Islamic Extremists Threaten Ahwak Ben Tafesh Coffee Shop In Tripoli Because Their Mosque’s Electricity Went Out

Tripoli’s Ahwak Cafe is a lot of things. Nestled right across a Mosque in the Dam w Farz area, in the newer parts of the city, a stone’s throw away from the gorgeous Rachid Karami forum, it’s a place that’s become synonymous with the city’s most liberal youth frequenting it. In that coffee house’s bathroom is collection of graffiti, one of which reads: “Your ignorance of scientific knowledge is not proof that God exists.”

That’s probably the only place in Tripoli where you’d find such a statement, but it exists.

Ahwak Ben Tafesh did not have as easy an existence in Tripoli as you’d normally think a coffee place would be. I made it a habit to support it every time I went to the city, precisely because it represented the kind of Tripoli that I can relate to, that makes you hopeful of a better future for the city.

It was threatened by Islamists more than once. It was in fact attacked by Islamists back in July of 2013 when one of their newly-released extremists rode up with his goons in an SUV, stormed the place, trashed it, threatened people with weapons, and left.

Lebanon’s government did nothing about the incidence.

Fast forward nearly 4 years later. It’s May 31st, 2017, almost a week into the Muslim month of Ramadan and that mosque across the street – known as the Abdul Rahman Mosque – loses the electricity to its outdoor space and speakers.

In one moment, all hell broke loose. And what turned out to be a damaged electrical wire was turned into an attack on Tripoli being the citadel of Muslims in Lebanon, an attempt to silence the sound of Mosques.

So naturally, the day after, on June 1st, this statement was made, not by the Mosque but by Islamists who have not yet been identified:

Its overall essence translates to:

“Ahwak Ben Tafesh coffee shop in the Dam w Farz area has had a problem with the nearby mosque for a long time, and is known to have atheist clientele. They’re the prime suspect in  what happened at the Rahman Mosque. To its owner and clients we say: close the premises and stay home or move somewhere outside of Tripoli the city of Muslims, within 48 hours as a maximum. You’ve been worked.

Signed the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice.”

Said “Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice” or الأمر بالمعروف والنهي عن المنكر is considered to be a Muslim duty and has been distorted by Islamic extremists, notably in Saudi Arabia, to issue fatwas and decrees.

The mosque in question has denied to have issued the statement through a Facebook post. The area affected by the electrical cut was the outer courtyard as well as nearby locations which offered their rooftops for extra speakers to broadcast the tarawih.

By threatening Ahwak Ben Tafesh that way without any ounce of proof, with a government that has yet to act in any way to protect the coffee shop, its owner and its clients, these extremists are giving a carte blanche to the brainwashed masses that listen to them to go and destroy the coffee house in the name of religion. This is uncharted territory in Lebanon, and simply terrorism.

Some of the mosque goers were not particularly happy:

That particular mosque has a history of banning speakers they don’t agree with from being given the chance to hold conferences in Tripoli, to accusing everyone who doesn’t follow everything they say of heresy. Anyone could have cut that wire or damaged it. Ramadan is one of that mosque’s busiest times with the tarawih. One of the worshippers could have inadvertently damaged it.

And yet here we are.

Why Tafesh?

Because of its resistance to bans on breakfasts during Ramadan when the city’s administration was over-run by spineless politicians who succumbed to every threat by Islamists that thrived in the forgotten capital of the North,

Because of it serving alcohol and all kinds of haram things on the down low,

Because of the unabashed atheism of some its customers, their resistance to the hateful messages of those Islamists, their disdain of their city being turned into a safe place for every bearded man with poison to spew,

Because the place is a beacon of Tripoli’s liberal youth, who don’t conform to the status quo that’s forcibly enforced on their city by those who want it to be seen as the “castle of Muslims in Lebanon” and nothing more.

And this is disgraceful.

It is on the hands of the Lebanese government to find whoever cut that wire, if it’s a deliberate act, and to make sure that those who frequent the Ahwak Ben Tafesh coffee shop are safe and that the shop is protected from vandalism as well as terrorist attacks from extremists who refuse to have anyone who disagrees with them live in the same city.

