No, Wanting to Date & Have Sex Doesn’t Make Lebanese Women Whores

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It’s 2017 and we’re still talking about this, but then again what can you expect when one of your country’s “liberal” TV stations is more conservative than America’s Fox News?

Earlier today, following this viral blog post, MTV decided to take part of the crusade against the seriously bad show on LBCI called Take Me Out.

Whilst the blogpost they tried to copy was somewhat conservative in tone as is the writer who penned it, a relative of mine whom I respect enormously, MTV took it to another extreme by calling the women on the show, without explicitly saying the word, whores.

This happened after a guy took off his shirt on TV. So the women got the short end of the stick? If you don’t get it, don’t even try.

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To them, being on a TV show about dating and wanting to go out on dates or – gasp – even have sex degrades the value of our women. The vocabulary used in that article was as degrading as it gets, reminiscent of those arguments that should have been way behind us as society but unfortunately aren’t, let alone arguments used by a TV station whose pre-requisite for female media personnel is them having good enough looks.

I quote (and translate): “Do the producers of Take Me Out accept for their daughters or nieces or sisters to participate in such a show? Don’t the women participating in the show have fathers or brothers who refuse the level of public prostitution that their daughters and sisters are doing on TV?”

Because, as we know, the only relevant reference for what a female entity can do in this country is always in reference to her male superior figure. This is just disgraceful and shameful.

No MTV (and whoever in Lebanon agrees with it), our women can do whatever the fuck they want without having entities like you breathing down their neck, thinking you are allowed to have the “moral” high ground. The only ground you get is a ditch somewhere where your disgusting backward thoughts can rot.

No MTV (and whoever in Lebanon agrees with it), our women don’t need their brothers or fathers to tell them what they can or cannot do. They don’t need a man to dictate their lives for them. They don’t need you to beseech that male figure that exists in their life to defend their honor because people without honor can’t call it for others.

No MTV (and whoever in Lebanon agrees with it), our women don’t need your approval or the approval of anyone other than themselves to go out on dates, sleep with whoever they want and do whatever they please. You’re shocked? Let me shock you further: our women have the right to enjoy their bodies as much as they want, drool over as many men or women as they want, and do whatever makes them happy. And the best part is? It’s none of your business.

No MTV (and whoever in Lebanon agrees with it), you do not get to preach about morals when you sell sex at every possible chance you get and would sell anything sexual whose rights you’re able to procure if it gets you enough ratings. You don’t even get to worry about the reputation we “sell” of ourselves to Arab countries because they’re not even a standard anyone should follow when it comes to reputations or women rights. Isn’t the fact that your shows are getting beaten according to IPSOS why you’re suddenly the knights in shining armor coming in to defend our women’s hymens?

We have a long way to go before our women can get the same rights and privileges as the men in our society, but that won’t happen when they’re still being shamed, in 2017, for wanting to date and have sex and seek out pleasures that others may not approve of.

You don’t want women to have sex? Well, keep it in your pants and cross your legs. You don’t want women to date? Then talk to your mother about arranging you the next available husband or wife. But don’t you ever think that you get to dictate your narrow-minded point of view on others, under the guise of morals, and get away with it.

You know we’re fast hitting rock bottom when a trashy TV show is used to spark a conversation about morals. To quote MTV: متل الش… يلي بتحاضر بالعفة.  W 7zaro l sh ya shatrin. 

 

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The Attack (2013) – Movie Review

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Ziad Doueiri’s The Attack might as well be considered as the most controversial “Lebanese” movie of recent times. But that’s not saying much. The hype surrounding the politics of the movie has been resounding. But does The Attack deliver on all the promises the director and the people who like him gave?

Amin (Ali Suliman) is an Arab-Israeli surgeon living and practicing medicine in Tel Aviv. While receiving some humanitarian award from the Israelis, Amin receives a call from his wife who sounds distressed. He doesn’t give it much attention, the focus is all on him. Soon enough, while having lunch at the rooftop of their Israeli hospital, the surgeons hear an explosion. 17 casualties ensue, 11 of which are children… And it’s Amin’s wife Siham (Raymond Amsalem) who committed the attack. Between the barrage of the Israelis who suddenly turn on the man they believe they sheltered into becoming one of them and the guard of the Arabs who believe Siham did a noble thing and are disgusted by the “bastard” who left his heritage and home to integrate in a place that is not his, Amin seeks out to find why his wife became a radical person who managed to get convinced to blow herself up for the Palestinian cause.

