Fabian Maamari, Enough With Your Silliness

Behold Fabian Maamari, the Swedish-Lebanese whose Facebook pictures are causing a Lebanese frenzy.

4 days ago, Fabian posted a picture of him between two IDF soldiers with the very – err – sentimental? caption that you can check here.

To sum-up, Fabian met Avi – an Israeli – and the love of his life as he calls him, when he visited Israel last year during Tel Aviv’s yearly Pride parade. He then decided to move to Israel and stay there.

Recently, Fabian went on a vacation to the Israeli side of the Dead Sea where he saw two IDF soldiers roaming around. So because he was “experimental” he came up to them and waited until they made contact. He then made sure they knew he was Lebanese because he wanted to shock them.

 

Those IDF soldiers turned out to have served in Lebanon during the period of Israeli occupation of the South, and maybe even during the July 2006 war. Therefore, Fabian’s knee-jerk reaction was to have all his fears dissolve because the IDF soldiers thought Lebanon was “a beautiful country.”

They were then invited to dinner where Fabian told them the story of how he met his husband, and things quickly turned into sunshine and butterflies and how we should never judge people before we meet them and that Israelis can be nice people too.

Israelis can be good people, sure. I mean, they are just people, and people can be good or bad. Fair enough, a soldier killing a Lebanese does not make all people of that country bad. But it does put a huge question mark on the country that ordered the killing, especially when the death tally on our side is of lives shattered and ruined. Meeting adorable Israelis does not mean foregoing the struggles of Lebanese people with them. It doesn’t mean brushing aside their horrors just because it’s “cool.”

By the same token, there are a lot of bad Lebanese people that make me ashamed of holding the same nationality. A recent example that comes to mind is those employees who beat up two African women just because they were, well, African (link), or how many of us are treating the Syrian refugees.

But this isn’t about giving every single Israeli the benefit of the doubt for being Israeli, Fabian Maamari wants us to give their entire country the benefit of the doubt, and with that I have a problem.

This is not, unlike how some Lebanese media portrayed it, about Fabian Maamari being gay, and being a Lebanese man in love with an Israeli man. This is far from it. Maamari can love whoever he wants, and sleep with whoever he wants, Israeli or otherwise, and I couldn’t care less.

This is also not similar to when Miss Lebanon found herself in a selfie with Miss Israel (link) or when the recurrent debate about how to best handle Israeli presence at international events takes place.

 

I feel like a few reminders are in order for Mr. Maamari, who entered Israel with his Swedish passport, and who has absolutely no reason to be “afraid” when he’s there as a European Union nationalist, not as Lebanese.

These are a few pictures from the recent July War, where Israel killed over 1500 civilians of your country including more than 300 women and children:

And this is the love they gave us then:

 

And these are pictures of the 1996 Qana Massacre where Israel shelled a UN compound filled with children, killing 106.

Where was the love back then?

For every picture that you are posting, Mr. Maamari, of your Israeli adventure, there’s one to parallel it in horrors of what that country has caused us.

For every “awww” moment you’re experiencing when you meet an Israeli who happens to be nice, and you get the shock of his life that they can be nice when you’re dating one of them (I don’t get it?), there’s a Palestinian child drawing his last breath. Have you heard about the recent settler arson that took an infant’s life?

Either way, I see that you noticed how Palestine is separated from you by a wall, but you seem not to have an issue with it:

A picture taken by Fabian, off his blog.

A picture taken by Fabian, off his blog.

Fabian’s reply to those who reminded him of Israel’s atrocities in Lebanon is that he does not entertain blind hate. Yes, because the history of how your other country got killed, decimated, and targeted is blind.

Your people, that is if they are your people, are not filled with hate; they are filled with memories, most of which you lack. The wars you’ve “heard” about, some of us lived first hand (link). Those IDF soldiers you had dinner with probably killed a father or a mother or a child of someone that we may know. That country you’re falling in love with actively killed us and occupied our land for years.

Fabian Maamari, you are allowed to sleep with as many Israelis as you want. You are allowed to fall in love with as many Israelis as you want, and by all means have dinner with as many IDF soldiers as you want. You are allowed to be happy you went viral for your “boundaries-transcending” love affair as much as you want. But there’s a limit to how love-struck you can be.

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Being Gay Is Worse Than Being ISIS: 2 Lebanese Men Tortured For 3 Weeks in Prison Over Their Sexuality

You, as a Lebanese, are as irrelevant as a cockroach. Your rights are the doormat every single person with power steps on to ascend up the scale of political prowess.

