Marine Le Pen Is Coming To Lebanon… Before She Forces French-Lebanese To Drop One Of Their Nationalities

marine-le-pen-in-lebanon

Rejoice, all of Lebanon’s right-wing! The head of the French “Front National” Marine Le Pen is coming over for a visit on February 19th and 20th, with scheduled meetings with President Aoun as well as Prime Minister Hariri, as reported by L’Orient Le Jour.

The purpose of the visit is to “show solidarity with Christians of the Middle East.” Because it’s common sense to do so in the best country for Christians in the Middle East, where the president is a “Michel,” not where, you know, Christians are actually dying because of war, but I digress.

Marine Le Pen’s visit comes around two weeks after Emmanuel Macron (bless him! <3) also visited the country. Both come in the same context of being more exposed to Middle Eastern politics in formulating more credible policies (that please their supporters, of course) before the French presidential elections become heated in the coming months with debates and first round votes.

It’s worth noting that Lebanon has one of the biggest French diasporas outside of Europe and French-Lebanese tend to vote for more right-wing parties (obviously) with Sarkozy getting around 68% of the vote here in 2012.

Marine Le Pen, on the other hand, is not Sarkozy. While many on L’Orient-Le Jour’s Facebook page are orgasmic with the upcoming visit and are pledging their support for her, exhibits being:

Marine Le Pen is a Islamophobic, French-supremacist demagogue, a friend of Donald Trump, Breitbart favorite for the elections, front-runner for the first round of the vote with a horrifying lead among Millennials. She wants to reduce immigration to the strict minimum (yes, French-Lebanese that affects your people too). She wants to increase police numbers and give them more power in France. Like other far-right politicians, her emblems are summarized with the notion of country first.

As part of her “French First” policies, Marine Le Pen wants to force dual French citizenship holders of non-European countries to choose between their two nationalities and relinquish the other, in case she is voted for president. Her comments, which were more specific to French Jews and later extrapolated to other groups (link), are worrying and horrifying.

So yes, dear French-Lebanese who are excited about her visit or who want to vote for her, you go ahead and do that. If she wins (she will not, but who knows how crazy 2017 wants to be), you will be forced to either stop not being French or Lebanese.

I sincerely hope you choose to forsake the latter citizenship because we truly need way less narrow-minded bigots here who are only concerned with what affects them personally, with complete and utter disregard to everyone else in the process. If you want to shoot yourself in the foot, make sure it’s your own foot and not everyone else’s with you as many Arab-Americans are now realizing, in hindsight, about their decision to vote for Trump.

And dear Marine Le Pen, I hope you enjoy your visit very much! Maybe it’ll show you that those-who-shall-not-be-named (Muslims) can coexist with the rightful heirs of the world (Christians) if, you know, you let them.

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A List Of Major World Leaders That Passed While Lebanon Has Nabih Berri

nabih-berri

With the United States getting Trump *shivers* as their new president, and regardless of what one would think of the new administration (if you need help, it sucks), transition of power and changing politicians is a sign of a healthy democracy (at least until the new face of democracy cancels it out).

So to celebrate our version of democracy, I felt like putting the stagnation of the Lebanese political system in perspective with how the World Leaders have changed while Nabih Berri remained where he is.

USA:

5 presidents: George Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Donald Trump.

France:

4 presidents: François Mitterand, Jacques Chirac, Nicolas Sarkozy, Francois Hollande.

UK:

5 PMs: John Major, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, David Cameron, Theresa May.

Germany:

3 Chancellors: Helmut Kohl, Gerhard Shröder, Angela Merkel.

Italy:

11 PMs: Giulio Andreotti, Giuliano Amato (2 non-consecutive terms), Carlo Ciampi, Silvio Berlusconi (3 non-consecutive terms, Lamberto Dini, Romano Prodi (2 non-consecutive terms), Massivo D’Alema, Mario Monti, Enrico Letta, Matteo Renzi, Paolo Gentiloni.

Canada:

6 PMs: Brian Mulroney, Kim Campbell, Jean Chrétien, Paul Martin, Stephen Harper, Justin Trudeau.

Australia:

6 PMs: Paul Keating, John Howard, Kevin Rudd (2 non-consecutive terms), Julia Gillard, Tony Abbott, Malcom Turbull.

Russia:

3 presidents: Boris Yeltsin, Vladimir Putin (2 non-consecutive terms so far), Dmitry Medvedev.

