When Some Arabs View Christian Victims As Nothing But “Kuffar:” Thoughts With The Victims of The Egyptian Coptic Church Attacks

Yes, the majority of victims of wars in the Middle East are Muslims. That is not a matter of debate. But the people who have been dealt the worst hand in the ongoing conflicts in this God-forsaken region are minorities who have been systematically targeted in heinous ways, just because they happen to be different.

The latest is a disgusting attack on the Coptic Church in Egypt, on a day where they were celebrating. Palm Sunday was turned black, with two attacks, targeting two Churches hundreds of kilometers apart. The victim tallies are sky-rocketing and are already North of 30. Injured are north of 100, with numbers rising the more details emerge.

This is not the first time the Coptic Church is targeted, and it won’t be the last. The last time such an attack happened was less than 5 months ago, in December where 30 people died. The Copts of Egypt aren’t the only minority in these parts of the world to be systematically targeted as well. Between the Kurds, Muslims who don’t fit into the mold, and Christians of the some areas in the Levant, the stories keep unfolding, each more horrible than the one before it.

Today’s attack on the Churches in Tanta and Alexandria are horrible. Those were people with their children, having spent weeks buying new clothes, picking out the nicest candles, excited to be approaching the end of Lent, and full of humility at entering the week preceding Easter. Some of those people had their last celebration today.

The Copts in Egypt are not in a war-zone. They don’t live in a country ravaged by a dictator whose favorite pastime is using chemical weapons on his people. Their only fault is being a minority in a country they were historically integral to, as is the case with all the other minorities in the Middle Easts who have been forcibly turned into strangers in their own homes.

What can I say – or what can anyone say – to the mother who just lost her son? To the father who lost his daughter just as he was gushing over how adorable she looked right there, standing on that Church pew, as he tried to keep her quiet while the priest went on with his sermon? There’s nothing to say.

I am fortunate enough, as a Lebanese Christian, not to have to go through any of the hardships in 2017 that other minorities, which I would be considered to be elsewhere, in the region have to go through. I live in a country of minorities that are trying (their best?) to coexist together and have learned (or are learning), through all kinds of difficult ways, that one cannot exist without the other.

But that is not the case for governments of other countries in the Middle East. What can you expect from governments whose solution to the whole mess is to start a Twitter hashtag (in Egypt’s case, it’s #United_On_PalmSunday), but forget about the policies in which those same governments keep stomping on their own people to prevent them from assuming their natural place in society.

What can you expect from governments who have made sure that religious entities that help perpetuate the notion that anyone who is not Muslim in the Middle East is a disgrace, a kafer, whose blood is halal? It’s not the fault of Muslims, many of whom are as victims of their condition as those minorities. All this blood rests on the hands of kings, presidents, sheikhs and sometimes even priests who thrive under the perpetuation of the notion of kuffar, and the notion of victimhood.

What use is your sympathy when people get massacred this way when in all the days leading up to their killing, you’ve been teaching in books that considered them second class citizens, you’ve been advocating for laws that see them being slowly robbed of their own country, and you’ve been making sure that they’re to be considered as pests in their own home?

Just look at this sample of responses that news of the attacks in Egypt garnered:

There’s more when these came from. The sample is not comprehensive.

As long as some Arab Muslims look at Christians (and other minorities) in their own countries as abominations, as kuffar, then their countries will never amount to anything decent.

As long as some Muslim “scholars” and sheikhs keep perpetuating the hateful notion that Muslims are the only entities worth of life in their countries, as they shut away all attempts at modernity, some people of their religion will use their holy words to kill others they deem as lessers.

If you’re crying when I’m targeted but go about an hour later to consider me as less a person than you, then you are not even close to being part of a solution. We are not lessers. We are not second class citizens.

It says a lot about the coward pieces of shit who did this to kill tens of people on Palm Sunday. It shows that such cancerous entities are incompatible with any form of the world that we want.

Such abominations refuse diversity, refuse coexistence, refuse anything that doesn’t conform with their code of death. The only thing they deserve is to burn in the deepest pits of hell.

May the souls of the victims Rest In Peace. It’s about time we stand with the oppressed and claim them as people whose lives are worth celebrating when they’re abundant, not in the moment of their demise.

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A Lebanese Man Won’t Have Sex With Ania Lisewska

Ania Lisewska - Lebanon

It seems that the hopes of Lebanese men everywhere have been crushed by our Security officials deciding not to grant Ania Lisewska entry into Lebanon.

