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.

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Lebanon’s Cancerous Islamists & Other Religious Extremists Didn’t Win: Beirut Celebrates LGBT Pride Week

One step forward, a bunch of steps backwards thanks to cancerous religious extremists whose political reach is always overreaching; this is the story of modern Lebanon.

A few days after Crepaway’s left field ad which featured a same sex couple cuddling by the shore (link), Beirut was in full gear to celebrate its own version of Pride Week, as part of the Lebanese International Day Against Homophobia.

Multiple LGBT NGOs have scheduled multiple events throughout the week for the occasion, from storytelling nights featuring Mashrou’ Leila’s lead singer Hamed Sinno, to a conference on Saturday by HELEM about fighting homophobia, transphobia and biphobia in Lebanon.

Yesterday, however, Lebanon’s establishment dealt a setback to the organization Proud Lebanon which had planned an event this week as part of Beirut Pride Week. The reason was that a Lebanese Islamist organization – hay2at al 3oulama2 al muslimin – decided that such an event was in violation of their own fragile self and what they believe in, which led them to pressure the ministry of interior which prompted the hotel to cancel the event under the guise of them “not being able to keep the participants safe.”

It’s intriguing, isn’t it, that a conference about basic human rights in 2017 cannot be kept safe somehow by security officers. You’d think that they’d be capable of doing the most mundane of their jobs: assign a few officers to the hotel in question, in order to guarantee the well-being of Lebanese citizens who are expressing their constitutionally given right of freedom of expression, but no.

It’s not that they can’t guarantee the participants’ safety, it’s that they don’t want to. Our system is too afraid of irrelevant snowflake Islamists whose entire existence these days is about making sure nothing about this country moves forward in any way that threatens their power. Our system is too terrified of the advances that Lebanon’s LGBT community is making, be it in fighting homophobia to court victories to Lebanon further being the lead Arab country in such issues.

It should come as no surprise that those same Islamists wanted a Coca-Cola poster taken down in Tripoli because it was too “obscene” for their taste. Spoiler alert: it featured two people standing very close to each other. Those same Islamists also objected to a lingerie ad in Beirut under the guise of it being too close to a Mosque. That same ad had been approved previously by the same authorities that were forced to remove it.

The problem is that we have authorities that keep listening to such pests. When will this country stop listening to such cancerous infestations that are hell-bent in keeping everyone in their own dark ages? I guess we’ll never know.

However, those Islamists and other religious extremists who have terrorized the country with their horrendous thought don’t know that the years of struggle that Lebanon’s LGBT community has and is enduring has made them resilient to the hate and discrimination that infests their being.

As such, Beirut’s Pride Week is still underway, and if there’s anything to be proud of, it’s the fact that Beirut is the only Arab city to have such celebrations, in spite of Islamists and religious extremists, and in such an open way. L’Orient Le Jour published an article earlier saying that obscurantism had won. It may have prevented one event from taking place, but that hasn’t stopped the rest of what was planned from still being underway.

Lebanon’s extremists did not win. Their hate won’t win, and it sure as hell won’t find ground this year.

You can check out some of the events at this link. I will be updating this post if any other events are brought to my attention.

Once Upon a Time in Maaloula

It was December 2010, slightly after Christmas, that I went to Maaloula as part of a two day stay in pre-war Syria.

The village was nestled up the mountains some 30 minutes away from Damascus. I had no idea what to expect there, other than some difference from the  souks and mosques that their country’s capital had to offer. I should have known that Maaloula would be drastically different – the driver had been talking a language I wasn’t understanding all the way. It was Aramaic.

Once upon a time, the Maaloula I visited was a calm village, part of a calmer and oppressed country. The people there seemed poor. They also seemed especially devout, asking us to take off our shoes as we visited Christian shrines for saints that Christians in Lebanon worshipped. The town’s houses were tightly packed together, haphazardly built, in a way that climbed up the mountain that overlooked the village. A statue of the Virgin Mary could be seen atop those mountains. I’m sure they figured she’d be protecting their homes.