And for fun – Lebanon:

4 presidents: Elias Hrawi, Emile Lahoud, Michel Sleiman, Michel Aoun.

8 PMs: Omar Karami (2 non-consecutive terms), Rafic Hariri (2 non-consecutive terms), Selim Hoss, Rachid Solh, Najib Miqati (2 non consecutive terms), Fouad Sanioura, Saad Hariri (2 non-consecutive terms), Tammam Salam.

I’m just saying.

To Burkini Or Not To Burkini: The Ages Of Men Deciding What Women Should Wear

When it comes to cultural assimilation, many parts of Europe have not been exemplary in the way they’ve dealt with the many minorities that have sought their land as refuge over the years, but none more so than France, whose problem with people who are lesser-white than the average they’re used to goes back to the time where it occupied much of Northern Africa and contributed to a mass exodus of people from those areas to serve as cheap labor for their home country.

The immigrants that flocked to France challenged the French about what it was to be as such: what is the French identity? What makes France as it is? How do we integrate such diversity into what we already know and take as scripture? Needless to say, the French model failed miserably.

Instead of integrating the laborers in French societies, they were settled along metropolitan areas with other destitute French, close enough to work but far enough from being part of actual French society, further widening the divide between “authentic” French and otherwise. Social programs, a hallmark of the French political system, also contributed to further encourage the differences between both population groups, further making the grounds for discrimination more fertile.

It is no coincidence, therefore, that in the France of today, and similarly to the African American situation in the United States, French jails have a much higher population of North African-origin inmates than of any other population, relative to their proportion of the general French populace.

As the French general public failed to grasp the fundamental problem at hand, the political rhetoric started to mirror the growing dismay from those immigrants. From having the French symbol “La Marianne” in a veil on the cover of Le Figaro, to tell people that France would become Muslim in 30 years, to people like Jean Marie Le Pen painting those immigrants as violent, uncontrollable, and who breed like rabbits.

It’s no wonder, therefore, that in 2004, the French state decided to ban the public use of the veil, much to the outcry of many Islamic and human rights group who saw the move as a gross encroachment on the rights of those women. The argument back then was that France, being a secular state, did not tolerate any signs of religiosity. The underlying tone, however, was that this secular state with an Christian undercurrent would not tolerate an apparent Islamization in its PR.

The rift between “immigrants” – French like everyone else but always viewed as lessers – and French continued to grow through the years, between attacks on Charlie Hebdo, to the terrorist attacks that overtook Paris and Nice, to the increasing rise of the Front National. Today, the clash of culture is taking place in a different way: French statesmen want to ban a conservative swimwear colloquially called the “Burkini” – a term merging both Burka and Bikini – in their attempt to preserve the semblance of the “liberated” image of France.

Introduced in Australia by a Muslim woman who tried to merge her religious and Australian lives, the piece of clothing soon became global. With the French bans, many people are purchasing them around the world in solidarity. The outcry against the French ban is deafening. The question of the matter, however, is why would such a ban be conceived in the first place?

This is a continuation of the French problem in trying to assimilate different parts of what makes France as it is into a modern identity that is holistic and inclusive. The French revolution slogan “equality, liberty, brotherhood” seems to only be applicable as long as you fit within the code of such a statement.

The ban is equal part Islamophobic and an attack on a woman’s freedom of expression. Would French police arrest a nun, for instance, who is wearing her religious clothing on a beach just because she is covered up? Would they arrest a swimmer clad in their sport clothes? Would they arrest any woman whose clothes attire conflicts with what they deem acceptable enough to fit within the narrowing, rather than broadening, confines of French culture of 2016?

Burkini - 2

The ban of the Burkini can be summarized as follows: men trying to impose a dress code on women who have already had a dress code enforced on them by men elsewhere who view their chastity as directly proportional to how much skin they cover up, never knowing that maybe, just maybe, the problem isn’t in the skin that is exposed or not, but rather in the minds that look at that skin in the first place.