A couple of weeks ago, two minute-long videos were leaked out of Roumieh jail. They featured security officers beating up on Islamist suspects – people who have not been convicted yet. I won’t be sharing the videos here, because there’s no point in propagating such barbaric things.

Mini-Lebanese-hell broke loose as a consequence. In the quiet Ramadan month, politically, the bombshell of torture happening in Lebanese jail – surprise, surprise! – got some people on the streets burning tires, blocking roads. It got Ashraf Rifi, our minister of justice, up in a fit as to how such a thing could ever happen – how shocking – but we all know it was because those tortured are Sunni.

Many were ecstatic about the videos, as I was able to assess with the sheer enthusiasm that many of my Facebook friends shared them. Human rights are not an argument to some people it seemed: those people killed our soldiers, they’d shout at you. Sure, they might have… but how are we better than them if we film them being humiliated and then use those videos for political fuel? Oh, you just love ISIS. 

But this post is not about ISIS torture videos.

Another reaction that took place when the Roumieh videos surfaced was utter shock that such stuff happen in Lebanese jails. Torture? In Lebanon? Mais c’est pas possible? Le liban est le plus beau pays du monde, oh mon dieu. 

Those people clearly lived in their version of Lebanese Switzerland where Beirut served as a Middle Eastern Geneva. The wake-up call that they got to realize that they were indeed living in a third world country where their value is worthless was shocking: this is not a land where human rights are scripture, where your value as a human being is paramount and where your sanctity is holy.

The story of Roy Azar, who had a sound grenade aimed at his chest, killing him a few weeks before his release time, was never front-page news. Roy Azar is not fuel for Ashraf Rifi to ride on the Sunni-anger bandwagon.

The story of Jamil Abou Ghina who died of a heart attack due to the severe torture he experienced at the hand of sadists in Lebanese jail was not front-page news. Jamil Abou Ghina was not filmed being beaten up and laughed at by some irrelevant security officer who probably got orders from high above to do so.

But this isn’t about Jamil or Roy either.

L’Orient Le Jour broke a story a few days ago that I think everyone should read (link). It’s the story of torture that also took place recently, but clearly did not get the attention that a terrorist getting beaten up in Roumieh got.

On June 9th, 2015, Omar and his friend Samer were on their way to spend the weekend in the South when they were stopped at a checkpoint that found a few grams of weed in their car. So they were arrested, their belongings confiscated, and were taken to be interrogated and ended up spending the night in jail where they were subjected to drug testing, all of which turned out negative.

So with no more charges under their belt, our lovely police officers went through Omar’s phone conversation with his friend Samer and noticed that he called him “habibi.” So they accused Omar of being homosexual, which he denied. Then they took out the negative drug test result, told him it was positive, in an attempt to get him to give out details about drug dealers in Beirut. When that failed, they brought out his friend Samer, stripped him and started beating him up with their hands, with their canes. They submerged his head in icy water, in attempt to get them to confess to both drugs and homosexuality charges.

Samer was beaten up, drowned, electrocuted. He ended up confessing to the charges. Then they started torturing Omar to give our names of people in the Lebanese gay community, which he didn’t do. It was then that the police called Omar and Samer’s parents and told them that their children were gay.

When Omar and Samer’s parents arrived to the place where they were held, they were not allowed to see their children. When they asked if their children had been tortured, the officer assured them: walaw? Where do you think we live?

The two men spent 6 days in Tyre where they were faced with a choice: either get beaten up or give out names of gay men in Lebanon. Then they were transferred to the infamous Hobeich police station, where they stayed for 5 days, in a 20 squared meter cells with 20 other people. Then they were transferred to holding in Saida where they stayed for 8 days, with 200 other prisoners who were informed by the security officers there that Omar and Salem were homosexuals.

Omar was then released two days later after being seen by a judge. His friend Samer was kept in jail, until L’Orient Le Jour contacted Nohad el Machnouk who took it upon himself to address the issue. Samer was liberated 30 minutes later.

Of course, the story of Omar and Samer did not receive front-page attention in Lebanon. No one burned tires. No one closed roads. No one got upset. It simply passed by, like any other piece of news, irrelevant and useless.

Why would a Lebanese MP care? Defending the rights of two men who were violated in such a way does not help him with a populace that only seems to care when the issue is sectarian.

