Lebanon’s New Ambitious Startup: Turning Car Tires Into Fashion

Lebanon is the country where car tires have functions that surpass them being, well, the things on which cars roll. 

Where we come from, tires can be used to block off roads by protestors. They can also be used by the police or contractors to divert traffic. And, when shit hits the fan, they serve as incenerator hubs to fill Beirut’s sky with marks of some group’s political anger. Speaking of burning tires, it has been a long time, hasn’t t?

A Lebanese startup, called VEA, started by Patrick El Zoghbi aiming to protect the environment in the region while finding new ways to use material that would have been otherwise detrimental to nature and to our health. 

The entire premise of VEA is to be an environmentally friendly company. From having minimal printing policies, to using only recycled paper up to their main motivation: turning tires into fashion items, including using environmentally friendly items in those fashion items.

This is what VEA is set on producing:

   

           

I think the plan is extremely ambitious. I commend VEA for their efforts in 1) providing alternatives to the Lebanese and International market that divert from the regular available items they’re selling, 2) doing so in a way that is both environmentally friendly and innovative and 3) having it actually be affordable. 

The price range for the above items ranges from $50 to $1000, so it is affordable for a wide range of people.

To do all of this, VEA needs your help. Check out the following link for more information. Help them out – it’s always good to make sure Lebanese aspirations don’t get squashed because of lack of funds.

This is a video explaining the whole process: 

http://youtu.be/pAAqqmuAXuA

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Respecting Religions in Lebanon: The Flip-Flop Issue

I’ve only been back to Lebanon about a week and the drama with the country’s religious diversity is back. This time, however, it has taken the form of a flip-flop.

This flip-flop in question had not one, not two, but even more than three Crosses on it. The attention to the issue was first brought by LFTV, the internet television of the Lebanese Forces, and soon enough the people of the concerned areas got the store selling these shoes, managed by Ali Fakih, to close.

I wouldn’t be writing this post if it hadn’t been for this article by Now Lebanon, brought to my attention via a retweet by someone who thought the reaction of the Christians was ridiculous.

Let’s get a few things straight.

1) Why was the store, managed by Mr. Fakih, selling such flip flops in the first place? Has it become fashionable to sell shoes where you step on a religious symbol all the time?

2) How is the Christian reaction to this in any way ridiculous? Did they vandalize the place? No. Did they beat the hell out of the manager? No. What did they do? They protested and got the shop to close. When will the shop re-open again? Monday.

3) It is sad, sometimes, that people who feel the need to talk about anything have a widespread platform like Now Lebanon to talk about it. How is it, miss Nassar, that forcing the man to close shop for a few days insulting? I’m not the most religious of people but I don’t want to see people stepping on Crosses as they walk. In my humble opinion, Mr. Fakih not caring enough to go through the merchandise that he sells is insulting. I’m pretty sure that if his store had received shipments of the same flip-flops, except with the Crescent on them, he wouldn’t have sold them.

4) To suggest that the same reaction wouldn’t have taken place against a Christian man is a deeply disturbing – and sectarian – idea on Now Lebanon’s part. Saying that the whole protest was fueled by people who only protested because the man selling the flip-flops is a Shiite Muslim is not only unfounded, but it’s also entirely in the realms of speculation. In fact, there’s little to back that point up. People, when offended, will act out – regardless of who’s offending them.

5) The article also suggests that us Lebanese have nothing to do but take offense to clothing items. I wonder, when did a clothing item make headline news? Not recently, right? Well, this is the first time that I hear of something “fashionable” cause up a stir. And if you think about it, it’s not really a huge stir. Christians of the area are now standing in front of the store, chanting.

6) Before Now Lebanon, in the form of Angie Nassar, apologize from Ali Fakih for this “sick charade,” how about they look at this “idiotic spectacle” from the perspective of someone who doesn’t want to write just for the sake of writing something controversial and actually notice that the response of the Christians of the area has been nothing short of civilized. They’re not “akin to dictators gunning down innocent men, women and children.” How this comparison was even conceived, I have no idea.

Every group in the world is allowed to express themselves when they feel offended and threatened. The fact that one of Lebanon’s major religious groups was offended by a clothing item and did something non-violent about it does not warrant people to call said people ridiculous, to write articles saying that closing down the man’s store for a few days is an insult and to ask for an apology from a tasteless individual who, probably, knew exactly what he was selling.

I wonder, however, and I do not mean to come off as sectarian, if anyone remembers the clashes that took place when LBC’s Charbel Khalil had someone impersonate Hassan Nasrallah on his show Basmet Watan. Shiites from Dahye swept into Beirut’s Christian areas and caused a riot. Is Hassan Nasrallah more important than the symbol that represents Christians? Was he even offended on LBC show? Nope. What was the cause of the riot? LBC isn’t allowed to portray someone of Nasrallah’s grandeur like that.

Do you also remember when some Danish newspaper published pictures of the prophet Mohammad and the Tabaris 802 Building in Achrafieh, home of the Danish Embassy, was vandalized? How are those pictures any different from having a Cross on the bottom of a shoe? If anything, I find the Cross even more offensive.

How is a civilized reaction from Christians of the area, that only led to the closing of a store, an “idiotic spectacle”? How is this spectacle driven by “willful ignorance, unreasonable attitudes and discrimination?”

Are people unreasonable when they ask for their symbols and convictions to be respected? Is it discriminatory if someone stands up for their rights? And in this case, I’m pretty sure willful ignorance does not apply – it would have applied had they known and decided not to do something about it, making it another example of Christians resigning to the status quo of the country.

And what better way to end this than with the same way Now Lebanon’s original article did: pro tip, fools: taking offense isn’t always a choice. Also, stop being so clueless. It’s offensive to your readers.

A little confession miss Nassar, this event barely registered on my relevance radar – until I read your article. Good job.