The Death of Lebanese Civil Marriage

Khouloud and Nidale are a couple that distracted everyone from the utter failure of our politicians at coming up with an electoral law last week with them using loopholes in Lebanon’s political system to have a civil marriage in Beirut. Everyone was abuzz with what the couple did.

But, as is the case with Lebanon, not all reactions were positive and their marriage left us with more questions than answers (link).

The first official reaction to the marriage was Lebanon’s president Michel Suleiman who expressed his support to what Khouloud and Nidale did, voicing the need for civil marriage in Lebanon. His statement was also echoed by the Maronite Patriarch Bechara Al Raï.

Soon enough, our prime minister Najib Mikati was the first to shoot down hope of ratifying a proposal to have legalize marriage in Lebanon because we “don’t need such controversial issues at the time being.” It eventually culminated with Lebanon’s justice minister announcing that Khouloud and Nidale’s marriage was, in fact, illegal and will not be accepted.

And we thought that was it – we had a brief stint with the possibility of our country maybe becoming civil. But Lebanon’s civil marriage drama was renewed today when the Sunni mufti, Kabbani, decided to captivate us with his take on the issue by issuing the following fatwa (link):

“Whoever of Lebanon’s Muslim politicians in legislative power agrees to legalize and ratify civil marriage – even if optional – will be considered an apostate and a deserter of the Muslim religion. He won’t be washed, entombed, prayed on and buried in Muslim cemeteries.”

And with one of Lebanon’s main sects absolutely refusing any prospect of civil marriage in Lebanon, the issue has been killed probably to no return anytime soon. Many people agree with him as well.

What Mufti Kabbani is failing to realize is that he doesn’t live in a country where his sharia is applied to everyone and when he effectively shoots down a national proposition of this magnitude, he is limiting everyone’s freedom of choice – not only the Muslims that he wants to fight for.

What Mufti Kabbani seems not to know is that for $2000 his Muslim population can hop on the first plane to Cyprus, get married and be back in Lebanon that same afternoon. What he is failing to realize is that the point of an optional civil marriage is precisely that: it is optional. Those who want have a civil marriage, regardless of religion, should be free to have one. And those who want a pure Muslim or Christian marriage regardless of their reasons could have one as well. Why should it be the entire country’s problem if he’s worried that, when given another option, many of his Muslims would opt out of an Islamic marriage?

I fail to see how an optional civil marriage is degrading to the rights of Muslims. I fail to see how such a fatwa is Lebanon’s mufti fighting for the rights of his Muslims. Whoever of his Muslims doesn’t want a civil marriage and believes it is blasphemy can simply not have one.

We are now a country that threatens with apostasy to make a point. We are now a country that has fatwas target civil liberties. Last time I checked, that existed in places that we ridiculed as having no freedom of speech and whatnot. It turns out we may not be much better. Thank you Mufti Kabbani for the eye opening realization.

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Putting Lebanon’s First Civil Marriage in Perspective

We sure are all thrilled that a Lebanese couple defied all odds in having Lebanon’s first ever civil marriage happen on our soil (click here). They are courageous and should be commended, as we’ve all done and they have shown that, if you absolutely want to, getting a civil marriage in Lebanon is entirely possible although extremely tedious.

Some people categorized is as a triumph for a secular state to be, some were thrilled that they don’t have to go to Cyprus now to get married. Others were over the moon that this is this couple’s way of sticking it to religious figures who want to keep us down. You know how the drill goes.

But things are not that peachy. Quite simply put, if you think about it Lebanon’s first civil marriage is a triumph for our secular system first and foremost.

As I was discussing with a friend the possibility of maybe removing our sects like this couple did, I had this nagging idea in my head all the time: how much would that limit my prospects in this country?

And the answer is: a lot.

How is a couple being forced to remove their sect from all governmental papers in order to get married a triumph over the sectarian system? If anything, it’s a grave injustice for them. Not because our sectarian system is healthy but because by opting out of it through removing their sect from all their legal documents as per Article 60 LR., this couple has not only limited things for themselves but for their children and their children’s children as well.

It’s not even about governmental jobs which are allocated according to sectarian quotas. It’s about universities which admit students in a Lebanese-affirmative action sort of way whereby half of its admissions are Christians and the other half is Muslim. It’s about jobs that would hire you outside of qualifications if you’re from a certain sect. It’s about this mentality among a lot of people – arguably the majority – to help out others just because they are “men wleid l tayfe.” (from our sect).