Sounds good, right? Well, in theory it does.

The Attack is divided into two parts. The first one is what can be called the Hebrew segment in which Tel Aviv is shown as a bustling cosmopolitan city whose people are as disassociated with the conflict raging outside their city’s confines while the other half is the Arab part, situated in Nablos, whose people struggle in their everyday life and revel in the idea of martyrdom, turning Siham into a local heroin. In a way, each part serves to pitch each side’s case.

I found the take on the issue, which the movie tries to do, shallow and borderline grating at times, even in its tackling of Siham’s radicalization which The Attack finds even more astonishing due to the fact she’s Christian. The Attack doesn’t go as deep as it should. it remains up there, flapping around the stereotypical stories of both sides – the action/reaction scenario that never ends. It never asks the tough questions: are the reactions warranted? Are they the best way to tackle the actions that led to them?

And I, for one, am glad and fully supportive of not choosing The Attack as Lebanon’s Oscar submission last year because there’s nothing Lebanese about the movie at all. In fact, the Lebanese elements of the movie are a mention of Hassan Nasrallah and Beirut – separately.

As a movie, The Attack works. It’s a decent thriller. There isn’t a dull moment, constantly keeping up the pace it sets from the get-go. The camera work, cinematography and locations are all well-done. But don’t expect it to blow you away. The acting, however, is superb. Both lead actors do a great job in their roles. Amsalem’s portrayal of Siham is gut-wrenching at times as is the life Ali Suliman gives her husband.

What The Attack manages to do, which might be the most important thing, is create a discussion. I watched the movie with 4 other Lebanese while on a stay in Paris – the movie will not be released in Lebanon – and we spent almost 40 minutes huddled outside the cinema center discussing what we had just seen. As a nation, though, Lebanon is possibly nowhere near ready for such a movie to be screened although the current state of Israel is eye-opening to what we, as a country, are so desperately lacking.

3/5

Obba Saida Style… Causes Controversy in Saida

Leave it to some dim-witted Lebanese religious man to turn a parody into a controversy. Obba Saida Style, the ChiNN cover that many found funny, is being challenged by some men in Saida as offensive and demeaning and an insult to the values of the city.

As a result, they are calling on Saida’s MPs to take disciplinary actions against Abou Talal, the character that did the parody because the song calls for “rebellion on the values of the city of Saida and calls for immorality.” (link)

Te3tir? You bet.

We’re reaching a point in this country where people’s threshold for offenses has become way too low causing them to get worked up at the most useless of things. I’m not against anyone expressing their concerns but there comes a time when those concerns are so ridiculous they should just be bottled in and repressed in some deep part of that person’s subconscious.

Nurses, clergy, basically every section in our society is finding something – anything – for them to get worked up on. As a result, the leeway in dealing with any event is becoming so restricted that we might as well not do anything at all anymore. Clergy should take care of prayers to those who care and leave parodies out of their business. Same thing applies to all other sections in our becomingly narrow-minded society.

Until then, here’s Obba Saida Style for anyone who doesn’t get offended at the stupidest things:

Muslim Prayers At USJ

Everyone should be able to express their conviction in the right place at the right time. This is a conviction of mine. The right place and the right time may vary depending on where you stand regarding an issue but sometimes things are very clear cut and a stance needs to be taken.

A few months ago, the Antonine university had a tough situation with Muslims students who were adamant about praying at their university, which happened to be a Maronite Monastery, so they took the convent’s courtyard to do so. This sparked a debate in the country: should these students be allowed to pray or not at universities with obvious religious affiliations?

The point of view that I expressed back then and which I still stand by is the following: If a Muslim student (or a Christian student for that matter) believes it’s of utmost importance for him/her to pray, then that should go into their university selection criteria. If that student deems prayer not important enough and believes that getting the best education that can be provided, regardless of the university’s religious affiliation, is the way you to go, then that student doesn’t have the right to complain later on.

Université St. Joseph (USJ) had a similar incidence yesterday where more than twenty Muslim students decided to gather around and take a room without permission in order to pray. The incident was reported to the dean who rounded up the students only to have the situation swell by attracting more students to the place where the prayers were taking place. Some took the job of acting as guard to let the prayers continue.

The situation escalated to the maximum point without a confrontation happening and the incident has sparked some Christians at USJ to express outrage at what was happening. They believe that including a prayer room in the faculty of medicine was good enough – forcing every single faculty to adopt such policies is a step too far. The faculty in question was ESIB. For the Muslims who want to pray at USJ, it is their “right” to pray five times and they believe the university should provide them with a prayer room to do so.