For those who don’t know, Ania Lisewska is a 21 year old Polish woman who is on a world tour to sleep with 100,000 men from different cities across the world. Lebanon was on her list and, until very recently, it seemed she would get to pick a random Lebanese man to sleep with: Hezbollah and Future Movement MPs saw her as an indecent glorification of prostitution. It seems sex is something they agree upon. Elie Marouni, the Kataeb MP, had no problem in granting her entry and was wondering if she’d survive her quest. The words he used: “betdall taybé?”

No pun, Mr. Marouni?

Two recent reports (here and here), however, indicate that she won’t, even though Polish people don’t require a visa to enter Lebanon. Her name will be blacklisted on our airport borders. Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Morocco have all refused her as well. She has been granted entry to Iraq and Egypt.

Her Facebook page posting about entry to Egypt is littered with comments from Egyptian men bragging about their package, awaiting her entry. I suggest you take a look for your dose of daily comedy (link). I daresay many Lebanese men would have done worse to get in her pants had she been allowed entry here.

The question though is why ban her? Is what she’s doing considered prostitution? I don’t think so – not that prostitution is illegal in Lebanon to begin with. Odds are the man she decides to sleep with here will remain anonymous unless, which is probably the case, he decides to make his identity public. He won’t be paying her and she won’t be engaging in any form of public indecency.

Are we supposed to be up in a fit because what she’s doing doesn’t fit with our higher order morale code? I can think of way too many things taking place in Lebanon on daily basis that are allowed, that do not fit any form of morality and that many of us still accept. Except talking about sex – about women having sex and discussing their sex life openly – will always be a taboo around here and a mark of shame. Public order rests on a vagina with an intact hymen, preferably.

Ania Lisewska – her name is a mouthful, no pun – won’t be coming here – no pun. Our country’s morales are saved.

 

Lebanon Is Not Egypt

The title is stating the obvious. Sadly, it’s not that apparent.

It was 2011. The Egyptians took it to the streets. They removed Mubarak. A sense of pride swept around the Middle East. The “Arab Spring” they called it. Freedom this way comes. Everyone wanted to be Egyptian. Everyone was proud of Egypt.

But none so more than Lebanese.

We felt more involved in what was happening in Egypt than whatever was happening back home. Fun fact: January 2011 was our own mini coup happened. Many Lebanese wished they could become Egyptian – patriotic opioids sure run across borders.

A few months later, as the events in Syria raged and the promise of an “Arab Spring” started quickly running down wintery lanes, Egypt disappointed as well. The Lebanese sentiment quickly turned to “Morsi” et au revoir. We had gotten over it.

It is now 2013. The Egyptians took it to the streets again. They were protesting the Egyptian “winter” they had voted their country into. And Lebanon was involved anew. Nothing was wrong here at the time again. Fun fact 2.0: The army was fighting Al Assir only a few days ago and Hezbollah is still fighting in Syria. Morsi was uprooted very fast, with the help of the Egyptian army. And fireworks erupt in Lebanon in celebration. The same sentiments of people who wish to be Egyptian rose to the surface. Egypt, the beacon of democracy. Egypt, the torch of hope. Egypt, making us proud. Bigadd kan el manzar mofre7 awi awi. 

Then, naturally, you get those many, many people who want whatever happened in Egypt to happen here. If they did it, why can’t we?

Well, here’s why.

Egypt is 100 times Lebanon’s size. It has 20 times its population. That population in question is divided in the following way: 90% is Muslim and 10% is Christian. Official positions in Egypt are not divided according to sectarian lines. The president, for instance, doesn’t need to be Muslim. He just happens to be every time by power of probability and mentalities.

The recent events in Egypt were bolstered by a catalyst that sped up the process remarkably: the Egyptian army. Roadmap or whatnot, it is the presence of a strong army with centralized military power that helped the 30 million or so Egyptians who protested get to where we want. Which army will help us in Lebanon if we were to have similar coups? The Lebanese army with its 60,000 personnel many of whom have ammo-less weapons while militias roam the country freely, protected by their weapons and popular support?

Moreover, I don’t believe the issues in Egypt are as politicized as they are over here. Case in point? Let’s examine the following scenarios:

What do you want to protest about in Lebanon? Electricity? I’ve just made the issue political right there. Half of the Lebanese population won’t go to my protest, even if the demands are true, simply because they’ll see it as a protest against their poster child. Let’s say I want to protest against slow internet. That same 50% of the Lebanese population will turn a blind eye to my protest for those same reasons. Now let’s say I want to protest against people like Ahmad el Assir. I’ll be joined by that same 50% which boycotted my last 2 protests while the people that attended the first two will not. In case my protest doesn’t have some undertone supported by one of the main camps of the country, good luck finding ten people to attend it – regardless of what the activists that pop up right before elections every four years say. And God forbid I try to protest against militias and arms that exist outside the jurisdiction of the Lebanese state, which brings me to my next point.

