Myriam Klink & Jad Khalife’s “Goal:” A New Low In Lebanese Cultural Trash… But It Shouldn’t Be Censored

I was informed of a little piece of trivia information yesterday that Myriam Klink is the first Lebanese woman – ever – to have a presidential vote cast in her favor. Imagine, that out of all of the great women in Lebanon, our politicians in parliament think that honor is best given to someone whose only rise to fame is through a song about her vagina.

Yesterday, Myriam Klink delivered again with a song about her playing football, or – if you’re too old for such useless similes – about her getting laid, with a has-been singer named Jad Khalife. According to Google, he used to sing decent songs once. But don’t you think it’s the witty, catchy sexy song in the vein of, say, Haifa Wehbe. No, Myriam Klink and Jad Khalife do what they do best: be as trashy as possible in the hope of getting the attention that gives their existence purpose.

You might say it’s best not to talk about such a person, but I believe that not talking about her, or him for that matter, does them a disservice. Not all attention is good attention, and it is our duty as a society to speak up against such an abomination to our intellect and our taste. It doesn’t matter if you’re liberal, or conservative, religious or atheist, I think we can all agree that that “football-themed” “music video” is distasteful.

Here are the “song’s” lyrics… or whatever they are:

*moans.*

Klink:

Goal, fawwatet l goal.
Goal, fawwatet l goal.
7ettayto fiyi w 3abbayto – brief gasp – fawwat l goal.

Khalife:

Goal, fawwatet l goal.
Goal, fawwatet l goal.
7ettayto fiki w 3abbayto, fawwat l goal. Y WASSA3!
Fetna 3al mal3ab nel3ab, ma3 Barcelona,
Fawwatna goal mrattab, eja b 3youna,
Wa2ti l asli 3addayto,
Tani goal 7attayto,
Ta jann jnouna

Klink:

Addi, ana mesh addi,
Ana 2belt l ta7addi,
Addi, ana mesh addi,
Ana 2belt l ta7addi,

Together:

Klink… Jad (with a moan),
*another moan*
*another moan*

To the backdrop of such a masterpiece is Myriam Klink prancing around in lingerie in front of a child, while Jad Khalife rides her – literally – and tries to have his way with her.

Of course, it is within Myriam’s right to do whatever it is she pleases. I’m not here for a dose of sexism and misogyny that some Lebanese outlets will spew out in the next few days when they decide to jump on the video bandwagon for some attention. In fact, I find it horrifying that, when the video features her and a man, she’s the one who’s taking the most criticism and getting called all kinds of names, as if Jad Khalife has nothing to do with the sexual innuendos taking place in their “work.”

I’m all for more sexual liberation in Lebanese culture, and generally the Arab world. Anyone would tell you that more sexual freedom would go a long way in helping advance our societies, but don’t those who are eternally horrified at the degradation of “our values.” But at some point, one wonders: is a music video where a woman just moans as if she’s having intercourse the best way to advance such an agenda?

The answer is no.

The Western pop music scene is filled with music with sexual innuendos, and there’s nothing wrong with it. From Ariana Grande to Beyonce to Bruno Mars to the Weeknd, and many more artists, songs have been released over the past few years purely about sex. And yet, all of those artists combined have not reached the level of trashiness that Myriam Klink and Jad Khalife gave the world in the space of 90 seconds.

My problem with Myriam Klink’s video isn’t that it’s sexual. It’s that it is trashy and does a disservice to all the leaps forward we’ve made in trying to advance the liberation of our societies. And to think that a few years ago, the extent of “sex” that was deemed controversial was Haifa Wehbe’s wawa or Ruby running on a treadmill?

Despite all of this, entities like Myriam Klink and Jad Khalife should not be censored. Today, Lebanese authorities have decided to fine anyone who posts their video to the amount of about $30,000 and to call on those who have posted the video to delete it. But what good will that do? I received the video through a WhatsApp message. Those who have seen it have probably already downloaded a copy.

