Bi Sarahah, That “Sarahah” Website Is A Waste Of Your Time, Sanity & Well-Being

It happens every now and then, on various social media platforms, that websites wanting their users to engage in answering questions submitted anonymously become super popular.

As a Twitter user, I’ve been exposed to such websites for a long time now. A few years ago, it was ask.fm that had everyone up in arms. Over the past few months, another website called Curious Cat took the cake. Today, Facebook users across Lebanon and the Arab World are discovering a website called “Sarahah” – Arabic for honesty – that does the exact same thing: you set up a profile, advertise for it and whoever wants to ask you or tell you anything can do so anonymously.

The idea may sound tantalizing at first, but anonymity has a way to bring out the worst out of people and you don’t want to submit yourself to that willingly, just because it sounds cute or it’s what everyone else in doing.

I’ve never used those websites, but I’ve seen what my friends and other people I follow get asked. While they might get the occasional adorable message from Mr or Ms. anonymous saying they have a crush on them and it stops at that, more often than not the messages verge on the vitriol and the hurtful and do not involve any of the “constructive criticism” that some people think the website will offer them. I know this firsthand from the comments I get on this blog: the personal attacks are mostly from people under fake names and fake emails.

Exposing yourself to anonymous criticism is not the key to become a “better” person. Computer screens and keyboards give people the ability to say things they’d never tell you to your face. On the contrary, it will only serve to bring you down. Your actual friends would tell you when you mess up or when you have to fix something about the way you’re handling things to your face and don’t actually need a platform for them to do so anonymously. If they don’t do so, then perhaps you have to reassess the sensibilities of that friendship.

On the other hand, strangers whose opinion of you is based on what you post on Facebook or what you tweet are those whose criticism you should take with a pinch of salt. They don’t know you. They’re only sending you those messages because that’s what being anonymous allows them to do.

Moreover, don’t think that these websites are exclusive to your family and friends: anyone with an internet connection can access your profile and submit anything they want to say about you. This opens all the abuse doors you can think of. We might act all macho and non-caring, but we’re all affected by what others say about us to some degree. Do you really want to be willingly bullied by anonymous cowards online who are drowning in their own insecurities and see you as easy submissive prey for them to lash out at?

Don’t waste your time on useless websites which will give you more of a headache than anything else. Use that free time you’re using in thinking such websites can be good for you in things that can actually make you a better person: read up on the world, see what’s happening around you, hang out with your actual friends and ask them their opinion over dinner.

Simply put: if you want honesty, have those who actually know you tell it to your face. Ask your friends to send you messages or texts or Instagram DM’s with that same criticism you’re trying to get from people who may not know you. Don’t think that validation or improvement can come from those who don’t have the guts to tell you, to your face, bi sarahah, whatever they want to say.

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To The Americans Fighting The #MuslimBan, A Middle Eastern Thank You


Dear Americans standing up for human decency,

Thank you.

As I saw the thousands of you gather around airports in the country, chanting against a ban that sees only hate, I couldn’t help but be amazed at how wonderful you are as people who care about others who are being targeted for things out of their control, for standing up to those of us who are weakened across the world.

To the protestors who stormed city squares and airports in a completely spontaneous manner because they couldn’t sit by and be complacent to such injustice, thank you.

To the translators offering their tongues and time to people whose voices have been taken away from them, thank you.

To the lawyers and the ACLU offering everything that they can give to those who have nothing to offer back, thank you.

To the army veterans, whose chests are adorned with Purple Hearts, standing at airports because this isn’t what they fought for, thank you.

To those who have defied their parents, friends and comfort zones to stand up for what’s right, thank you.

To the employers making sure their employees know their workplace is a place of inclusion, not exclusion, thank you.

To the hospital program directors who are making sure to reassure residency applicants, that are needed by America so, that their programs don’t look at country or race or visa status, thank you.

To the celebrities whose views have been chastised for so long, who have painted their bodies and advocated from the most watched podiums for those whose entire lives have been uprooted because of a signature, thank you.

To the taxis of New York, who risked their livelihoods for humanity, thank you.

To those applauding at airports as detainees were let free, for bringing tears to our eyes for your solidarity, thank you.

To the American companies, like Starbucks and Lyft, who want to hire refugees and are standing against oppression, thank you.