There are no issues in this country upon which enough Lebanese agree in order to cause change. Hezbollah’s weapons? Half of the country hates them. The other half adores them. The weapons stay. It’s that simple. The regime? the governing half doesn’t want it changed because the people it likes are in power. The other half wants it changed just because the people it likes are not. What alternative regime do we want? I’m willing to bet I can’t find a sizable portion of this country that can agree on a format. You only need to go back to the electoral law discussions and how very, very few Lebanese branched out from the rhetoric being spewed by their political party of choice (especially Christian parties) when it comes to the electoral law they see best. Party say, person do.

Egypt not being as divided on sectarian lines as Lebanon means the sectarian sentiment that is overflowing here doesn’t exist as much there. Sure, many Egyptian Muslims hate the Copts (and vice versa) but the same exists in droves over here while we pretend otherwise. The sectarian sentiment overload doesn’t only cloud people’s judgement regarding so many things in the country, it also limits whatever actions they would be willing to do to what’s best for their sect. Sect say, person do. Case in point: the amount of non-religious Christians who wanted the Orthodox law, of non-religious Sunnis who believe their sect is being threatened and of non-religious Shia who’d be the first to take weapons if you approach Hezbollah.

Moreover, many of those same people who want Lebanon to become Egypt would, in case elections happened next week, vote for the same people all over again. I’m not saying they shouldn’t vote for whoever they want to vote for. It’s their vote, their choice, they can do whatever they want with it. But it is downright hypocritical to preach for change and not act out on it when the going gets tough just because some people cannot fathom not voting for the people they’ve liked for years.

What I thought people learned back in 2011 is that the models of the countries in which revolutions happened cannot be applied here: you cannot extrapolate Egypt onto Lebanon. And yet people seem to want to do it anyway. The fact that Egypt and Lebanon are incompatible doesn’t mean one is better than the other. It simply means that if any change were to be done in this country, we need to find our own formula. As of now, we have none. Lebanon is not Egypt and I, for one, don’t want it to ever be.

The Rise of the Middle East’s Atheists

September 2012, Middle East:

A low-budget movie titled “The Innocence of Muslims” makes its way to the media of the region. The movie insults the prophet Mohammad and doesn’t pretend to do so innocently. The mayhem it caused became infamous, notably for the American embassy storming in Libya which made its way to the US presidential elections. Protests across the region turned bloody. Innocent people lost their lives because of cheap ten minute footage. And the image that some Muslims have been giving to Islam over the years was reinforced once again.

October 2012, Pakistan:

Malala Yousafzai, a fourteen year old girl, was shot in the head by Taliban individuals who feared her message. Malala’s message was not that of an uprising against the men who worked endlessly to make her life and the life of countless other girls like her a living hell. She was calling upon girls her age to seek an education, which most of us take for granted: the kind where we sit behind a desk and listen all day to teachers telling us things we believe we’ll never need. Her message did not sit well with the Taliban whose mission had been, in part, to eradicate education in the parts of the world where they are of influence. They had destroyed countless schools and forbade women from attending schools in their attempt to restore the days of 600AD.

October 2012, Facebook:

A Syrian woman named Dana Bakdounes posted a picture of herself on Facebook without the veil as part of a movement for the rights of women in the Middle East. (Check the picture here). The message Dana wrote, as part of her picture, said “I am with the uprising of women in the Arab world because for 20 years I was not allowed to feel the wind on my body… and on my hair.” The message rubbed some people the wrong way and a bunch of extremists took it upon them to silence Bakdounes, even on Facebook. So they mass reported her picture as offensive, prompting Facebook to remove it.

October 2012, Egypt:

In a post revolution Egypt where Islamists have been gaining power, two Copt boys, aged nine and ten, were arrested for defiling the Quran. Another Copt teacher was arrested after some students accused her of speaking badly of prophet Muhammad in class while another Copt is facing charges for material deemed offensive which he posted on his Facebook account. A veiled Muslim teacher also cut the hair of two girls in class who refused to wear the veil. She later explained that she had been “challenged.”