I walked around the hills next to the village, patches of snow from a storm a few days prior still visible. The townspeople looked at us warily: just another batch of tourists who are coming and going, expecting some funky eccentricities. A few children were busy playing football on the tarmac across the street. They asked us to play but we didn’t have the luxury of living where they did. So we kept looking around.

The monastery we visited, Deir Mar Takla, where the relics of a renowned Saint reportedly lay, was not very different from several ones I had seen in Lebanon. But I guess it’s always more interesting just because it represents a minority, something different in the vast sea of sameness you had come to associate with the Syria I was visiting back then. I never thought that desolate town, huddled in those cold Syrian mountains, would become the focal point of Lebanese politics almost three years later.

I never gave Maaloula a second thought until today when I was told that the Syrian civil war had reached it and I was told that I should care about the lives of its people, just because they are Christians, more than the lives of all the Syrian civilians who have died since whatever’s taking place in Syria started back in 2011. There are varying levels to the value of a human life.

Maaloula became the centerpiece of a long-used argument revolving around the core foundation of Christian victimhood, because the presence of Christians in this region cannot be guaranteed but by dictators and oppressors. Let’s always choose the lesser evil.

I was also invited to #ActForMaaloula today, an admirable effort and all. But I have to wonder: aren’t Muslim villages worthy of me acting for them? Who am I supposed to act for in Maaloula exactly fully knowing that 90% of its people have apparently left their town? Am I supposed to act for the Churches that have not been touched according to all news services? Am I supposed to act just for the sake of acting so I can tell the entire world that I care about the likes of those who happened to be born into my religion just because they worship Jesus and don’t fast Ramadan?

Christians in this region are and apparently will always be dhimmis, precisely because of this rhetoric, whether they like it or not. They’re dhimmis because they’re always forced to ask for protection. They’re dhimmis because they’re always treated differently than the countries of which they are part. They’re dhimmis because they relish in the rhetoric that they are different, that their lives are more precious, that one needs to act for their sake but not the sake of others just because they have carried a Cross.

Being against the regime next door doesn’t mean we sympathize with the Islamists. It doesn’t mean some Lebanese politicians, who remember the never-ending Christian victimhood argument listed above whenever they’re bored, get to patronize us about not doing enough for our “Christian brethren.” I refuse to be blinded to the fact that this talk about extremists and Islamists and Nusra and Al Qaeda did not exist in 2011. I refuse to be forced to forget that the talk about a ruthless regime, which can send the cold, penis-less corpse of a thirteen year old to his mother’s doorstep, has existed since the 1980s. I refuse to be forced to fall to that ridiculous notion that Christians are special and must be protected because Israel considers them competition.

I used to think the fear for Christians in the region is overrated. I don’t think that way anymore. But I also think that the entire way the issue is being dealt with will only lead to further decimation of those Christians and further increase of the fear they are forced to live in. You want to protect the Christians of Syria because you love them so? You fight for a political solution that involves stopping the regime that has killed hundreds of thousands of its people and with it those Islamists we all fear whose existence stems from that precise regime.

One more thing before I bring you full circle.

The Syrian regime protects Christians, sure. The rebels are creatures who want to behead Christians and only do that, sure. The following is not in Maaloula.

Lebanon, courtesy of the Syrian army.

Lebanon, courtesy of the Syrian army.

Whose protection am I supposed to ask for now?

The Sleepless Nights of Lebanon’s Tripoli

If you go by the geography they teach at Lebanese schools, you are taught that Tripoli is the second biggest city of Lebanon and the capital of its Northern governorate.

The geography they taught us at school also enumerated the numerous economic riches that Tripoli boasted: its port, its proximity to the border, etc….

The civics course they gave us at school tells us about the numerous touristic advantages of the city of Tripoli: its castle, its old souks….

The sociology they taught us at school mentioned how Tripoli has one of Lebanon’s poorest regions on its outskirts. It’s mentioned only fleetingly, like something we can’t wait to bury under a pile of blissful ignorance as if it’ll make everything okay.