Censorship has never solved anything, and it will never solve anything as long as we’re not permitted to have a discussion about what it is that the government wants censored. It doesn’t matter if Klink and Khalife’s video is pornographic. The moment we allow authorities to dictate what we are allowed to be exposed to, we give them the ability to interfere into way more than that. The government has no business in dictating the kind of media that should be allowed or not, especially a system of governance such as ours where anything that exists beyond what’s considered the Lebanese acceptable norm is frowned upon.

In a way, it’s a good thing Myriam Klink and Jad Khalifeh released such a video because they might let the country have a discussion about the kind of music and art that we deserve. By refusing “goal,” we send a message that such garbage has no place on our airwaves. So let’s refuse it massively, but more importantly, let’s be civil about the way we reject it.

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Upcoming Lebanese Doom: Hassan Nasrallah “Hosted” on Basmeit Watan

You can see it now, the headlines of tomorrow: riot spreads across the land… because of a caricaturization.

LBC has guts. They’ve been expanding their forte over the past several months with excellent reporting and productions. They have now set the bar higher for everyone else once again by doing something that they did a while back to some grave consequences: they got Hassan Nasrallah to be caricatured on their satire show “Basmeit Watan.” They also mentioned a prophet.

The following is the video of the episode:

Hassan Nasrallah’s supporters have already cut off roads around Beirut in protest.

I guess everyone tunes in when the subject matter is this juicy. I mean, come on, you can smell the drama coming off from hundreds of kilometers away. It’s not like Lebanese mentalities have evolved in the years since Hassan Nasrallah was “hosted” last in order to fathom such caricatures. If anything, the country has gone way backwards in its extremism.

The YouTube comments on the video in question are hilarious. The following is a screenshot:

Screen Shot 2013-11-09 at 12.16.02 AM

 

Screen Shot 2013-11-09 at 12.43.43 PM

I wondered for a while if I just don’t get it. Then I decided that I do. I understand that Hassan Nasrallah is important to his people from a religious perspective, being theoretically a descendent of the prophet Mohammad and whatnot. I understand that a country like Lebanon where religious figures are taken in high regard is not the place to turn those people into satire.

I also know the following. Mr. Nasrallah is as active on the political scene as any other major Lebanese politician, if not more. Mr. Nasrallah is much more active politically and militarily in the Lebanese setting than any other politician and religious person in the country. Mr. Nasrallah is also the head of a party that is not, as its name claims, holy. Why should he get the prerogative that others do not get? Where do you draw a line that should not be drawn when it comes to criticism?

No Lebanese public figure should be above being portrayed in a show such as Basmeit Watan. No Lebanese public figure is holy enough not to be criticized. No Lebanese figure that toys with our lives in any way whatsoever gets to be put on a pedestal, as far as I’m concerned, and kept there until God knows when.

I couldn’t care less if Basmeit Watan or any other show portray the Pope, the Patriarch, my non-existent favorite politician or anyone else. What I do care about is that there are people in my country who think a silly TV show is enough reason for them to take it to the streets, do riots, cut roads and cause mayhem. What I do care about is the fact that the country has not changed one bit between Nasrallah 1.0 and Nasrallah 2.0. What I do care about is the fact that, in 2013, people still think holding religious office makes you immune to any form of criticism.

What’s sad is that our Lebanese priorities are reflected in the riots taking place today over a silly TV show instead of what actually counts. It’s sad that there are people who think Basmeit Watan portraying Nasrallah makes LBC an “Israeli Jewish parasite.” It’s sad that there are people who think such a portrayal is somehow a victory for Israel. Such logical fallacies exist in Lebanon, it seems.

Hezbollah, how about you take your men off the streets? Isn’t there some war we shouldn’t be fighting in to take part of? Isn’t there some government that should be formed but isn’t? Isn’t there a country that should not be run to the ground and have its streets cut off and liberties killed off in vain?