Tripoli is not a city where such people should be allowed to thrive unchecked anymore. And it sure as hell is not a city where some creature can decide to ban establishments outside of its city limits with a 48 hour window and be met with complacency or even agreement. They may be a fringe minority but their political protection is becoming cancerous and detrimental to all attempts at improving Tripoli’s reputation and future.

The mosque’s speakers going out is unfortunate. If those extremists actually truly cared about the message of those tarawih and the true spirit of Ramadan, they’d have continued praying and forgave however and whatever caused that wire to break, not threaten and terrorize. I may not be Muslim or knowledgeable of Islam, but I daresay that means their fasting is not valid anymore.

Advertisements

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.

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

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

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

Fadel Shaker is the Islamist who cried wolf.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is him declaring jihad in Syria:

This is what he said of Ahmad el Assir:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Extremism in Lebanon: Why Are You Shocked The Red Cross Was Banned From A Mosque?

Breaking news out of Lebanon today, because those are very few and scarce, but a Red Cross volunteer had his colleagues banned from entering the mosque where his family was receiving condolences for the passing of his grandmother, just because they were wearing their logo, which happens to be – well – a Cross, albeit having nothing to do with religion.

First with the story was the Facebook page “Stop Cultural Terrorism in Lebanon,” and at thousands of Facebook shares and likes, as well as having the story picked up by various news outlets now, it has definitely gone around, as well as have people in shock and anger.

I’m here to ask the very simple question: why?

To those who are shocked, I wonder if you’ve been so disconnected from life in this country lately that you haven’t noticed the fervent rise of extremism all around you. This isn’t exclusive to a single sect or religion. Of course, some get blamed more than others because it’s more popular to do so, but it is a tangible reality everywhere and in the hearts of many people around you, including people you know.

The time for you to be shocked was years ago. It was when hearing about things such as ISIS was not common place in your news. It was when people didn’t come up with excuses here and excuses there for their religious folks of choice to come off unscathed. It was when people weren’t made to believe that their entire existence in this country depended on the existence of their religious sect. It was when the discussion of an electoral law was not only about a law that allowed people of one sect to vote for that sect’s MPs. It was when I didn’t wake up every morning to the following graffiti outside my building:

Spotted in Achrafieh

Spotted in Achrafieh

The time to be shocked, disappointed, mortified, appalled or whatever you are feeling right now is long behind us. What you can and should do now is hope this is an incident that won’t set precedence, which I think is the case. This was probably the case of a few goons with near subzero IQs and near illiterate education levels deciding to flex their Allah-given muscles, as has become quite customary around this country.

Those people won’t care about explanations that the Cross on the Red Cross’ vest is not actually Christian. They won’t care that women wearing the Hijab can enter Churches whenever they want, albeit to increasing groans, and that people wearing Crosses can enter Mosques whenever they want. No, those are the people whose existence we have loved to dismiss for so long now, toning it down until we made them irrelevant in our minds.

The truth of the matter is that as everything in this country, this too will pass. You will forget about in a couple of days as something more media-grabbing happens. You may be reminded of it by some politician down the road who wants to cash in some political coins, of course.

What I hope this transpires into is more support for the Red Cross, this truly noble organization in the country that has transcended sects and political lines and religions to help people just for the sake of humanity. You want to be mad at those who didn’t let those Red Cross volunteers in at a wake? Go donate.

Ironically, at a time when some Lebanese retards were upset the Red Cross could have entered a Mosque, the Pope was praying at the Blue Mosque in Turkey. Contrast Lebanon with the following picture. As they say, a picture is worth a 1000 words. I’ve probably written something close to that by now, so you get the picture.
Pope Francis is shown the Sultan Ahmet mosque, popularly known as the Blue Mosque, by Mufti of Istanbul, Rahmi Yaran, during his visit to Istanbul

Awaiting The Rise of Assir 2.0

This is Lebanon. Picture courtesy of Cheyef 7alak.

This is Lebanon. Picture courtesy of Cheyef 7alak.

Ignorance is bliss.