To the conservatives who voted for the man causing this, and who are now shell-shocked about what is taking place and refusing to stand by it, thank you.

To the Republicans who are not represented by this man and who refuse to partake in this, thank you.

To the Christians in America who know their religion is about love and acceptance, who know that Jesus wants them to turn the other cheek and not cower away in fear, thank you.

To the wonderful Americans who are spending their days and nights and all their free time shouting to whoever could listen that there are values in this world that are more important than politics, thank you.

To the ones who see us as people, not as baggage with frightening connotations in societies they don’t understand, people who should be given the same chance at a better life that their ancestors got, thank you.

Over the last few days, you have shown us an America that is, truly, a beacon of hope for the world, and hope is the weapon that scares those who feed on hate the most: to know that despite everything that they do, there will still be people who will not stay silent or complacent or succumb to fear.

I’m typing this today on a New York subway, in awe of what you are accomplishing and humbled by the outflow of compassion you are showing people you’ve ever met, that you’ve been taught all your life to fear and believe they only want what is bad for you. 

The freedom which you are exercising is the embodiment of the foundations your great country was built upon, that which entrances anyone who sees it, that which welcomes in all the weary, the tired, the poor, and the huddled masses waiting to breathe in that same freedom.

You are showing us every day that, in a world overtaken by darkness, that ideals can overturn tyranny and that it is okay to still hope in the face of such atrocities.
To paraphrase J.K. Rowling: “[hope] can be found in the darkest of times, if only one remembers to turn on the light.” Thank you for shining bright. 

 

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?

Adeela & Why The Fans Of Nancy Ajram, Elissa, Other Divas Need To Be Less Butthurt With Jokes

Picture this, a sarcastic joke making fun of a Lebanese pop star ends up threatening one of the biggest and funniest pages to grace Lebanese and Arab Facebook.

Over the past few months, and in lightning-speed time, the sarcastic page calling itself “Adeela,” referring to the world’s biggest pop star Adele, was as famous in these parts of the world as the character it’s based on.

What started of as jokes placing a hypothetical Adele in an Arab setting soon became a scathing, sometimes over the top but often always spot on, critique of the state of the Arab pop scene. When Ahlam decided Lebanese were beneath her, Adeela was the first at the guillotines. When Beirut Madinati was running for elections, Adeela was voting for them in full force. The examples are endless.

However, with the evolution of Adeela from an Adele-sarcastic character to an all-seeing basher of Lebanese and Arab female singers, unless they’re called Julia Boutros, the amount of people that started to take offense at Adeela’s jokes started to rise exponentially.

It wasn’t that the jokes attacked their mother or father or religion – gasp – or family.

It wasn’t that the jokes were offensive in themselves to those people’s character.

No. Those people were so butthurt by a joke… about their favorite singing Diva, and at their forefront is the legions of fans of Nancy Ajram, Elissa and Maya Diab who almost managed to get Facebook to shut down Adeela’s page earlier today.

The sad part is that it’s more than likely their respective “Goddesses” couldn’t care less about being joked about. In these parts of the world, any publicity is good publicity. It’s not like Adeela making fun of a singer on Facebook is a Kim-Kardashian-Exposing-Taylor-Swift moment. And yet, the amount of offense that some people take at creative, and yet ultimately useless, jokes is beyond unacceptable.

Some of the jokes are as follows, as you can see few are those about whom there were no jokes:

Isn’t that the Arab way of doing things, though, so when someone “offends” you, your reflex to deal with that person is to silence them? It must be engrained in Arab DNA.

The picture that threatened the existence of Adeela’s page yesterday was the following:

Adeela Nancy Ajram Chicco

There’s really nothing to it. It makes fun of how Nancy Ajram seems to find her way as a spokesperson for everything in the Middle East. It was reported to Facebook as “offensive content and propagating pedophilia.” The extent some people go to is unbelievable.

So to the “fanzet” who think that jokes are something worth getting up in a fit about:

How about you make chill pills part of your daily routine? Why don’t you do some mental exercises to somehow boost your mental capacities to someone who doesn’t take personal offense at a joke targeting someone who will never be affected by it and who doesn’t relate to you in any way other than you fangirling over them releasing a song after Eid el Fitr?