If you look at the latest events taking place in the country, you’d think our Northern border is not at “Al 3arida” but at Balamand. You’d think those Lebanese people of Tripoli have been annexed to the Syrian war. You’d think that this Lebanese city that many find too easy to hate is no longer Lebanese – just a burden that we can’t wait to get rid of. Let’s return it to pre-1920 days when it wasn’t part of our favorite part of Lebanon, Mount Lebanon.

My friends in Tripoli haven’t been sleeping lately. But you’re not hearing about that. You’re not hearing about the explosions going off at any moment, the bullets piercing through the silent December nights. You’re not hearing about the people dying, the children getting shot.

You’re not hearing about the people like you and me cowering away at a corner of their house all night in fear that one of those stray bullets might do them in.

It seems as if our Lebanese media has washed its hands from Tripoli. That city is just not worth the coverage – it’s a “been there done that” type of things. They’ve covered similar incidences there before. What’s the use of covering them now? It might go well with their policy of “let’s show only the good side of Lebanon for the world in order to save the Christmas tourist season.”

Our politicians couldn’t care less as well – as long as they get their share of votes next year. This city, which has one prime minister, four ministers and a bunch of MPs, has no one to speak on its behalf. It only has people who preach about what should take place as they sit in gilded seats somewhere far, far away.

“We condone the presence of arms in the city.” You often hear say. And what will your condemnation really do, mr. politician, while you’re the one secretly buying your people weapons in order to fuel the struggle that you know will bring you loads of returns in a few months’ time?

I am not from Tripoli. But Tripoli is one of my favorite cities in this God-forsaken country. It saddens me to see ignorants portray my friends as a bunch of Islamists who deserve whatever’s happening to their home. It saddens me to have people panic beyond their minds how I had to drop off a friend in Tripoli around midnight a couple of days ago. It saddens me that with each passing day, Tripoli is stripped from the identity of a city where Muslims and Christians lived side by side for years and is portrayed as a place where the next Islamists Emirate will start from.

When it comes to Tripoli, the majority of Lebanese have one thing to say: “On n’est pas concerné.”

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 Shadi Mawlawi Lesson for Lebanon

For all matters and purposes, Mawlawi is irrelevant. In a few weeks, he will only be remembered as the man who was important some time ago. But for his followers, Mawlawi represented a cause, a reason to fight and stand up to a state they hardly consider their own.

Arrested last week, the salafists got into fights that led to destruction and chaos amounting to millions of dollars. Mawlawi got bailed out yesterday for $300. His release was celebrated in the streets of Tripoli: the return of the savior, the hero, the “messiah” of the salafists, the one who represents their struggle.

Mawlawi’s release has showed the salafists what they can do. It showed everyone what can be done to get what you want. Induce chaos. Start havoc. Block the streets. Burn tires. Kill people. Bomb buildings.

The government? It will cave.

The army? Too weak to retaliate.

The ISF? Too involved to be relevant.

Political leaders? Their influence is waning.

Shadi Mawlawi’s release has showed an inherent flaw in the design of Lebanon. There is no state. This is a farm of “people” grouped together. The toughest “person” who can get the others to cower the most for a specific period of time rules.

One of the many diseases in Lebanon is the “Shadi Mawlawi” disease. It exists in many sects and political parties: people who rise from zero to hero in the matter of seconds, who manage to rally the masses behind a “cause,” who get the masses to die for that “cause” and who end up burning the country for a matter that is irrelevant.

There are too many Mawlawis  in Lebanon to count, too many people above any consideration, above any law, above any form of government, above any form of civility. Shadi Mawlawi, Samir el Kentar, the airport officer who led to the May 2008 events, the Islamists of Nahr el Bered…

And then there are those who are taken by the Mawlawis of Lebanon and who believe burning tires is the best solution to get your voice across. The sad thing is they are getting results. It is here that I reiterate the question I asked yesterday: in a country of savagery, is civility the best option for  self-preservation?

“Hay balad? hay mesh balad… hay shellet 3alam. Majmou3in? La2. Madroubin? La2. Ma2soumin? La2. Matrou7in? La2. Oum fout nam w sir 7lam enno baladna saret balad.” – Ziad el Rahbani.

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.