Today, Lebanese bliss is illustrated in justified celebrations of the army’s victory over Ahmad el Assir’s gang in Saida. The celebrations aren’t just about our army adding a second victory to its list of victories in this country. They are also about the supposed downfall of Ahmad el Assir and with whatever he represents.

A lot can be said about Ahmad el Assir. A phenomenon is one. A bigot is two. A nauseating existence is three. A byproduct of the current times is four. A hypocrite is five. A lone case born out of immaculate conception is not six.

There are pertinent reasons as to why something like Ahmad el Assir existed. You can celebrate all you want that he was defeated and made to flee to who knows where because it makes you sleep better at night. You can extrapolate the battle with the army all you want to convince yourself that your hypocrisy towards the Syrian war is justified because it makes your brand of politics sound much nicer. You can call Ahmad el Assir and his gang terrorists and ridicule their existence as much as you like in order to further convince yourself that they are the only problem around this place.

I, however, am simply waiting for the rise of Ahmad el Assir 2.0 who, we can only hope, is not more extreme, not more prepared and better good-looking. Ahmad el Assir 2.0 is only a matter of time. At the rate things are going, the when may have just been given a catalyst because those same reasons that brought the original Ahmad el Assir into existence are still here, flexing their muscles left and right.

I remember when Ahmad el Assir first went on TV. He was portrayed as an irrelevant sheikh of some mosque in Saida no one had heard about. He had some serious allegations to say about Hezbollah. And the media listened. The second time he spoke, the media listened even further and decided they wanted others to listen as well. Slowly, he was given a halo. His life was turned into a reality TV show. His trips to the beach were documented. Journalists were taking personal tours around the city in his BMW X5. Even his outing to ski got turned into a national crisis.

Today, Ahmad el Assir is a lunatic – which he is – who dared to be the only entity in this country to attack our army, which he isn’t. The difference between Ahmad el Assir attacking our army and others is that the attack of those others comes with a big * to explain. It’s not all set in stone.

Samer Hanna was killed.*

*By an individual, not the party.

Nahr el Bared is a red line.*

*The civilians, not the armed men.

Excuses, excuses. Explanations, explanations. Ahmad el Assir’s abomination of an existence is simple: there is something else in this country that is even worse than he is and which most of the people panicking over the lunatic in question and the battle that took our infinitely-weak army one day to finish not only wholeheartedly accept but adore and chant for: Labbayka [insert name], labbayka [insert name]*.

*Name not inserted because.

Terrorism is not set in stone. It’s a matter of perception. Ahmad el Assir is a terrorist. Others who do similar actions are not.

Hezbollah is the main reason people like Ahmad el Assir exist in this country, the reason why his demented rhetoric resonates, the reason why he is able to find equally weak-minded people to recruit and the reason why he finds support.

When you have an entire party with arms in the country that are no longer used for their original purpose (in fact, they are being used for everything but that purpose lately), how can I tell someone like Ahmad el Assir who sees nothing but his sect being targeted that you’re not allowed to procure weapons?

How is the existence of Ahmad el Assir non-sensical when those arms are used to demolish the politics of moderate Sunnis and create a sense of Sunni weakness that is shared by moderate and extreme Sunnis alike, a weakness that the lunatics like him know how to milk?

What excuse can be given when those arms, supposedly being used to fight Israel, were employed in the clashes in Saida yesterday with a list of casualties that was propagated by news sources of different allegiances?

What excuse can be given when those arms are dragging the entire country to war in Syria because they’re somehow fighting Israel over there, a rhetoric their die-hard supporters eat up like a fat kid in a mountain of snickers, with a regime that decimated Lebanese for years, headed by the best anti-Israel dictator that Israel could hope for?

You want to stop Ahmad el Assir? You stop empowering the lunatics on all sides of the Lebanese equation. You stop using the argument that they are the only ones who can protect us from Israel as the status quo you don’t want to change and work on empowering our army so they become the only people to protect us from Israel. You stop being a hypocrite towards weapons that exist outside the jurisdiction of the state. You stop empowering the movements that disempower moderation and secretly empower extremism. You stop justifying the extremism that suits you.