Why would Ashraf Rifi, the minister of justice, care that severe injustice has befallen Lebanese citizens when those citizens are maybe not Sunni, or not in any way material for him to further fuel his ascension atop the Future Movement in the absence of Saad?

Why would the Lebanese populace care about two men who were beaten up, electrocuted, humiliated, and have their reputation ruined?

Why would the staunch new-found defenders of human rights who popped out of the blue after the surfacing of the Roumieh videos also rise up to the mantel after such a horrific story as well?

Omar and Samer are just one example in a growing list of stories of torture across the Lebanese Republic. The only difference is this time Omar spoke up for himself and his friend.

How many Lebanese are there among us who have had to suffer horrific transgressions just for falling under the pawns of some barbaric animal with power and are too afraid to tell their story for fear of repercussions? How many stories are there, similar to that of Omar and Samer, of people who are being violated just because someone in power felt like it? How many Lebanese are there, who have been accused of drug possession, of drug use, of homosexuality, or any other charge, had to be subjected to severe transgressions just because?

The sad part is that there will be people in the country to say that Omar and Samer deserve what they got, just as there were people who say those prisoners in Roumieh deserve what they got as well. Welcome to the Republic of shame, we offer you 18 sects, diversity, a capital with identity issues, mountains close to the sea, and 21-st century torture to feast your eyes, senses and human rights.

 

Star Academy 8: The Season Of Gossip

I am not watching Star Academy 8 and nor do I want to. I watch the occasional prime on a Friday night but that’s pretty much it. The show is now in its eighth season and has been dragged for far too long. Many of the winners have gone into irrelevance, let alone some of the contestants. The show has become a vehicle for those running it to make too much money out of people “voting” and TV ads that bring in millions.

However, it looks like this latest season of the show has one thing that didn’t happen as much in previous seasons: gossip.

It looks like everyone’s talking about everyone else behind their back. How do I know this? Well, last Friday, I was home with my mom when a woman visited us and started telling us about the Syrian contestant Sarah: great voice apparently and horribly impolite. How so? she literally talks about everyone. Apparently, she hates Lebanese contestants (no idea why), she talks about them behind their backs, whenever she sees an opportunity to spur something up, she goes for it. She loves to make people hate each other while she stays on the side. And no one is safe from her.

And apparently there’s another contestant, the Palestinian Layan, who started rumors about one of the Egyptian guys, Karim Kamel, to be gay. Karim has withdrawn from the show on Friday with rumors that his family is suing the show. Now I don’t care if he’s gay or not, he’s simply horrible and the only reason he survived on the show was his country bringing him back every single time he was nominated for eviction. But don’t you think it’s horrible to start rumors about someone being gay when millions are watching?

Moreover, the show has been seeing such flagrant voting manipulation that it’s absurd. Since when does a Lebanese candidate beat a Saudi in voting? And not just by a small margin but by a considerable few percentage points! The look on the Lebanese girl’s face when she saw the results was priceless even though she ended up losing a few minutes afterwards. How did she end up losing? the students who vote publicly for the student they would like to keep are seated in such a way that those who have not made up their minds would vote to bring forth a tie, ultimately damaging a candidate over the other. The Lebanese contestants were placed first, the girl was given a lead and then crashed out of the show.

So yeah, maybe Star Academy should simply call it quits after this season. I mean seriously, when a singing TV show reverts to gossip and rumors to increase ratings, you know something’s wrong, especially when they have great talents that they need to focus on, including the Syrian girl Sarah. Until then, the Egyptian guy Karim will have those rumors, true or not, chase him till God knows when and viewers who have nothing else to do will still be entertained by a show getting useless by the minute.

Bullying in Lebanon

I was sitting in a class yesterday when an openly gay guy sat next to me. I’m not very good friends with him (I barely know him) but he seems like a cool guy. I know of at least one incidence after an exam where he was more caring about how my friend and I had performed than many people we know.

So the desk he sat at had the following scribbles: [His name] is gay.

The guy took it with humor. He doesn’t care and the people that care about him don’t care either. He took his pen and scribbled down: And proud. He then signed.

I, however, felt bad for him. I have no idea why but I got the feeling that he put on this facade of the non-caring person who ridicules these kinds of insults, but on the inside he was hurt.

A similar thing happened with another person I know, who was forced to come out because of bullying. Everyone started to make fun of him (and imagine your whole age group making fun of you). But he still held his head high and went through it. While I have some reservations on many things this person did, I have to admit that he was being, in a way, bullied.