It’s not the way things should be, sure. But it’s the way things are. Should the consequences of a civil marriage be limited opportunities for everyone involved? I hardly think so.

Whether we want to admit it or not, the current state of affairs in Lebanon is entirely run on that category in your documents labeled “sect.” Once that box is empty, where do you fit in the bureaucratical aspect of things? Nowhere. How will they register their children when the time comes? How difficult will it be for them to get things done in this country starting from getting that meaningless “ikhraj l eid?”

On top of all that, here’s a sample of some of the comments on NowLebanon’s article about the issue:

Civil Marriage Lebanon

 

Enough said, I guess.

Quite simply put: a “proper” Lebanese civil marriage should be one that takes place while all your governmental papers still have your sect written there in that box.

Either way, if you want to get a civil marriage Lebanon is not the way for you. Nicosia should still be your main destination because at least you know that if you get married there you won’t have a whole lot of repercussions to go through and you know that your children won’t have to go through hell and back in order to get a job.

Lebanon’s First Ever Civil Marriage

Civil Marriage lebanon - 2

Amid ongoing discussion about the Orthodox Law, Christian rights and naseauting political ads, there’s a piece of news which makes you hopeful about this country we live in.

No, they didn’t go to Cyprus. They didn’t travel to the end of the world to have their marriage signed. Yes, they are religious – she is veiled. But a Lebanese couple who wanted to get married decided that they wanted their union to be an embodiment of civil, not religious, rights. And so they became the first couple to – legally – have a civil marriage in Lebanon. For the full story, click here.

What Khouloud and Nidal did was to remove their sect from their personal records according to Decree No. 60 L.R. from the Lebanese constitution, which meant there was no religious court for them to get married in. The couple signed their civil marriage document on November 10th.

Their marriage is now subject to consultations at Lebanon’s ministry of interior affairs. Because this is so big.

According to the article I linked to earlier, the decree the couple used is simply not making an administrative disclosure of your corresponding sect, which makes you liable in front of civil, not religious, court.

After removing their sect from legal documents as per decree 60 L.R., the couple went through the following process:

  • Get a paper from the “Mokhtar” allowing the marriage.
  • Publish the marriage decision 15 days in advance either in the Official Gazette or in two newspapers or on your parents’ door.
  • Get legal documents from notary public that contain all the items in the marriage contract.

This sounds like a whole lot of paperwork. And it is. But at least now we know that a civil marriage in Lebanon is possible.

The news of this marriage comes at a time when many of the country’s politicians are discussing the possibility of adding a 19th officially recognized sect to the country – the sect of those who don’t have a sect or don’t want their sect to dictate every aspect of their legal life (atheists, people like this couple who don’t wish to be identified by their sect, etc…).

Here’s hoping the ministry of interior affairs doesn’t throw hurdles in front of this couple’s union because their marriage is apparently perfectly legal. And here’s hoping our religious folk don’t start advocating to close this loophole in our constitution.

This marriage, though, needs to be put in Lebanese perspective because it’s not really a fairytale. (Click here).

Year 21: The Highs and Lows

Well, today is my birthday. You might have wondered why I love number 13. Well now you know. 13/11.

And for the first time in eleven years, I have the same digits forming my age. 22.

Many people would be overly happy when their birthdays come up. But to me, they serve as an opportunity to reflect on what happened in the year that preceded. In a way, it’s my version of new year’s eve – except that it’s my year.

Year 21 was an alternative current in its highs and lows. When it sank, it sank. When it rose, it soared. When I look back on “21” now, I see a year where I was happy. And that’s almost always the case with life – you consciously forget the bad things that happened, only recollecting them upon an active conscious effort of remembering. The good times are the ones that stay.

So for some introspection and retrospection as my 22nd year starts, I’ve decided to put 21 in perspective.

 The lows:

Prior to 21, I was faced with one of the first key decisions of my life – when I was rejected in the three med schools that I applied to and not knowing what to do next. A biology degree, which I got from AUB, was rather useless in the work field, especially that I didn’t want to teach. So the opportunity presented itself for me to enroll in a rather useless program where I’d be wasting a year, biding my time before I attempt med school again. And that was the crux of 21 – going to classes, attending lectures that you knew had a rather short usefulness span. Many had said that one year is nothing when you look at the big picture. But it’s hard to look at a bigger picture when you see your accepted friends, whose grades are not much higher than yours, nagging about med school when you know you’d do anything to be there. You see, I am not a bad student. Sure, I don’t study as much as I should but I feel I don’t need to. I felt I had done enough to get in and in any normal year I would have gotten in. But the wind blows where it will.