It seems that such endless debates are our bread as Lebanese. But here’s what it breaks down into quite simply.

  1. USJ is a university that is obviously Christian. It is run by the Jesuites. It doesn’t hide its Christian affiliation and as such, those applying to study in it are well aware of that.
  2. Given that the nature of USJ is a general fact, weren’t those Muslim fully aware that attending USJ will bring them the best education possible and not spiritual fulfillment?
  3. When a prayer turns into proving a “principle” and rubbing it into other people’s faces, the question asks itself: what’s the point of praying in the first place?
  4. When a prayer becomes a point of conflict, the question also asks itself: are those students really seeking religious salvation or are they simply seeking trouble? I believe it’s obviously the latter.
  5. What forces universities with obvious religious affiliations to provide praying facilities for all its students? Is it something that they’re obliged to do? Absolutely not. If a university had been secular, the problem wouldn’t present itself. The American University of Beirut converted its chapel into an assembly hall and has denied requests for prayers rooms. AUB is secular. USJ is not.
  6. Universities abroad, which provide prayer rooms for students, are not religious in nature. And if the prayer rooms are provided, they are not for one religion and not the other – they are for all religions. Religious ones, on the other hand, are not forced to do so: Case in point: the Catholic Medicine faculty in Lille, France, does not provide prayer rooms for its Muslim students.
  7. Would a Lebanese Muslim university open a chapel for Christians to pray in it? The answer is obviously not. The argument that Christians don’t need to pray doesn’t hold. What if they want to?

Lebanese students in general, both Christian and Muslim, need to know that universities are not churches. They are not mosques. They are not synagogues. Universities are places where they pay in order to learn and build a future for themselves and their families. The fact that all of my Muslim friends at medical school, some of whom are extremely religious (they are Salafists and awesome), have no problem going through our long days without praying is testament enough that those “Muslims” wanting to “pray” at USJ are only seeking to create trouble and tension at a university that’s known of accepting people from all parts of Lebanese society, regardless of religion. But there are lines you cannot cross.

Lebanon’s Freedom of Speech & Iran’s Lack Thereof

This picture has rubbed the Iranian embassy in Lebanon the wrong way. Apparently, it’s an insult to all Muslims because it’s portraying Ali Khamenei, the Supreme leader of Iran, in a negative way. They also believe that the caricature is in violation of Lebanese law.

It seems the Iranian lack of freedom of speech has seeped into their embassies as well because they fail to understand that just because Khamenei is “holy” to them and possibly a limited number of Lebanese, the rest of the world and of Lebanon absolutely couldn’t care less.

What the Iranian embassy seems to also fail to grasp is that religious figures are not off limits for caricature in Lebanon. How many times has the Maronite Patriach been portrayed as such? How many times has the Sunni Mufti been portrayed in caricatures? How many times has Hassan Nasrallah been drawn in newspapers?

The answer is way too many times for me to even want to research it.

Lebanese newspapers do not approach prophets in their drawings because of journalistic principles. Is Khamenei a prophet? Is he Holier than the prophet Mohammad to have the Iranian embassy panic over him being drawn in a caricature?

The bottom line is: Iran, you have your country and you think things are great over there just the way they are. But keep your insecure paws off of one of the few things keeping me clinging to mine. You are in Lebanon as a diplomatic presence and you’re respected to that extent but it is not in your job description to become a censorship bureau.

God knows we already have too many red lines we can’t cross. We don’t need your red lines added to ours as well.

Welcome To The Republic of Cheap Controversy

We, as Lebanese, sure know how to breed controversies. We love it. We adore it. We feed our need for gossip off of it. And it happens so often without it becoming redundant.

We have a need for it.

The latest:

Yes, you guessed it: Mashrou3 Leila’s decision not to open for RHCP.

The discussion regarding Mashrou3 Leila nuclear bombing themselves by giving up their opening gig for the RHCP took a turn that I didn’t foresee. It became less and less about how they got to their decision and more about whether their decision was correct or not.

Of course, the debate isn’t about supporting the Palestinians or not. It’s not about hating Israel or not.

Were they bullied? Or did they reach their decision out of conviction? And it is here that I believe is the issue’s main question.