The fact of the matter is we need pages like Adeela in these parts of the world, not only to serve as a much-needed comic relief that never borders on the cliche, but also to maybe, just maybe, shake some sense into our over-botoxed, over-stretched, over-faked scene. Who knows, maybe the next Arab revolution is not about changing political systems but reducing lip fillers?

Omar Mohammad: The 17 Year Old Martyr Of Arab Free Thought and Speech

Omar Mohammed

In the vast chaos ravaging through the Middle East, these past few days have been especially detrimental to the already extremely weak freedom of thought and speech. Yesterday, Jordanian officials banned Lebanese band Mashrou’ Leila from ever performing in Jordan simply because they were afraid of their progressive message.

A few hundred kilometers away from Amman, a 17 year old named Omar Mohammad was living his last hours before being killed by extremists in his country. His fault? They thought he was an atheist, and as such an apostate. He was, however, a firm believer in God and Islam, but not the Islam those terrorists wanted to propagate, and as such his words on Facebook and his way of life proved to be too much for them to handle.

Today, Omar Mohammad is no more, because he dared to speak up against the horrors that had become customary in the place he called home, Yemen. People like Omar should be memorialized for the courage they exhibit in challenging the status quo where they exist, in doing so with extreme modernity in a sea of backwardness.

Going through his Facebook profile, on which his words will now forever be imprinted, the only thing you can call Omar is a martyr for Arab free speech and thought. He may not have been safe in his last days, as he wrote “a country in which you don’t feel safe is not your home,” but he was brave enough to oppose, brave enough to stand up for himself, for what he believe to be true, for what he thought was wrong in his community and society.

When accused of atheism he replied: “They accuse me of atheism! Oh you people, I see God in the flowers,
And you see Him in the graveyards, that is the difference between me and you.”

On extremists groups he wrote: “How do we await peace from those whose emblem is death?”

On the use of religion to pass ulterior agendas, he said: “You can force your will onto other people. Just call what you want to do the will of God, for that is what men of the cloak do.”

On the current status of the Middle East, he wrote: “We need a moral revolution before everything else, one that brings us back to our humanity, one that wakes us up from our coma. Our situation has become disastrous.”

On the sexual repression culture of the Arab world, Omar said: “Our societies have become purely sexual, and that is because of the repression that our youth live. The simplest example to that is sermons that call for heaven affixed with beautiful women. I challenge a man of the cloak to mention heaven without associating it with women.”

With the murder of Omar, the Arab world has lost a youth that promised a better future, that promised hope that one day this region would amount to something again. May his family find solace in him being remembered by millions of those who didn’t know him, his words propagated forevermore.

Bullying The Voice Kids Finalist Zein Obeid For Being Overweight Is The Most Despicable Of Acts

Zein OBeid The Voice Kids

There are many things taking place in the Middle East today that classify as nauseating and despicable. We live in wars and occupation. We fight extremism, or succumb to it sometimes. We try and manage around squashed liberties and an international community that doesn’t care about our well-being outside of its relation to the oil barrel.

But few things are more despicable and disgusting than bullying a kid online, publicly and en masse.

Zein Obeid is an eleven year old boy from Syria who participated on the first season of The Voice Kids, reaching the finals before losing to Lebanese Lynn Hayek. He was one of the participants to get people talking the most, with one viral performance after the next. His stage persona was that of a total sweetheart, but that did not deter some mindless folk from bringing him down because he was overweight.

Leading up the show’s finale, the following picture circulated on social media to mock Zein:

Tfeh.

I didn’t want to share the above picture here, but it’s so wide-spread that I figured having it accompanying a piece where those who came up with it and are sharing it get trashed is not a bad way to do things. It was shared above and beyond by people who figured this was proper joke material. We’re all laughing. Ha ha.

Yes, I am laughing. I’m laughing at the utter and sheer mindlessness of everyone who figured this was a good joke, who decided that publicly making fun of a ten year old in such a way actually constitutes a joke to begin with. I’m laughing at the people who are so insecure and cowardly behind their keyboard-clicking fingers, making fun of someone for being who he is.

Yes, I’m laughing at you for being such disgusting people.