21 was also accompanied by an increased sense of mortality. Soon after my birthday (3 days later to be precise), my mom’s cousin died. He was a great family friend and his death was tragic. I had become accustomed to people I knew passing away then. But you don’t really think about it much, except when you sit with your parents and you start talking about the people you knew. You get to a point where you’d be like: I’m 21 and damn, I know too many people that have passed away. And that number is only going to increase as I move on.

I look at my grandparents and hope nothing happens to them anytime soon. I also look at them during the funerals of their loved ones and I can’t but feel devastatingly sad as I think that most of the people they spent their whole lives with are no longer here. It hurts me when I see my grandfather not bid farewell to his best friend saying: “I don’t say goodbye” as if knowing that his time is coming soon.

We’re all going to die – but you push the idea out of your head as much as you can. Sometimes, you even learn to live with it, thinking you’ve gotten okay with the idea. But what hurts the most is the tears of those that matter to you the most. And then you realize, it will never be easy.

The highs:

I can vote 😀 Anyone who knows me knows I’m very competitive when it comes to elections and such. Back in 2008, I was named “Mr. Republican of AUB.” John McCain lost then but you get the picture. So when I turned 21, and later saw my name on the voter’s register, I felt great. Anyone who says they don’t care is bluffing. You can’t but feel happy when you know you’ve crossed that milestone.

I rocked the MCAT. I admit the program I was enrolled in wasn’t going too well. I mean, I was getting really good grades but the idea of competing again with people who were out of your league back in AUB, well, that’s not the most encouraging of premises for you to want to excel. So it boiled down to the MCAT, which I was taking again. And what do you know, I got my results at an El Molina Tweetup. I can’t tell you how awesome that moment felt when I opened the website and saw my grade which shouted at me: YOU’RE ACCEPTED! GO PARTY!

Subsequently, I got accepted into med school on July 6th, 2011, which also happens to be my little brother and cousin’s birthday. Even though I didn’t feel as happy when I got the news as I felt when I got my MCAT grades, it still felt great to finally have closure for that part of my life. Once you’re in Med School, it’s very hard for you to fail yourself out. Once you’re in, you’re practically there – unless you decide you don’t want it anymore. And for the record, I still want it.

21 also had the honor to be the year where I saw my dad’s family, all his brothers and sisters, together under one roof for my aunt’s wedding. It was the first time in over 17 years that I saw my aunt who came especially to be her sister’s maid of honor at the wedding. I also met my cousin technically for the second time, but for the first time realistically. And if you ever thought that there’d be awkwardness, that was thrown out of the window the moment I sat with my cousin and we started chatting. She was such an awesome person with whom I had more in common than I thought possible. My aunt, also, turned out to be such a lovable person. She cared more than she should and, well, she’s all kinds of awesome. I can’t wait to see them when they come back from Australia this Tuesday.

And speaking of weddings, 21 also had me attending the first wedding ever of a direct family member. My aunt got married on June 17th and the event was just magical. Living with her in our Beirut apartment, I had to bear with months of Bridezilla moments but they all transformed into the best wedding I was ever part of, the testament to that being my whole hometown talking about it two weeks later.

21 was the year when I first hopped on an airplane to spend 17 days in France and Spain. Although those 17 days had their fair share of lows, the moment I rode the plane back to Lebanon, only good times stuck in my head: the moments I spent in France, Lourdes, Toledo, Madrid, etc….

I also started blogging during “21” and I think my attempt so far can be deemed as a success based on the amount of response I get on what I write and the amount of people that are interested in reading what I have to say.

21 was also the time when I met awesome people with whom I’ve become great friends, such as Paul Gadalla whom I helped in procuring a job in Lebanon. I was the first person he told when he got the job. He exposed me to his culture as an Orthodox Copt and showed me their struggle before it became headline news, confirming his fears all along. Paul also helped me in many of the posts I wrote, which many of you read.