Bullying in Lebanon – and other countries for that matter – has always been against those perceived as weaker than us, be it racially, sexually, religion-wise, etc….

So just let me say this. Bullying does not make you a better person – on the contrary, it makes you ridiculous. Whether you enjoy the little surge in power that you get when you make someone lesser than you feel bad, just know that this lesser person is the better person and better people are the people who ultimately get the good jobs, the nice girlfriends (or boyfriends) and lead the better life.

So if you’re a bully, take a minute to ponder how horrible you’d feel if the same things you’re doing to those you are bullying are being done to you.

And as final food for thought: aren’t we all bullies? haven’t we all made fun – at certain points – of people that we see as “lesser” than us?

Easy A – Movie Review

Easy A. The best comedy of the year, aka the best teen comedy in a long, long time.

The movie tells the story of Olive Penderghast, a high school girl who’s as off the radar as you can go. A rumor starts that she lost her virginity and soon enough, she becomes the most popular girl in school. Inspired by the novel “The Scarlet Letter” from where the letter “A” in the title comes from, it shows how the precocious teenager in Olive got turned due to word-of-mouth alone into something as close to a harlot as you can get – without the sex.

Her fictional one-night with her fictional college boyfriend soon becomes the introduction of many guys asking her to fake sleep with them to improve their reputation. A gay classmate comes up to her and in one hilarious scene, they fake sleeping with each other so well that your ribs would almost crack from laughing. But as with all comedies, soon enough Olive’s world will come crashing down as it all becomes unbearable and things she hasn’t even pretended to do are affixed to her…

Olive’s parents, played by Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson, are hilarious. They excel at being the hippies, carefree parents. You can’t help but laugh everytime one of them tries to console or give guidance to Olive. They are so out of place that I thought Olive was adopted at first. They are still so taken by their long-ago sexual and chemical experimentation that they don’t even care about all the turmoil in their daughter’s life. Their advice: Oh but it’s fun! You can’t help but laugh.

You might think the plot is cliched and whatnot – after all, most high school comedies are. But what elevates this movie is the outstanding performance by Emma Stone, who, in my opinion, should have won her category at the Golden Globes. There is no other one who deserved the best actress in a comedy as she did. She spun this movie out of her likeability alone and made it into what it is. Like or hate the movie, you can’t but like her character. She shows such promising talent that how she was a relative unknown before this is mind-boggling.

The movie also stars Gossip Girl’s Penn Badgley as Olive’s love interest. Amanda Bynes returns into the movie business as the overzealous Christian who wants to stop all the “sinning” going on in her school. She is really good as well, especially when she’s in one of her prayer sessions.

Easy A may not be groundbreaking. But for once in a long while, Hollywood gives you a comedy that is refreshing, breezy and likeable without going into the comedy of shock-value. And for that, I love it.

 

 

 

Born This Way – Lady Gaga


Listen to Lady Gaga’s new single here:

Lady Gaga – Born This Way by gagadaily

Get the song on iTunes now.

My thoughts on the song:

After a few listens, it catches on. But that’s how it’s always been with me and Gaga’s songs. The only instantaneous ones were “Poker Face” and “Bad Romance”.

The lyrics are pretty great. I do not agree with those saying that this is a gay anthem. Sure, some parts of the lyrics can be interpreted that way but they can also symbolize any struggling person. The song is an empowering anthem to everyone who has ever felt teased or bullied, regardless of race or sexual orientation.

I understand that Lady Gaga is considered an icon for the gay community. But this doesn’t mean that a song about embracing who you are is directed at that community, exclusively. Many people struggle with their identity in this world where the media paints a certain identity that we should all follow. This song tells us that whoever we are is just enough because that’s the way God made us. The beauty of music in general is that it transcends cultural boundaries. I am Lebanese and find that the part where she references me describes what my country and I go through on almost daily basis.

Now, leaving the philosophical interpretations alone, I have to say that I actually felt that a slower tempo would have given the song more justice. After reading the lyrics, and regardless of what had been said that this would be an uptempo, I thought the best way to represent those lyrics would be on a piano. Lady Gaga does very good renditions of her songs acoustically so maybe she’ll start off her Grammy performance like that on Sunday?

Regardless of what I personally think of the song, it has already hit #1 in the iTunes store of 23 countries. It has broken Britney Spears’ record for first-day radio spins in the United States. The only thing that’s sure is that Lady Gaga is nowhere near done. You might like it, you might hate it… either way, you are living with it.