Lady Gaga’s ARTPOP Gets Censored for the Middle East

Like her or hate her, there’s basically no escaping her especially if you tune in for 10 minutes of local radio. Lady Gaga is gearing up to release her upcoming album which she has titled: ARTPOP. A few weeks ago, she revealed the album’s title to be the following:

ARTPOP

Pretty weird, right? It’s not like you’d expect anything less from her at this point though. However, Middle Eastern countries are getting a different and censored version of this same cover, which was just released and is the following:

BYP0Iz0CQAAE123.jpg-large

They’ve increased the dimension of that ball in front of her, whatever it might mean, to cover her breasts. They’ve also colored her legs black in order to give the impression that she’s covered up.

And yes, Lebanon is one of those countries as is evident by the Lebanese iTunes Store.

I really don’t get this. Did local authorities tell her label they would refuse to sell the album under its previous cover? Or did the label do this out of courtesy? If so, did they really think people wouldn’t simply switch the censored and covered-up cover for the other one in case the decided to purchase the album?

I may not like Lady Gaga and her music but I absolutely hate censorship especially when it’s this absurd and non-sensical. What’s next? Cover her up with a burqa and retitle the album to something regionally-appropriate in order not to irk some people? After all, who knows how they’ll take the “art” in Artpop?

Last time I checked, regardless of whether I agree or not with her methods, she was someone championing for personal liberties and whatnot. Our countries have squashed that right out of the bat – and the album is yet to be released. Perhaps they’ll then censor the track listing as well which contains songs called Sex Dreams and Swine because, as you know, sex and swine are both haram.

I guess the bright side is that this wasn’t banned, not that it would make any difference given that’s available online aplenty.

This Website is Banned As Per The Lebanese Ministry of Telecommunications

Picture via @ohmyhappiness, click for full size.

Picture via @ohmyhappiness, click for full size.

Yesterday afternoon, Twitter user Raja Farah was busy researching late Lebanese politician Habib Pasha Saad when he stumbled on a page that wouldn’t open.

The notification as to why that particular website was unaccessible was a simple prompt: This website is banned as per the Lebanese ministry of Telecommunications. The above screenshot is what he got.

Using modern technology, which seems to have escaped our ministry of telecommunication, I managed to access the website in question. It turned out to be a directory of people: trying to build family trees, connect with relatives you may not know, etc. There was nothing more to it and definitely nothing less since it was pretty bland as it is. And yet, the website was banned. I tried to access it using a different ISP and the website would refuse to load even though my internet connection worked quite well.

katagogi.com

The page Mr. Farah was trying to access had nothing striking as well. I managed to procure the following screenshots of its content. As you can see, there’s simply nothing there.

Yesterday as well, it was revealed that another website was blocked as well, pertaining to the Mansour Labaki scandal. You can check out the details regarding it here. The Mansour Labaki website also has next to no shocking content. It provides next to nothing new on the case; it doesn’t give any new information, it doesn’t give any proof as to what the man did. It is, however, not accessible for anyone whose IP address is Lebanese.

Ladies and gentlemen, it seems we have more things to worry about when it comes to censorship in Lebanon than the banning of movies, books and possibly some music. It was only recently that they removed two movies out of the Beirut Film Festival because they didn’t fit with the moral code they want to enforce on all of us. But we now have another big brother watching over our heads in order to make sure we get “proper” exposure: our ministry of telecommunications.

I remember well when that same ministry made itself  the knight in shining armor fighting for my rights as a citizen to have my data remain private from security personnel who wanted to use it to fight terrorism. But there are other rights that pertain to me, as a citizen, which seem to be trampled on left and right. What right does anyone have to grant or restrict access to any sort of information to me? Isn’t this a violation to one of my fundamental rights as well?

How many websites already exist that we can’t access because someone out there decided that we had inadequate intellect to handle their content? What criteria is followed to decide that we, as a Lebanese population using our dismal and detrimental internet services, should not be allowed to access this website and not the other? What right does the minister of telecommunication, or whoever decides these things, have in order to decide whether a website should or should not be allowed to the general population?