And in 21, I became even better friends with the awesome people that were there all along. So thank you Nathalie, Sonia, Elia, Maguy, Hala, Roland, Howaida, Kris for always being there.

PS: spoiled rich girl needs to get a job; Roland and I are rocking med school; Cell biology nerd needs to figure out how to get those basal membrane proteins figured out already… :p

And last but not least, my great family has always been there. I couldn’t have asked for better people to be my parents and brothers. One of my brothers is busy being a womanizer 24/7, the other one is in the US. And although I miss my little brother who’s busy being an exchange student (and rocking at it), this didn’t put a damper on the later quarter of 21. In fact, I feel proud whenever he tells me about the “A’s” he’s getting in his courses. I feel happy for my aunt who’s starting to build her own family now and I can’t wait for her to have little kids that I can boss around. I feel ecstatic for having the warmth of my grandparents’ love surround me. And my parents are the best parents that could be – the sacrifices they make, the sweat they pour and the energy they put to give my brothers and I the best life possible. You can never but be forever grateful to them.

I daresay 21 was great, which is probably why I feel happy writing and reading this. It reminded me of all the good times I had. Some might have been less good. But never bad times. The lows might have gotten me down but the highs came right back there to push me up. Life goes on either way, and, wanting not to sound too cliche, with great family and friends around you, the hard times get easier and the happy times get so much more joyful.

Here’s to 21… hopefully 22 will be even better.

This Is Country Music (Album Review) – Brad Paisley

Brad Paisley is not one of the leading figures in country music for no reason. He has always pushed the envelope of the genre with his music, introducing issues that were usually not discussed in song and making the umbrella of the country music genre even wider, engulfing more themes.

On his last album, “American Saturday Night”, Brad dealt with social issues we all live through but don’t really consider, such as looking at the younger generation and seeing all of the advances they have and we lacked (the song in question is Welcome To The Future).

He doesn’t stray far from that in This Is Country Music, an album that starts with the song of the same name where Brad says country music is the only genre where the word “cancer” is mentioned in a song and goes on into a segue of country music classics (Stand By Your Man, Take Me Home Country Roads, etc…)

On Old Alabama, Brad tells the story of a date with a girl whose idea of a perfect date is not one that involves high-end meals but a simple drive around in a truck listening to Alabama. It’s the song for everyone whose woman is not a high-maintenance gal. The country band Alabama is featured on it.

A Man Don’t Have To Die is a haunting song about the hardships in life and is probably one of the album’s highlights. It starts by describing a priest telling people that hell exists. Brad then comes in to say that we don’t need the priest to tell us this because some of us go things in life that make our life a living hell: when you get fired, when you find out you’re all alone in life, etc… “you don’t have to die to go to hell”.

Camouflage is a smart song, which would have fitted nicely with Brad’s previous album, saying how camouflage is Brad’s favorite color: makes you fit in where you can’t, makes you irresistible for a redneck girl…

And the comes Remind Me, the duet with Carrie Underwood. To say this song is brilliant would be an understatement. It is about a couple rekindling their romance and it is just perfect. You’d expect a song with such a theme to be sadder somehow but it confuses you by being a mid-tempo power ballad. The lyrics are top notch, even the repetition of the words “remind me” don’t come off as grating because it blends very well in the overall body of work. Brad holds his own next to the soaring vocals of Carrie Underwood, making for another – if not the – album highlight. You can check out my full Remind Me review here.

On Working On A Tan, Brad describes a girl soaking in the sun, doing exactly what the title says. Meanwhile, the boys are at the gym working out, wanting to go to the beach just because she’s there working on a tan, with everyone’s tongues hanging out but she doesn’t give a damn.

Love Her Like She’s Leaving is another ballad, featuring Don Henley, that starts with a couple’s wedding and how he’ll never forget how the bride’s uncle told him to “love her like she’s leaving, like it’s all gonna end if he don’t”. Definitely another album highlight, an absolutely brilliant song.

One Of Those Lives is the story of one of those days where you think everything’s going wrong: you rush out and there’s traffic, get chewed by the boss. And then you receive a phone call that your friend’s little boy had a cancer relapse only realizing that while you had one of those days, the boy has had one of those lives. If you don’t feel compassion when you hear this, you need to listen again. An amazing ballad.

