the never-ending Christian victimhood argument listed above whenever they’re bored, get to patronize us about not doing enough for our “Christian brethren.” I refuse to be blinded to the fact that this talk about extremists and Islamists and Nusra and Al Qaeda did not exist in 2011. I refuse to be forced to forget that the talk about a ruthless regime, which can send the cold, penis-less corpse of a thirteen year old to his mother’s doorstep, has existed since the 1980s. I refuse to be forced to fall to that ridiculous notion that Christians are special and must be protected because Israel considers them competition.

I used to think the fear for Christians in the region is overrated. I don’t think that way anymore. But I also think that the entire way the issue is being dealt with will only lead to further decimation of those Christians and further increase of the fear they are forced to live in. You want to protect the Christians of Syria because you love them so? You fight for a political solution that involves stopping the regime that has killed hundreds of thousands of its people and with it those Islamists we all fear whose existence stems from that precise regime.

One more thing before I bring you full circle.

The Syrian regime protects Christians, sure. The rebels are creatures who want to behead Christians and only do that, sure. The following is not in Maaloula.

Lebanon, courtesy of the Syrian army.

Lebanon, courtesy of the Syrian army.

Whose protection am I supposed to ask for now?

America, Syria And All Those Arab Hypocrites

It’s funny how many people are suddenly against foreign interference in Syria. I’ve been wondering for the past week, as news of a possible American strike against Damascus surfaced, where all those people who cared about the sovereignty of Syria were for the past two years?

Arabs are interesting people. You only need to say America once in order to get them rallying behind their one common secondary enemy. The United States is the world’s biggest terrorist organization, some of them would say. You can sit back and laugh. The problem is that they firmly believe that the problem is actually the United States.

Media and people have rallied against any possible American strike, against the “imperialistic” regime that has targeted the countries of the Middle East for a long, long time. They started recalling Afghanistan and Iraq. They reminded people of the thousands who are dead because of this American greed for oil and power, although they failed to mention that Syria isn’t on the oil map. How dare they think they can use our airspace to fight our neighbors? How dare they think they can do whatever they please and not find repercussions? What right does the United States have to attack Syria?

Or so say the people whose brand of interference is not satisfied by America. Say no to foreign interference in Syria. Except foreign is only that when it’s non-Arab, no? Because somehow Arabs get to interfere in each other’s business as much as they want but it’s more than acceptable because they’re all one big happy family, raised on accepting each other’s boundaries and liberties.

For the past two years, every single Middle Eastern country has made it its bread and butter to interfere in Syrian affairs daily. But no one had a problem with that, right? Everyone is against foreign interference in Syria – except when said interference is at the hands of Hezbollah and Iran? Why? Because they’re helping the region keep one of the last remaining regimes against Israel’s zionist plans?

How exactly is the Assad regime resisting Israel? When was the last time that regime attempted to liberate the Golan Heights? How many bullets has Assad fired at the Israeli army in the past twenty years? What did Assad do when his country was bombed by Israel a few months ago?

How does anything that Assad did regarding Israel actually qualify as being a “resistance” regime? Does threatening Israel through Hezbollah in case the United States does anything to his country actually count?

The way I see it, the only country getting screwed in that non-sensical logic is Lebanon, as always. How long are we supposed to be the playground for that Syrian regime whenever it feels like it? How long are we supposed to be an extension of the war in Syria just because some parties in our country can’t mind their own business? How many more explosions that are caused, whether directly or indirectly by said parties, are we supposed to withstand just because they decided to go rescue their best friend next door? How many more independent war and peace decisions are we supposed to swallow just because they can do whatever they please? How is anything those parties are doing remotely acceptable to the entire well-being of this supposed nation that we want to call home?

Or is it because the Syrian regime is in bed with Iran and is therefore, by association, fighting Israel? And is “Israel” the only factor that is relevant enough to help us shape whatever policy or opinion we want to have? Is this “resistance” axis, whose only activity is that restricted to empty words, enough reason for us as Lebanese to let our country be screwed every single day?

Or are Arabs really afraid that those Western countries they despise actually have a form of accountability to their politicians that might see them removed from office that their countries would never, ever have? Because they’ll never see their parliaments vote against strikes? Because they’ll never see their presidents defer such decisions to legislative bodies? Because they’ll never see their leaders lose elections due to their political choices such as the ones that come to matters of war?

I also keep wondering how many people have actually forgotten what the Syrian regime is actually capable of when it comes to atrocities. Somehow, the discussion has become to let the regime stay because those rebels are worse. We’re fighting with the regime because we don’t want those “takfir” people to reach power. How abused has that word become lately? And how scared have people become of it without knowing that those who are supposedly fighting those “takfiryyin” are no different? This isn’t a matter of choosing the lesser evil. This isn’t a matter of bad versus worse. This is a matter of worst versus worst.

Do you not remember the years of human rights abuse that the Syrian regime has committed against Lebanese? Are you not familiar with the different types of experimentations that the regime has done on Lebanese people just because they defied it somehow? Do you not remember the children in Houla who were murdered ruthlessly last year by regime forces? How is this better than those “animals” who eat hearts and behead Christians? Are Christian lives more valuable just because they’re minorities? Can we stop using such useless arguments just because they allow you to have some form of cover for you coming out in support of a regime that is as horrible as the rebels you despise just because they don’t fit in your political mold of choice?

And then there are those who suddenly woke up from their two year coma and noticed there are human rights violation in Syria. Chemical weapons are a no-no – that is the red line that must not be crossed. Never mind the countless red lines that have already been crossed in Syria over the past two years as the entire world stood by watching. Human lives are not really worthy when their nationality is not of the decent kind. Those people have, therefore, decided that it makes sense for the United States to finally interfere in a “limited” strike whose effects might be anything but “limited.” Because human rights are somehow best perserved by increasing violence in a country that is already torn apart by violence? Because there’s no other solution to Syria except the easiest solution that involves sending missiles gifted from Washington, London and Paris to Damascus with love?

I don’t know who used sarin gas in Syria. Arguments can go both ways. Proof, be it fabricated or not, can also go both ways. Rebels or regime. Terrorists or the terrorist fighting those terrorists. But does it even matter who used sarin? The ship of common sense questions regarding Syria has sailed a long, long time ago. And by the looks of it, that ship won’t be coming back anytime soon because if there’s anything that life in the Middle East has taught us, it’s that the people of the region tend to think with their emotions when it comes to the matters of the head. But when it comes to politics, emotions have no role.