The Rise of Atheism:

The rise in religious extremism in the Middle East is touching all of its religions. Be it Christians who are worried about their fate and revert to their Bible in belief that it will somehow be their salvation. Or Jews whose reputation has become intermingled with zionism and borderline inseparable in the mind of many. However, I decided to only discuss Islam because the broader picture of the Middle East, in which there’s a tangible rise in Islamist Influence, is a canvas of Islam – as it is the region’s first and foremost leading religion, demographically.

The rise in extremism is attributed to many geopolitical reasons. It is also associated with a serious lack of understanding of religion from all involved, most notably the men of the robe who are doing more harm to their religions with their backward mentality than anyone else.

The Middle East has probably one of the world’s highest rates of religious people. And it’s simply because we were born this way. We are not allowed to choose what we want to be religiously. I was born into a Christian Maronite family. Therefore, I am a Christian Maronite. If fate had it differently and my parents were from another part of Lebanon, I may have been a follower of a different religion. And this applies to everyone. As we grow up, we are taught our religion and nothing else. Come Sunday morning, it was better for me to attend Mass. For others, they had better pray five times a day, fast during Ramadan and never eat pork or drink alcohol. During my early days at AUB, I was surprised to find that some Muslim people – obviously a minority – had absolutely no idea when Christmas was celebrated. On the other hand, I thought Achoura was a happy celebration. We rarely challenge our religious beliefs because we don’t feel the need to. Those beliefs enable us to blend in our societies and not get ostracized – at least in that regards. They enable us to connect to other people with whom we are able to identify not due to their mentality or thoughts but because of their religious beliefs. At a certain level, deep down, it’s always easier for a “Christian” to make “Christian” friends than to become friends with a “Muslim.” The reverse is also true.

Our narrow religious upbringing also limits us to the other religions present around us, especially in the region’s few relatively mixed countries. Egypt’s Muslims know very little about the Copts who were founders of their country. Lebanon’s Muslims know very little about its Christians. The opposite is also true. This lack of understanding, combined with an increased rooting in unchallenged belief, places the seed of conflict, which has been manifesting way too many times across the region.

However, religion is but one side of the coin. For with the rise of the Islamists on one side, I believe that the region’s atheist numbers are increasing dramatically, albeit most of them are probably closeted, and they are fueled by the exact same events that are getting people to become more religious, coupled with an increase of education across the board. What people turning increasingly religious see as a threat to their belief, others do not see it as such. What some increasingly religious people do to defend their beliefs, others see as a violation of freedom. What some increasingly religious people feel related to, others want to detach from it. The religious behavior that makes some religious people proud causes others to be the opposite. The picture that some extremists deem offensive, others see as a manifestation of free thought. The children seen as defiling Islam by some, others see as children being children. The girl infecting the minds of other girls with poison, which some (obviously very, very few) believe, others see as a complete violation of every single human sanctity.

One part decides to cling further to what they know because of such events. Others decide to look at alternative, which might fit better with how they see the world, away from a notion of faith that has become alien to them. After all, all they’re seeing of faith is repeated incidences of things they do not remotely agree with, despite that being as remote from what religions call for.

Religious people will call it a lack of understanding and narrow-mindedness for someone to turn atheist. They will never be convinced how someone who was born and raised on certain teachings can ditch them entirely and move towards thoughts that they find revolting. What they don’t get is that the same rhetoric they use applies in similar fashion to atheists who are moving away from teachings that they find revolting and forced upon them throughout their years.

Of course, this does not apply to all religious people as some practice their religion in silence, without letting everyone know when they’re praying and when they’re offended. But this silent majority is not the one that gives an impression. Out of a crowd of millions, the person who changes perceptions is that whose voice is heard the most. And in a time of religious insecurity, in a region of political insecurity, the voices heard the most are those of people that rub a whole lot of other people the wrong way.

Regardless of where you stand regarding the two sides of the religion-atheism coin, the image being painted is the following: religion is the bread of the poor. Atheism is the butter of the “educated.” However, the only one thing that I believe is of absolute necessity is that the Middle East needs more atheists.

Beware! Tomatoes are Forbidden for Being a “Christian” Fruit… So Says an Egyptian Islamist Association

Crazy people with a platform. Hello bad side of the internet.

One of my Facebook friends shared this picture on my timeline with a sarcastic comment to show their corresponding disdain of its content. And I’m sharing it here for two purposes:

1) Comedy is needed these days.

2) Sometimes calling groups on their stupidity is needed.

The Egyptian Islamic Popular Association (or my translation of Alrabita Alsha3bia Almasriya el Islamia) has decided to call on people to stop eating tomatoes because it’s a Christian fruit which holds the Cross in it. Wait, there’s even a picture!