Before Arabs and Muslims can be upset about France banning Burkinis, ins’t some introspection into what is happening in our own backyards warranted? How many of our cultures and countries coerce our women into covering every inch of them, whether they want to or not? How many of our cultures and countries treat women as second rate citizens just because they were not born men, limiting them with what those who were born men believe those women should be entitled for? How many of our cultures and countries have made women feel insecure just by walking down the streets with eyes that ravaged their bodies regardless of how covered up they were?

How many of our cultures and countries have stopped women from even going to the beach for fear of being viewed as nothing more than meat? How many of our cultures and countries have made wearing the hijab, and consequently items of clothing such as the burkini, as an indication of the woman wearing them – whether she wants to or not – essentially being a better person than the woman who decided not to? The fact of the matter is that women are more prone to be sexually harassed on our beaches, whether they were wearing a Burkini or a bikini, than in the beaches of France, even if they’re wearing nothing.

Tackling the abhorrent rise of Islamophobia in France cannot therefore occur without looking inside our own homes for once. Do we allow our women to wear whatever they want without conferring moral judgement on them for doing so? Do we give our women the freedoms that we believe they are being robbed of in France or elsewhere? Do we not pass judgement on those women who decide to go to the beach wearing a Bikini just because they felt like it, categorizing them as everything we believe women should not be?
The answer is no.

The resources France is putting into banning the Burkini are completely unnecessary. It’s a legislation that has become a farce: that of armed police officers assaulting decent women at the beach to strip them of their clothes. By coercing them out of a Burkini, the French state is doing to those women something that’s as bad as forcing them into one in the first place. It’s unfortunate that while standing as such a crossroads, France and the rest of Europe decide to make a U-turn rather than advance further into creating an environment where women can be free to choose whether they want to wear a Burkini or not. Instead, you have a bunch of men deciding they know, once more, what women want and what they should do. When ISIS tells Muslims they’re nothing but second class citizens in the West, one wonders, when does the West realize that its practices play right into ISIS’ hand?

From Beirut, This Is Paris: In A World That Doesn’t Care About Arab Lives 


When a friend told me past midnight to check the news about Paris, I had no idea that I would be looking at a map of a city I love, delineating locations undergoing terrorist attacks simultaneously. I zoomed in on that map closer; one of the locations was right to where I had stayed when I was there in 2013, down that same boulevard.

The more I read, the higher the number of fatalities went. It was horrible; it was dehumanizing; it was utterly and irrevocably hopeless: 2015 was ending the way it started – with terrorists attacks occuring in Lebanon and France almost at the same time, in the same context of demented creatures spreading hate and fear and death wherever they went.

I woke up this morning to two broken cities. My friends in Paris who only yesterday were asking what was happening in Beirut were now on the opposite side of the line. Both our capitals were broken and scarred, old news to us perhaps but foreign territory to them.

Today, 128 innocent civilians in Paris are no longer with us. Yesterday, 45 innocent civilians in Beirut were no longer with us. The death tolls keep rising, but we never seem to learn.

Amid the chaos and tragedy of it all, one nagging thought wouldn’t leave my head. It’s the same thought that echoes inside my skull at every single one of these events, which are becoming sadly very recurrent: we don’t really matter.

When my people were blown to pieces on the streets of Beirut on November 12th, the headlines read: explosion in Hezbollah stronghold, as if delineating the political background of a heavily urban area somehow placed the terrorism in context.

When my people died on the streets of Beirut on November 12th, world leaders did not rise in condemnation. There were no statements expressing sympathy with the Lebanese people. There was no global outrage that innocent people whose only fault was being somewhere at the wrong place and time should never have to go that way or that their families should never be broken that way or that someone’s sect or political background should never be a hyphen before feeling horrified at how their corpses burned on cement. Obama did not issue a statement about how their death was a crime against humanity; after all what is humanity but a subjective term delineating the worth of the human being meant by it?

What happened instead was an American senator wannabe proclaiming how happy he was that my people died, that my country’s capital was being shattered, that innocents were losing their lives and that the casualties included people of all kinds of kinds.

 

When my people died, no country bothered to lit up its landmarks in the colors of their flag. Even Facebook didn’t bother with making sure my people were marked safe, trivial as it may be. So here’s your Facebook safety check: we’ve, as of now, survived all of Beirut’s terrorist attacks.