Extremism is extremism. Terrorism is terrorism. You want a decent country for yourself and your children? Entities such as Hezbollah and Al Assir have to be removed. But, you know…*

*comes up with an excuse to justify the existence of one over the other and sleeps at night soundly.

Ahmad el Assir’s Money Sources

I recently read an article about the financial means of Sunni extremist cleric Ahmad el Assir. After all, those weapons (that he doesn’t have) and the growing support he is garnering are not coming out of nowhere, despite his support arguably remaining very minimal across Lebanon, even among Sunnis despite what many want you to believe.

The article in question talks about where Mr. Al Assir is getting his money and the list is the following:

  • Qatar with input reaching the hundreds of thousands of dollars, through Beirut’s international airport and under the coverage of a member in the Lebanese cabinet. I want to know who.
  • Fadel Shaker. I regret buying that sporadic album I gave my mom on Mother’s Day way back when Fadel Shaker filmed music videos about love and with women.
  • Rashed Shaaban, owner of “Amir Rashed” restaurant and the uncle of one of the Islamists apprehended as a suspect in the assassination of Francois el Hajj.
  • The infamous “Kaak Abou Arab” shops.
  • Shawarma Abu Bahij in Saida
  • There are other sources which you can check at the link but these are the ones that seem familiar to me.

    Ahmad el Assir’s phenomenon isn’t “unusual” given the current situation in Lebanon. It doesn’t mean that this phenomenon is acceptable and I, for one, won’t support it in any way, even indirectly.

    That’s not to say those that those Al Assir speaks out against are better. They’re more dangerous than what he will ever become and he’s an irrelevant entity in comparison. But isn’t that how they all begin?

    I can’t do anything about Qatar. They have so much money they’re about to start using it as toilet paper. But I can stop going to Kaak Abou Arab and do what I can, 1000LL at a time.

    The Christian Extremism of Kfardebian

    I don’t like Ahmad el Assir. I’m sure this goes to at least 90% of the Lebanese population as well. We all know he’s an extremist. We all know his mentality is rotten. We all know his ideology is something that very few people share. But when Ahmad el Assir wants to go ski, it’s sure as hell his right to go ski. Wherever he wants. Whenever he wants. However he wants. With whoever he wants.

    As long as it’s all legal of course. And even that is a gray area because, as you know, law and Lebanon are oil and water. Of course, Al Assir praying at this very moment in the square of the town that didn’t want to host him is not only an act of provocation, it’s something that reflects how mentally deranged and sickening this man is.

    I’d like to see the Lebanese army try to stop the prayers though. Oh wait.

    A bunch of God-fearing Christians of Kfardebian, in the heart of the Maronite heartland of Keserwan, decided that Ahmad el Assir hitting their slopes with a few of his supporters was too much for them to handle. So they decided to cut him off instead and go in a stand off with the army for hours.

    Al Assir wasn’t the first “politician” – or whatever he is – to go ski in Mzaar. But he sure got preferential treatment. Was it that beard?

    Two people were wounded before Assir was able to go about his skiing attempt. Welcome to Lebanon – where someone going skiing can turn into a country ordeal. Nothing is too out of the box for us, right?

    What those righteous Christians of Kfardebian failed to realize, however, is that they are even worse than Ahmad el Assir in their disgusting mentality. Al Assir is a Muslim extremist sure. But they’re the exact same thing, with a different religion. Perhaps with no beard and a few less wives.

    And you know who’s as bad as those Christian extremists? Those who are turning them into heroes for doing what they did. Those who are proud of what those Christians did. Those who believe that what those Christians did is somehow us telling everyone that we won’t be trampled on.

    Lebanese Christians talk and talk about how extremism is rising among Muslims. All of them seem not to know how to look in the mirror and see how their own extremism is on an exponential rise these days. They have probably never read the Bible in its entirety. They sure as hell can’t recite verses out of the Bible. But they can perfectly orchestrate dramatic brouhahas out of their Christianity.

    Jesus Christ would not approve. But what do I know. We have our existence to maintain in this country… one ski slope at a time.