In order to get to The Voice Kids, Zein Obeid had to leave his home in Syria behind and come to Lebanon, a country that has made it near impossible for Syrians to be granted entry. He had to audition in front of a separate jury before being let in front of the coaches where he had to sing for them to be convinced enough to turn their chairs. He then had to go through an elimination process to get to the finals where he was at the mercy of Arab audiences voting. He didn’t end up winning. Imagine how devastating that must feel for an eleven year old, and yet here you are making fun of him just because you’re such a strong warrior behind your computer screen.

In doing what he did on The Voice, Zein entertained nations across the Middle East with his voice and stage presence. That takes an insurmountable amount of courage and pride.

Body shaming people is never okay, let alone when you’re doing it to someone who is only a little boy and whose entire perception of his experience in that talent show is of him doing something worthwhile that he will grow up one day to tell stories about. Why don’t you stand in a mirror, and take a deep long look at yourself before making fun of someone for being whoever they are in their own skin?

You may be making fun of Zein, but he’s the one who’s going to have the last laugh. Zein, if you end up reading this, know this: you are kind, you are so talented, and you are beautiful.

Lebanese Marwan Youssef Wins Star Academy; Arabs Have A Meltdown About It

As blogger Anis Tabet wisely put it, “the year is 2050, and Star Academy is still on TV.”

Yes, it’s become increasingly redundant and unwatchable as it faces competition from more “appealing” shows as The Voice, but here we are and the Lebanese contestant Marwan Youssef just became the second Lebanese to win the show after Joseph Attieh, arguably the show’s most accomplished winner and graduate.

From the town of Obeidat in Jbeil, Marwan is an USEK student in his twenties, and even though I haven’t watched the show, catching up with what he presented over the season on YouTube has shown me that he is immensely talented, and can seriously sing (as can the other 3 finalists).

And since the country had nothing else to worry about over the past week, the ministry of telecommunication slashed voting prices (link) and radio stations as well as LBC led a campaign encouraging people to vote. He ended up getting around 55% of the votes, facing 2 Egyptians and a Tunisian:

But then the drama started.

I inadvertently clicked on the hashtag of the show soon after the announcement of the results only to be inundated by conspiracy theories, a slur of racism, accusations of cheating, mocking of Lebanon and a bunch of other hilarious offerings.

First up there was the news channel speaking about “actual” voting results, except math died in the process.

Star Academy 11 Marwan Youssef Haydi Moussa Mohammad Abbas Nassim el Rayyess Finale - 1

What’s sadder is the amount of people believing the numbers and resharing them.

Then there was the Egyptian who knows about our political problems and who figured Star Academy would be the best way to use them:

Star Academy 11 Marwan Youssef Haydi Moussa Mohammad Abbas Nassim el Rayyess Finale - 18

There were also those who had a problem with the country to begin with and couldn’t wait for such a thing to happen to express their #TeamAntiLebanon attitude:

Star Academy 11 Marwan Youssef Haydi Moussa Mohammad Abbas Nassim el Rayyess Finale - 21

Some were also very confused:

Star Academy 11 Marwan Youssef Haydi Moussa Mohammad Abbas Nassim el Rayyess Finale - 7

Egyptian journalists with verified twitter accounts were also not that happy:

Star Academy 11 Marwan Youssef Haydi Moussa Mohammad Abbas Nassim el Rayyess Finale - 20

It’s safe to say a lot of people were not happy at all:

There’s a whole lot of those where they came from.

Leave it to a talent show to show exactly how fond Arabs are of each other. We’re all good at playing nice with each other as long as no one’s beating the other country’s participant at a talent show. If that occurs, claws are out. Be afraid Israel, be very afraid!

If a useless singing show on its 11th season can elicit such a reaction, what have we left to the things that actually matter? I almost forgot we are dealing with a thing called the Arab Spring/Winter, and that there’s a little thing called ISIS that exists among us.

In the spectrum of Arab priorities, clearly the participant coming from a small country winning a talent show is ranked up high. It is then that they cry foul and cheating. But when their governments do it to them daily, everyone just hits the snooze button and goes about their days daily. Perhaps we went about these revolutions the wrong way? Maybe the best way would have been to hold a phone voting competition and be done with it?

One thing is clear, however: better math is needed in the land that invented algebra.