Praise Jesus! He is risen in a berry!

The translation goes as follows: “Eating tomatoes is forbidden because it’s Christian, praises the Cross and calls on you to worship three gods and not one. We beseech you to share it because a sister in Palestine saw the Prophet in a vision crying and warning his nation of eating tomatoes. If you don’t share it, know that the devil has forbidden you.”

The devil. We don’t want to upset that now, do we?

Their Facebook page, which you can access here, supports Mohammad Morsi for the Egyptian elections. They’re also happy that Shakira has converted to Islam and they have the picture to prove it. You don’t believe me? Here’s a screenshot of that:

That’s not Shakira… or is it?

Meanwhile, the tomato post has a caption which calls Christians a blasphemous bunch (Kuffar), about 2700 shares and 1200 comments. The good thing is? Many of those comments are calling it as it is: retardation.

As for me, I’m classing this under humor.

The Reforms in Egypt: Farewell Intercourse Law

Instead of working towards limiting poverty, enhancing literacy and moving towards a more democratic state, some of the men of Egypt’s new Islamist-led parliament are busy securing the well-being and happiness of their genitals. No, I’m not kidding.

Even the articles discrediting this as a rumor had to admit that some MPs discussed the proposals.

An Egyptian MP was seen talking about a proposal for something called farewell intercourse. What is that you ask? Well, if you have a sensitive stomach, I advise you to stop reading now. If not, then proceed.

Farewell intercourse allows a man to have sex with his deceased wife, six hours after her death.

The whole idea for this farewell intercourse started with Moroccan cleric Zamzami Abdul Bari who got to the conclusion that is should be allowed. He also figured that women should be allowed to use water bottles, cucumbers and other types of tools in order to seek sexual gratification. No, I’m not kidding as well. He made it into a fatwa.

The story doesn’t end here.

On top of that law, there’s another ratification that might be proposed by the Salafists, which is to let Egyptian men marry 14 year old girls. You know, because their country isn’t already overly populated and overly impoverished and overly illiterate.

Even if this whole thing turns out to be a rumor, which I pray to God it is, you cannot but wonder how such a thing got a hold and stuck with people. It’s a mere reflection of what people think the Egyptian parliament is capable of doing, which is really sad. And if one of those two proposals passes into law (the second one being more probable than the first one, obviously), how will the women of Egypt react?

Odds are there’s not much they can do.

Rest in Peace Pope Shenouda

With Lent halfway through, one of the Christian sects that observe this time of year the most has lost its leader and mentor. The Copts have lost Pope Shenouda today, at an age of 89.

I have met many Copts throughout my life . And what I’ve touched from them all is their deep belonging to their church and their commitment to their faith. In a time when relinquishing such things for the pleasures of life has become a way of life, them clinging to their heritage has always been admirable to me.

Pope Shenouda has had a great deal with the Copts’ attachment to their faith. For a sect that is so heavily persecuted, they do not relent. They do not fear dying for their rights. They do not fear dying to keep their voices high and heard. In a way, the Copts are examplary for the Christians of the East. They are a minority that doesn’t act like one: it’s not subdued, it’s never rendered insignificant and over the past forty years of forced marginalization, they still exist.

They have been the central pillar in the foundation of the country whose name is as it is today because of them. The Copts were an essential part of Egyptian history and are considered by many as the founders of that country. Pope Shenouda was the 117th Pope to preside over them.

It may be because of their resiliency as people and their clinging to their heritage. But the leadership of Pope Shenouda had a great deal to do with the preservation of the Copts in such tumultuous times. Not only did he keep the Coptic church alive, he also expanded it in various countries around the world.

Pope Shenouda had been exiled for defending his people against Egyptian presidents who didn’t think those people deserved to be defended. He let his own health deteriorate to breathe life into his own congregation. He was an advocate for ecumenism (Christian unity) and showed strong commitment to the inter-dialogue of different Christian denominations.

I, as a Lebanese generally and Maronite precisely, am saddened by the passing of such a man. I truly hope his passing is one of the last days of sorrow for the Copts and Christians of Egypt. Pope Shenouda’s departure from this world couldn’t have fallen at a more appropriate time – if there’s ever such a time. Easter is one of the favorite periods of the year for Copts. Pope Shenouda must have been serene knowing he was moving on during his favorite time of the year, smiling, sure that the Church he worked forty years to protect is here to stay.

Rest in peace Pope Shenouda – and to all Copts in the world, may your struggles find their conclusion with the conclusion of his life.