They tell us day in day out about how our internet and telecom services have improved recently. They brag about 4G, about prices dropping and whatnot.  We have faster internet to access less and less websites. It starts with the ones I listed here, but who knows where this will go?

We have 4G and better 3G, supposedly (the reception in my hometown would beg to differ). But bringing in 4G phones into the country, or any phone that you want, for that matter is simply going to hell and back (link) with regulations upon regulations whose only purpose is to make your life as an irrelevant citizen harder while not making a dent in the business of those who’re supposedly targeted by these rules.

This isn’t about politics. I couldn’t care less who’s the current minister of telecom, who was before him or who might come after him. As I look at this, a clear pattern unfolds in front of me: the supposed advancements in the telecom sector we are having are coming at the expense of my personal freedoms as a consumer and as a citizen. The more we’re “advancing,” the more we crave for how things were before all this “improvement.” True advancement is giving people choices. It’s giving them full access to everything they need to formulate opinions. At this rate, I’d say take back your 4G and give me those choices for that is true advancement.

Lebanese Priorities: Censoring The Film Out of Beirut’s Film Festival

L'inconnu du Lac movie poster

L’inconnu du Lac movie poster

When I was walking around the streets of Paris a few months ago, a movie poster at one of their newspaper kiosks caught my attention. It was a colorful painting of two men kissing, with stamps of some impact the movie had at the most recent Cannes Festival. It was called “L’Inconnu du Lac.”

I jokingly said to my friend back then that such a movie would never be released in Lebanon because, you know, there’s someone out there whose main concern is my moral well-being. Who needs art? Who needs some degree of taboo breaking? Who needs any form of mental challenges when you have a bureau whose job is to make sure you don’t get the least mentally stimulated?

A year ago, a friend of mine expressed pride in her cousin, a filmmaker named Farah Chaer, who had produced a short movie called “I Offered You Pleasure,” on the widely known but not-spoken-of topic of “Met’a” marriage among Lebanon’s Shiite sect. An interview conducted with the filmmaker back then asked her about the possibility of having her movie censored. I was sure she’d have trouble.

I was right about both movies.

Our bureau of censorship, which censored a play about censorship about a month ago, decided that both movies couldn’t be part of the Beirut Film Festival, which was opened by Alfonso Cuaron’s “Gravity” yesterday, an excellent movie if I may say so.

Our bureau of censorship decided for every single Lebanese that a movie talking about the “met’a” marriage was not to be seen by the Lebanese people. It decided that such an issue is not to be allowed to discussed on screen. It decided that they want to preserve our well-being by banning us from being exposed to that facet of our society that not all of us are aware of.

Our bureau of censorship decided that a movie about a homosexual relationship which had a torrent of praise bestowed on it in Cannes is not suitable for viewers here. It decided that we all have the mental span of a two year old and as such couldn’t withstand having such forms of art approach us without damaging our souls, our precious whole Lebanese souls which should never be maimed by such indecencies. I wonder, what will happen to the movie “Blue Is The Warmest Color,” which won the top award at Cannes and which also has unsimulated lesbian sex scenes? Will we also not be allowed to watch that movie as well because they don’t see it fit?

As Lebanese, we truly don’t have the extent of freedom that we think we do. We can’t discuss religions freely. We can’t discuss politics freely. We can’t discuss politicians freely. We can’t even criticize our president freely. And lately, there’s been a growing phenomenon of censorship that’s been greatly limiting what we get to be exposed to in order to maintain public order.

As a Lebanese today, with such bans I am stopped from having discussions that would otherwise not be possible in my society. I am stopped from being able to get exposed to the culture that exists beyond this country of mine. I am stopped from being able to enjoy this art that is cinema due to the prongs of a bureau that cannot appreciate the art in it. I am forced to remove the film out of the Beirut Film Festival because there’s really no point in having a movie festival where every single scene is not an expression of freedom, but a mere manifestation of some scissors that decided that scene was allowed.

As a Lebanese today, I am very thankful my country has its priorities in order: my morals, ethics and whatnot top that list. As if we can’t download both movies really soon. Wlek tfeh.

