When A 63 Year Old Militia Member & Minister of Sports & “Youth” Bans MMA in Lebanon For Being “Too Violent”


I will never get how a politician whose background is education and who’s nearing the Lebanese legal retirement age has the qualifications to head the Lebanese department of Sports and Youth, but here we are – as usual – and that person is Mohammad Fneish.

The Lebanese minister of sports and youth is usually inconspicuous. They sponsor a few tournaments here and there, issue statements in support of our national teams every now and then, but the sports situation in the country is improving at a pace slower than a snail’s, the clearest indication our athletes not bringing in any medals at the Olympics and barely receiving governmental aid. In fact, those athletes had to pay for some of their expenses at the previous Olympics.

Today, Mohammad Fneish decided that MMA, which stands for mixed martial arts, would be banned in Lebanon and have all its licenses revoked, according to Sports-961. The resolution, which was published yesterday, says the following:

  • Article 1: Resolution 67/1/2016 on 10/4/2012 regarding MMA is annulled, and so the said game becomes one of the non-practiced sports in Lebanon.
  • Article 2: It is prohibited to any party, and under any title, to hold games, competitions and events of MMA or any similar sport in which a cage and violence are used, and that, under the risk of applying the laws in force.
  • Article 3: This resolution will be published and divulged where needed.

Before going into the benefits of a sports like MMA, I can’t but note the irony in anyone banning a sports in Lebanon because it’s too “violent.” Our basketball games have a tendency to break out in riot just because. Our football games have the same tendency as well. MMA is one of the few sports in the country that is not synonymous with “violence” at this point, but it’s the one that banned.

It was a few weeks ago that all hell broke loose between Homentmen and Riyadi because the latter team’s fans raised Turkish flags to tease the Armenian-Lebanese team. Riyadi and Sagesse basketball games have been held more frequently without fans than with them because of how disruptive and violent they tend to become. Football games featuring Al Nejmeh and Al Ansar have also often managed to turn violent. What’s next, should we ban sports altogether just because the actions of a few individuals taint the bigger picture?

The even bigger irony is that the politician banning MMA is member of a Lebanese militia whose ideological existence is mostly based on the premise of “resistance,” which is inherently violent. How often does Hezbollah brag about its missiles, about its power to stop its enemies in their track? How many times has that party threatened the Lebanese interior to get its way? How many times has that party, in the past decade, launched mini civil wars against fellow Lebanese to get its way? I guess violence is only as such when it’s between two consenting adults in proper gear, but never with tanks and brigades in neighboring countries.

If anything, Lebanon needs MMA for the many benefits it contains which would better our society. It’s a discipline that has been shown to grow the confidence of the person training in it. It teaches them self-defense and is a good medium for them to release pent-up energy. It boosts self-discipline and forms bonds of friendships between those who are training and is known to be a huge stress- relief.

If anything, MMA controls the violent tendencies that we all have inside us especially in a country where daily life serves to boost our anger. Punches and kicks are not “violent” when they’re performed in a controlled medium. It’s like they want people to be on edge all the time and not want them to find media in which they can release all the crap they have to deal with daily because of the inadequacy of our governance.

People can get hurt doing all kinds of sports. You’d think a minister of sports and youth would know that.

The Case of Lebanon’s History Book

As a Lebanese who has gone through our educational system, I’ve learned about Lebanon’s history in two separate grades: grade 9 and grade 12, as a preparation for the official exams that I, similarly to many other students, undertook come the month of June of that corresponding year. The difference in the material between grade 9 and grade 12 was literally nonexistent. We used the same book, same notes and discussed the same era all over again. It was as if our history stopped around 1946, when the French army left our country, marking their departure with a carved stone at the Nahr El Kalb valley.

The thing about writing history is that no matter who writes it, it will never be objective. Even the most objective of historians cannot have the history they write be absolutely devoid of a personal touch here or there, which, albeit subtle, can convey a different meeting altogether.

Recently, however, the talks about writing a history book for Lebanon that goes beyond the 1946 obstacle and into the 21st century was in the works. And for that matter, a governmental committee was appointed to discuss what was relevant and what was not.

The members of the committee are: minister Mohammad Fneish, minister Nicolas Fattouch, minister of education Hassan Diab, minister of culture Gaby Layoun, minister Ali Kanso, minister of health Ali Hassan Khalil, minister of justice Shakib Kartbawi, minister of information Walid Daaouk, minister of tourism Walid Abboud and minister of sports Faysal Karami.

In the case of this committee’s attempt at writing a history book for Lebanon, which will be later submitted to the Parliamentary Education committee for approval, their definition of objectivity is: write whatever you want, omit anything you don’t like and voila.

In the draft for this book, every single mention regarding Hezbollah addresses the party as the “Resistance” and glorifies all its struggles and conflicts with Israel, from the 1980s up till now.  On the other hand, minister Mohammad Fneish refused any mention of the March 14 “Cedar Revolution” and anything about the Syrian occupation of Lebanon. The book was also going to omit anything about the protest of the opposition in Beirut’s downtown for two whole years, including the May 7 incidences in Beirut.

In short, anything related to the mistakes Hezbollah did and anything that showed the Syrians in bad light in Lebanon was to be omitted, which is perfectly understandable coming from people like Ali Kanso and Mohammad Fneish, with them belonging to their correspondant political parties.

But what’s worse is a statement for FPM minister Gaby Layoun who said: “the March 14th “Cedar Revolution” is only but an illusion set by that camp.”

And that’s what’s truly horrifying. Set aside the fact that this committee is as one-sided as one-sided goes and ignore the absolute necessity of having at least a counter opinion regarding something as vital to Lebanon as its history book. If the FPM ministers are now ignoring something they were a vital part of and calling it an “illusion” then what can one expect from those who were vehemently against such the movement that got their Syrian BFFs out of the country?

If Hezbollah ministers did not want any reference to the struggles many Lebanese had to go through with regards to the Syrians, which has always been part of their hypocritical propaganda of Israel being our only enemy, when did the Syrian epoch become nonexistent for the FPMers too?

In simple pictures,

according to Mohammad Fneish, Ali Kanso and Gaby Layoun, who happen to be a ministers in:

Lebanon's current government

the following:

the Cedar Revolution

is as real as:

Harry Potter

I’m fairly certain such a draft for our history book will not pass. But you know what, even if it did, the thing about history is that it comes from more than one source. I don’t remember much of the history I was spoon-fed in grades 9 and 12. But I do remember what I lived through and I am writing about it. This blog, for instance, along with all its political content, will be here long after I’ve stopped blogging and long after I’ve even stopped existing. Well, try to censor that I guess.

What’s truly troubling, though, is how such a draft came to exist in the first place. What’s terrifying is that some minds can fully rationalize writing that draft. What’s absolutely frightening is that those minds are in absolute power.