Mashrou3 Leila signed to be the RHCP’s opening act a long time ago. They knew RHCP had a concert in Israel and yet they still signed the contract. To say they didn’t know about the Israeli concert would infer they are massively ignorant, which they are not. So for all matters and purposes, they didn’t care about the next stops on RHCP’s tour.

And they canceled their gig. Were they bullied into it? Well, speaking from experience, the anti-Israel crowd have a knack for making anyone who doesn’t play for them feel as if he’s an accomplice to killing all the Palestinian children.

You’re not with us? Then you’re a traitor and I hope you can sleep at night knowing the blood of Palestinians is on your hands and knowing that you are also stealing their land. 

It is the same Bush-era logic that they love to hate: you are either with us or against us. You can’t be in between.

Select Lebanese bloggers know how it is when you don’t write in agreement with them. They will bash you. They will threaten you. They will call you names. They will make you feel as if you’ve done something wrong which you perfectly know you didn’t. And if you’re tough enough, you won’t budge.

Mashrou3 Leila budged. And the ripple that they caused was deafening. For instance, BeirutSpring, a renowned Lebanese blogger who doesn’t address all issues that happen in Lebanon and when he does, he addresses the issue with one short and straight to the point post, wrote not once (click here) but twice (click here) about Leila. That second post has a ton of comments, some of which are proclaiming exactly what I alluded to before. Treason and then treason and then treason some more.

The BDS people should be proud. Commenting from their awesome new Macbook.

Another controversy:

We might also be the only country in the world where enforcing a smoking ban is met with a wave of anger and disgrace and people throwing around brilliant logic to justify opposing the ban. You want a taste of that logic? Click here.

Has any other country in the world caused so much controversy by simply applying a law straight out of the 1980s in 2012? Definitely not.

But in Lebanon it did. A smoking ban became an issue of national debate even though it shouldn’t. Smoking somehow morphed into a basic human right, which it isn’t. Some restaurants are even opting not to follow the law – and they’re proud of it (click here).

Some people have said: “the smoking ban supporters preach. The restaurant owners speak facts. The former need to rest their case – they’re not making sense.” Our need for controversy transcends our ability for logical reasoning. So we go with the flow of beautiful rhetoric that pleases our brain cortices and tickles our enthusiasm. Scientific studies? The hell with that. For reference, this is a British case study that shows a positive economic impact for smoking bans (click here).

Previous controversies:

The Lebanese Olympic squad and its Israel-related incident may or may not have happened. But it sure has caused a frenzy. I even asked this simple question: wouldn’t it be a greater victory if we play and win? Wouldn’t it be greater if we debate them and put them where they belong?

All hell broke loose. Because expressing your opinion is frowned upon – unless your opinion is mainstream. Getting called a traitor? It’s become my favorite pastime lately.

The Republic of Cheap Controversy:

When you realize that two of those controversies happened within a week and the third one happened within a month of the other two, you get three national “debates” that have led nowhere except have people go at each other’s throats in such a short timeframe. That’s also without taking into consideration Michel Samaha, the Mekdads or Myriam Klink or anything else that happened in the past couple of months. The republic of cheap controversy unfolds in front of you.

It’s not a republic of shame as LBC wants you to believe. It’s not the republic of anarchy as I’ve told you before (here). It’s another face of Lebanon, one that we don’t notice because it has become so deeply engrained in the fabrics of our society that we don’t notice it anymore – we don’t even notice how often we do it.

Our controversies address deep issues sometimes but more often than not they simply scrap the surface of far deeper problems without diving in. We live off of that – discussions that give us something to talk about while steering clear from more “pressing” issues (the election law comes to mind). Sometimes the discussion is cheap and shallow. Other times, the “discussion” takes a dangerous turn when the allegiance of others and their moral values come into play.

And people are interested in reading and talking about it because it gives them a sense of participating. And we write about it because it makes us feel important – that we are heard and some people want to know what we have to say. I’ve done it. You’ve done it. We’ve all done it.

When will the next controversy take place? I would say it’s a 50-50 chance for next week. Do we love it? Maybe not. Welcome to the Republic of Cheap Controversy.

 

A Comment on Carrie Underwood Endorsing Gay Marriage & the Backlash

The following is a guest post by an American reader who wishes to remain anonymous.

Country superstar Carrie Underwood has gone 180 degrees against the Country current by endorsing gay marriage. In an interview with The Independent UK, she had the following to say on the matter:

“As a married person myself, I don’t know what it’s like to be told I can’t marry somebody I love, and want to marry,” she said. “I can’t imagine how that must feel. I definitely think we should all have the right to love, and love publicly, the people that we want to love.”