Lebanon Censors a Play About Censorship

Some officials in this country don’t seem to live in the same place as people who are worried about going by everyday, about explosions and impeding wars.

Instead, they are more worried about how their reputation plays out through a play that doesn’t even target them in a documentary way. A play about censorship was censored by Lebanon’s bureau of censorship. Why?

1) Because the bureau couldn’t grasp the fact that this is satire.
2) Because the man in question doesn’t require his subordinates to stomp their foot in salutation and was offended the play suggested he does.
3) Because our censorship bureau got offended that a play is making fun of them.
4) Because the play in question was, according to the bureau, “not a work of art but a work of shame.”
5) Because even though there’s no law to dictate we can’t criticize the censorship bureau, they can – according to this article – “forbid whatever [they] want and [they] will forbid it.”

A play is not something that our censorship bureau can cut into little pieces for the audience to watch. They either take it whole or not take it at all. Our bureau has decided not to take any parts of it.
A play is also not something that we can get access to through modern technological means. It’s not the art that has gone digital to become accessible. Instead, our censorship bureau has decided that its sense of moral well-being is best served by stopping every single Lebanese from getting access.

In this act of censorship, this bureau in question has made a bigger fool out of themselves than this play would ever do. They showed us that what we get exposed to is dictated by something that can’t even take a joke.

I’m not one to usually follow the rhetoric of “there are worse things happening to care about this,” but when the country is on the brink of war, this is what is decided to be censored: a play meant to make people smile in these troubling times, instead of all the crap of sectarianism and violence instigation that we are bombarded with everyday by our media. I guess that’s what our bureau likes. Such a shame.

This is the play’s trailer:

Spring Breakers Won’t Be Released in Lebanon

It may have been received with mixed reviews but we won’t get the chance to judge Spring Breakers ourselves, as per a Grand Cinemas tweet – one of Lebanon’s main cinema chains.

Spring Breakers Lebanon

 

Empire isn’t showing the movie as well in its list of upcoming releases.

 

The movie is known to have nudity, drug use and heavy language. It is rated R in the United States. The official synopsis is the following:

Brit (Ashley Benson), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Cotty (Rachel Korine) and Faith (Selena Gomez) have been best friends since grade school. They live together in a boring college dorm and are hungry for adventure. All they have to do is save enough money for spring break to get their shot at having some real fun. A serendipitous encounter with rapper “Alien” (James Franco) promises to provide the girls with all the thrill and excitement they could hope for. With the encouragement of their new friend, it soon becomes unclear how far the girls are willing to go to experience a spring break they will never forget.

But are those criteria enough to qualify as the “circumstances” that are not allowing Spring Breakers from having a Lebanese release? I hardly think so. After all, many R-rated movies end up being released here and some Lebanese productions such as Ossit Sawani feature sex scenes as well as drug use – by underage people no less.

Grand Cinemas didn’t reply to tweets asking what those “circumstances” are. It is known, though, that circumstances leading to movies not released here are either political or religious. I doubt though that Spring Breakers violates any of Lebanon’s many sanctities in those two domains.

I guess we’ll never know why Lebanon’s censorship bureau decided this movie shouldn’t be screened here. But when will they know that there’s no such thing as a “ban” in the time and age of digital media? And when will they know that people are aware enough to judge anything’s merit away from their chopping paws?

Spring Breakers will be soon available for download everywhere. Good luck censoring that.

Update:

The SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom followed up on this issue with both the Censorship Bureau and Grand Cinemas.
There has not been yet any official request by the Cinema circuit submitted to the General Security’s bureau to receive an approval for screening the movie. Hence, there was no decision whatsoever, neither positive nor negative, regarding Spring Breakers.
As for Grand Cinemas, they said they still do not know when or if they will want to screen that movie.
So there is no case of censorship for this movie.

No idea why Grand Cinema was referring to “circumstances” in their reply if they haven’t even looked at the movie yet.