 

When my people died, they did not send the world in mourning. Their death was but an irrelevant fleck along the international news cycle, something that happens in those parts of the world.

And you know what, I’m fine with all of it. Over the past year or so, I’ve come to terms with being one of those whose lives don’t matter. I’ve come to accept it and live with it.

Expect the next few days to exhibit yet another rise of Islamophobia around the world. Expect pieces about how extremism has no religion and about how the members of ISIS are not true Muslims, and they sure are not, because no person with any inkling of morality would do such things. ISIS plans for Islamophobic backlashes so it can use the backlash to point its hellish finger and tell any susceptible mind that listens: look, they hate you.

And few are those who are able to rise above.

Expect the next few days to have Europe try and cope with a growing popular backlash against the refugees flowing into its lands, pointing its fingers at them and accusing them of causing the night of November 13th in Paris. If only Europe knew, though, that the night of November 13 in Paris has been every single night of the life of those refugees for the past two years. But sleepless nights only matter when your country can get the whole world to light up in its flag color.

The more horrifying part of the reaction to the Paris terrorist attacks, however, is that some Arabs and Lebanese were more saddened by what was taking place there than what took place yesterday or the day before in their own backyards. Even among my people, there is a sense that we are not as important, that our lives are not as worthy and that, even as little as it may be, we do not deserve to have our dead collectively mourned and prayed for.

It makes sense, perhaps, in the grand sense of a Lebanese population that’s more likely to visit Paris than Dahyeh to care more about the former than about the latter, but many of the people I know who are utterly devastated by the Parisian mayhem couldn’t give a rat’s ass about what took place at a location 15 minutes away from where they lived, to people they probably encountered one day as they walked down familiar streets.

We can ask for the world to think Beirut is as important as Paris, or for Facebook to add a “safety check” button for us to use daily, or for people to care about us. But the truth of the matter is, we are a people that doesn’t care about itself to begin. We call it habituation, but it’s really not. We call it the new normal, but if this normality then let it go to hell.

In the world that doesn’t care about Arab lives, Arabs lead the front lines.

 

Hiba Tawaji Didn’t Lose; The Voice Lost Hiba Tawaji

 

I was walking around New York City yesterday, totally trying to mind my own business by checking Facebook and trying not to feel dwarfed by the high rises around me when my Lebanese friends broke some terribly heartbreaking news to me, as I stood there in Times Square.

It was one of those Facebook moments where you get bad news you’re supposed to get over a phone call via a status instead, sort of like when I learned that a relative died because someone decided to post a picture of her with a RIP caption before they had told everyone else. But this, this was worse.

For lack of better analogy, the news I received on Facebook yesterday was devastating, gut-wrenching and so haunting it might as well be my own version of 9/11. How could it be? It can’t be.

Hiba Tawaji, the Lebanese that showed France how it is to actually sing in French, was no more on the amateur talent show The Voice. But that didn’t make sense? How could Hiba Tawaji lose? How could the person that is now teaching the entire world what singing actually consists of end up with such a heinous outcome? How could the country that gave the world music, art and the alphabet be so terribly offended?

It must have been a conspiracy. Those French people are clearly obviously out there to get us, poor gullible Lebanese whose only fault in this world was being born in the most wonderful, most loved and most vied for country in the world.  Clearly, those French were jealous. Clearly, they had a thing against us. 4 Lebanese candidates on 4 seasons of France’s The Voice are now all martyrs to the Lebanese artistic cause of becoming nobodies in Western Europe. Clearly I wasn’t gonna sit down and be quiet about this.

There are two things that make me proud of Lebanon today: hummus and Hiba Tawaji. The latter losing was a stab in the heart of my nationalistic pride. How are we not protesting this serious violation of our basic and most fundamental right as Lebanese people to be the shit of the shit at every single location where a shit can be shat? This is unacceptable. No, scratch that. This is not only unacceptable, this is worthy of a UN tribunal, more pressing than the STL, to investigate the serious backwater works that are going into this serious breach of Lebanese sovereignty taking place inside the studios of TF1.

