Attacking Alsharq Al-Awsat’s Offices Is More Insulting to Lebanon Than Their Caricature

Earlier today, Saudi newspaper Alsharq Al-Awsat, which most of us had not heard of until this point, decided to contribute to April Fools with their joke, the pun being Lebanon.

Alsharq Al-awsat Newspaper April Fools Lebanon

The caricature translates to: April Fools… the State of Lebanon.

Of course, Lebanon was in an uproar, but none more so than self-proclaimed comedian and frequent let-me-run-for-parliament-as-a-joke Pierre Hachach who decided to pay the Lebanese offices of Alsharq Al-Awsat a visit and, obviously, vandalize them.

He was so proud of what he and his friends did that he posted the video on Facebook, in two parts:

Is it just me, or is it immensely ironic that Pierre Hachach and his friends saw that the best way to respond to someone saying the Lebanese state was a joke was by showing how barbaric the Lebanese people can be and how absent the Lebanese state actually is in preventing such a ruckus from taking place to begin with?

The caricature in question can be interpreted in many ways. I personally found it lame, and not even worth a second glance. It was first and foremost political, coming at a time when Lebanon and Saudi Arabia were at political odds, regardless of what Saad Hariri thinks of this. Any other consideration, be it about its artistic, comical, any other value or lack thereof, is besides the point. As such, the reply to such a caricature should be political and in the same manner that it was made: write about it, tweet about it, insult it, make another caricature replying to its content, or any other civilized manner that befits us as a people and this country whose name we’re so keen to uphold.

We live in a region where freedom of speech is not absolute, where press is almost always afraid to say what it thinks, where dictators own airwaves and where the masses are led to figurative slaughter houses like sheep without knowing so. What happened today is attacking any ounce of freedom of speech this region has left, even if that freedom of speech was expressed in a way that we as Lebanese find insulting.

Lebanon is a regional pioneer when it comes to freedom of speech. In many ways, it’s the most important piece of dignity we have left. I am writing this because laws in my country allow me. You are reading this on your computer in Beirut or Tripoli or wherever because internet in this country hasn’t banned you from doing so. You are able to say whatever you want because we do not live in a security state. Things are not perfect, but things are not Saudi Arabia either.

Pierre Hachach and his friends attacking the offices of Alsharq Al-Awsat is an attack to that last piece of dignity that we as Lebanese have, giving us an image of barbarics who can’t take differing opinions, who think fists are the proper response to speech, who think that chaos is more appropriate than order, and who think that our dignity is restored with violence, not with honor.

How different would that make Pierre Hachach and his friends from those who attacked the Danish Embassy a few years ago because of a Danish newspaper’s caricatures about the Prophet Mohammad? How ironic is it that those same people probably were all about #JeSuisCharlie when the Charlie Hebdo HQ in Paris was attacked in January 2015 by people who were as offended about the dignity of their religion as they are about their country’s?

The answer is not so much.

Pierre Hachach, you would have done better by posting another meaningless Facebook video in which you replied to the caricature than by going down to the newspaper’s offices. I would have probably disagreed with you, but I sure as well wouldn’t be appalled and horrified at how insulting that video’s reflection is of this country you’re supposedly defending.

To that caricature I say: وإذا أتَتْكَ مَذَمّتي من نَاقِصٍ فَهيَ الشّهادَةُ لي بأنّي كامِلُ.


Pierre Hachach (El Ma2da7) Arrested

For those who don’t know Pierre Hachach, he’s the man from Batroun behind the “ma2da7” posters in the 2005 parliamentary elections: neyeb l akhdar wel yebes. He has since ventured into many other domains, such as singing.

Pierre Hachach was battered by rifles on his head and taken to the police with no legal warrant yesterday where he was refused medical care. His sister was also attacked and thrown on the streets as she demanded he be administered medical help. He has been held in prison since.

The charge? He insulted the head of the army on his Facebook profile. So as our army general heads the festivities of today’s independence day, Pierre Hachach bleeds on the floor of the HQ of Lebanon’s military police to which he was transferred today.

Last time I checked, it was the army’s duty to protect us not drag us to military court for stuff we post on our Facebook profiles. What harm did Kahwaji receive from Hachach’s supposed insult? What’s next? Round up anyone who dares speak up about any shortcomings in this nation, particularly when it comes to the army, and throw them in jail?

Besides, since when is it the job of the army to check people’s Facebook profiles for offenses against army general Jean Kahwaji? Don’t they have better things to do than stalk people’s profiles all day searching for things that could be held against them in court? And since when should we tolerate these laws that put some figures in power on a pedestal from any form of criticism, be it positive or negative?

Army general Jean Kahwaji may not know about what’s happening to Pierre Hachach and odds are he will ask for Hachach’s release when he knows. But the problem is with the arrest in the first place – we have resources to arrest people randomly but not the resources to enforce security on the entirety of the country.

So let’s focus on Facebook and those on Facebook who stray from the correct path and forget about every other thing taking place in this country. Allah ye7mik ya watan w allah yse3dna kamein. 

Update: It seems that Hachach was arrested not because he insulted the army commander but because he got into a personal feud with someone that led to the army arresting him. Hachach then innundated the army with a slur of swear words. 

Either way, I am against the arrest and especially against dragging him to military court.