On Toothbrush, Brad paints a family portrait that all starts with a toothbrush: it all starts with a toothbursh, a splash of after-shave before leaving for a first date… long kiss goodnight… ultimately leading to a marriage and some kids. Brad sings that everything starts as a little thing, needing room to grow. It all starts with a toothbrush.

Be The Lake is the dirty joke song Brad loves to have on every album. On his previous album, American Saturday Night, it was Water (Daytona beach on spring break/ Eighteen girls up on stage/ White t-shirts about to sprayed with water). On Be The Lake, the girl is swimming and Brad is wishing he could be the lake that she’s swimming in.

Eastwood is a song featuring the directing/acting legend Clint Eastwood. It starts off by Brad’s little boy asking: “hey, what about western?” to which Clint replies: “You want western? Well, this is western!” before pure western music, taken out of a cowboy movie, starts playing. Eastwood is mostly an instrumental track, with Brad, a very strong guitarist, bringing it while Clint Eastwood whistles in the background. It ends by Brad telling Clint: “good job,” the latter replying: “thanks Brad, now I’ve tried everything.”

New Favorite Memory is about a couple going through many scenarios, each time ending with the man telling the woman to stop so he could let it sink it, his favorite memory of her. It is a ballad about a tender love that holds nothing back.

Don’t Drink The Water is a conversation between two guys (the other one being country star Blake Shelton) about going down to Mexico for a vacation. They have some sweet ladies that are more than glad to meet you – but don’t dare to drink the water there.

I Do Now is a song about a man regretting the mistakes he did with his wife. How he’d give anything to go back in time somehow so he wouldn’t break her heart and the vows he made to her and tell her, right in the moment he said I do, that “I do now”.

The last song on the album, Life’s Railway To Heaven, is more on the Christian-side of things where Brad, along with Sheryl Crow and Carl Jackson sing, to a prominent banjo and fiddle background, “blessed the savior that will guide us till we reach that blissful shore, where the angels wait to join us in God’s praise forevermore”.

Brad Paisley, one of country music’s superstars, has the bar set very high for him whenever he wants to release anything. And he hits the bar and more with his eighth album, This Is Country Music. The album serves as a book, each song being a chapter. It’s very cohesive and entertaining. Some said the album could do without a few tracks. But when you look at the collective work that this album presents, you can’t but feel that is is complete as is. How so? When you listen to the album’s first single, many themes are brought up, saying that country music tackles all of these issues. The album serves as a way to tackle the issues that the first single presents. Many have said it is not Brad’s best single – and I agree. But it serves its purpose of being introductory to an album that shows what is country music.

What’s great about this album is that it is real without being pretentious. It doesn’t set out to be the best album ever made, even for Brad’s fans, and it doesn’t include songs that you need to over-analyze to understand. It’s an album about life, freedom, marriage, love, as simple as it may be.

Brad’s fans will love this. Those who are apprehensive will find themselves tapping their toes to some of the songs but everyone will find a song to which they can relate because, at the end of the day, this is country music and it tells the story of your life.

Blue Valentine – Movie Review

Overall, a good movie. There were points where I thought it was great. It’s all about the acting. This is a movie built on two brilliant performances.

Michelle Williams deserves all the recognition she’s getting. She has too many scenes where she shines, the best one, in my opinion, being when she’s at the clinic. You can’t but feel what she’s feeling when she’s lying on the doctor’s gurney there and if you don’t feel anything, then you need to get checked. She got an Oscar nomination for her role, and deservedly so.

Ryan Gosling is brilliant in this as well. He delivers a raw, gut-wrenching performance of the man trying to keep himself together and to keep his marriage still standing. I felt he was another snub at the Oscars this year. He deserved a nomination for his performance in this. I honestly thought he was a lock for a nomination.

I liked the story itself, the blooming of a love, told in flashbacks, and its disintegration, in the present, going in parallel. But I felt that both plots were underdeveloped. Like why are they falling out of love? How did they fall madly in love in the first place? that’s one of the shortcomings of this movie. But, as I said, the brilliant performances make up for it.
It’s very interesting, however, to see how this mismatched couple (and they are seriously mismatched) actually comes to the realization that they are, in fact, not suitable for each other. Many marriages are like this, I believe. The couple stays together because they have a child that’s gluing their crumbling relationship apart… and the movie is basically this couple getting to the realization that even the child is not enough anymore. And this is the crux of the movie: the reality. You forget you’re watching a movie at certain points as it draws very close to the life you know many people are leading.