So because I’m a masochist, I decided to watch the video of Hiba losing. I swear, that was a worse experience to my mental health than seeing all the mutilated bodies of Syrian children. I am scarred for life. I wept for Hiba. I cut for Hiba. I hung a Lebanese flag around my neck and walked around Brooklyn for Hiba. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do to bring back the pride I lost with Hiba being so wrongly targeted… #JeSuisIba.

TL;DR? Hiba Tawaji lost. The country is mourning. And this is all too heartbreaking and tough to process. Or maybe not. Shit happens in talent shows. It was fun while it lasted, now let’s look at more serious things, like being interested in drunk driving and Haifa Wehbe’s English career.

Hiba Tawaji Wins & Advances To The Final Stages Of France’s The Voice

Hiba Tawaji has won her part of the knockout stages (epreuve ultime) in France’s The Voice – the last of the previously taped segments of the show – and has advanced to the finals of the show, the live shows.

Starting next week, Hiba along with 3 other candidates in her team, will perform a song of their choice to the public live after which audiences will get a chance to vote for all candidates, making sure one of them proceeds to the following week in the progress while the coach chooses who of the other candidates remains and one is eliminated.

If the hype is to be believed, Tawaji has a good chance at advancing in the live shows. Her performances are reportedly among the most watched of the show (her audition has over 1 million hits on YouTube and over 600,000 on TF1’s website, well ahead of all auditions of the show).

In the knockout stage, Tawaji performed Christina Aguilera’s signature song “Fighter.” She did well, but was criticized for her song choice as the coaches felt it didn’t suit her quite well. It’s telling, in my opinion, when an artist as good as Hiba Tawaji has trouble with song selection. It goes to show how far our artists are sheltered, maybe even left without artistic freedom, in their careers.

Either way, French audiences were very receptive of the song.

 

This is a video of the performance courtesy of my blog’s Facebook page (click).

It is worth noting that part of Mika’s team for the live shows includes an Israeli, named Sharon Lalom. For the upcoming live shows, Hiba Tawaji will be battling it out with Sharon for people’s votes and Mika’s favor. She may end up finding herself in a picture with her, in the same television frame as her or whatnot. Let us do our best as Lebanese not to fall into the traps of accusing her of treason for participating.

This is our chance to show that, at a simple ultimately useless talent show, we can take the higher road and “resist” by actually winning, showing that the talents of our country are great enough on their own merit and can kick anyone’s ass, Israeli or not.

Good luck to her!

Hiba Tawaji Wins Her Battle on France’s The Voice

Hiba Tawaji The Voice

Is it me or are Lebanese women on a roll these couple of days? Rima Karaki is now making headlines around the world for shutting up an Islamist (link), and Hiba Tawaji just presented another side of Lebanese women and artists during her battle on France’s The Voice.

On Françoise Hardy’s classic “Mon Ami La Rose” (YouTube link), Hiba battled 41 year old year Nög in an oriental remix of the very-subdued song, allowing her to show a different side of her voice. Nög, Hiba’s challenger, gave her a run for her money. He was absolutely excellent. The level of competition between him and Hiba has showed that there’s no such thing as someone “professional” competing against “amateurs.” They are all professionals who know what they’re doing, and at 41 Nög probably has a lot of experience under his belt that helped him almost beat the Lebanese contestant.

Ultimately, Mika chose Hiba and Nög was taken by Zazie, another coach.

French audiences were also quite receptive to Hiba’s performance:

This is a video of the performance:

Let me know if the video is removed and I’ll find another version. You can also check the video on LBC’s news page (link).

The Point Behind Following Hiba On France’s The Voice:

I saw a lot of people wonder what’s the point behind the interest in Hiba’s path on France’s The Voice and how it reflects on Lebanon or us as people. It’s a certain thing that Tawaji on The Voice ultimately boosts her career as a priority and reflects little on us. But there’s more to it than that, even if it’s a little gullible to think so.

By being “la Libanaise,” she is giving the French a face of the country that they don’t usually see. It’s not much for sure, and it may be part of our collective hopeless thinking of improving our reputation bit by bit at all means possible. Either way, as a country we’ve gotten interested in so many useless things that I honestly don’t get the point in going up in a fit about this just because people are getting excited about a Lebanese being on it.

Good luck to Hiba on the rest of the show. She’s not in the finals just yet, but next time she’s live she will be up for people voting.