“Our church is gay friendly. Above all, God wanted us to love others. It’s not about setting rules, or [saying] ‘everyone has to be like me’. No. We’re all different. That’s what makes us special. We have to love each other and get on with each other. It’s not up to me to judge anybody.”

I am not pro-gay marriage. Not for religious reasons but for reasons I will talk about later on.

The responses her endorsment has been getting are mixed between those who approve based on liberal ideologies and those who disapprove based on a twisted understanding of the bible.

The infamous verse that is quoted nowadays is Leviticus 18:22: “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.” Bible-nazis are taking this sentence and flaunting it around. If you don’t follow it, then you are not a proper Christian.

Well, I’ve got a few words for them. And what better words than from the Bible itself.

Exodus 21:7:  “If a man sells his daughter as a servant, she is not to go free as menservants do.” Would those Bible-loving men and women sell their daughters as servants? I don’t think so. That’s one thing of the Bible they wouldn’t abide with.

Leviticus 25:44: “Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves.” According to another Leviticus passage, I’m allowed to have slaves provided they are from neighboring countries. Does that mean illegal Mexican immigrants are our slaves now? The Bible says so. It must be. No?

Leviticus 11:10: “And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you.” The Bible forbids me from eating things coming out of the Sea. But I’m a seafood lover. Do you eat seafood? If you do, then you must stop. Immediately. The Bible demands it.

Leviticus 19:27: “Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard.” This states that men are not allowed to cut their hair nor shave. Do you cut your hair?

Leviticus 19:19: “Ye shall keep my statutes. Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind: thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed: neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woollen come upon thee.” To the awesome Americans of the Bible-belt, many of you have farms, right? Do you have different types of animals in your farms? Do you grow different crops? Because if you do, then you are committing blasphemy, in which case Leviticus would also demand that the entirety of your town comes forward to stone you.

The thing about Leviticus, my fellow Christians, is that it is part of the old testament and it is what Jesus Christ came to Earth to change. The thing about Leviticus, my fellow Christians, is that the only part of it that you know is the part pertaining to homosexuality.

When it comes to my Christianity, it’s about the message Jesus wanted to bring forward: a message of love.

Jesus Christ forgave those that were killing Him before he died on the Cross. Leviticus would call upon those people to be stoned and burned. Jesus Christ called on those without a sin to cast the first stone. Jesus knew that none of us is without sin. Jesus knew that when it comes to life, compassion is the most important emotion to get us by. Compassion makes everything else seem so small.

So next time you want to quote the Bible to prove a point, make sure you quote the part that makes you a Christian today: the New Testament, whose pages are all about the redemptive power of love.

When it comes to me, I’m not pro-gay marriage but that doesn’t mean I’m against those who are homosexual. How’s that? As I look around, I see families crumbling around me. The concept of a family sticking together like my grandparents did, for more than fifty years, is becoming more and more nonexistent. My parents got divorced when I was ten. My cousins’ parents divorced when she was twelve.

Out of my high school friends, at least half of them came from houses where they were raised by a single parent – and not because “death did them part.”

With crumbling family values and surging divorce rates, I don’t approve of adding another portion of society to the whole mess of marriage because, like it or not, homosexuals feel the way we do and they change their mind. And because the notion of marital love fades away after the initial infatuation and many are left wondering: Is this really what I signed up for?

Moreover, you don’t want the kids gay couples will adopt to be more disoriented than those of heterosexuals couples as well in case of a divorce.

And as a cherry on top, I think there are way more important issues that are worth the discussion today than this. Just a quick question to illustrate this point: how would any married couple, regardless of what that couple is, have an optimal marriage in the horrid economy we live in?

When it comes to Carrie Underwood’s comment, I am neutral. I like what she said because it doesn’t seem forced. She’s not telling people what to believe like many other celebrities do. She’s stating her belief. On the other hand, in a time when much more serious things are happening around the world than accepting gay marriage or not, I think other stances precede this in importance. And for an artist who had publicized her refusal to comment on anything of a political nature, regardless of how she spins it, I wonder what changed her mind.

There will be backlash. It has already started. It won’t be pretty. But kudos for Carrie for saying what she believes in, despite it coming out of the blue.

To conclude, here’s a quote for you all:

“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” – Mahatma Ghandi.

You have your Christianity and I have mine.