On Lebanese Racists: The Guy Who Wouldn’t Shake Hands With A Black Person Because He’s Afraid To Get The Color

It started off like any other Sunday on Twitter. The masses decide to go for an afternoon trend to entertain their boredom and everyone seems to jump on it. This Sunday’s top trending topic worldwide was #Confessions. Naturally, people jumped on it to divulge their deepest heart’s secrets to the millions out there ignoring them.

One of those was a fellow Lebanese citizen who goes by the name Think Sultan, ironic as that handle might be, with a sizeable 4.6K Twitter following. At first, his confessions were simple:

And then, because Sultan felt very at ease probably, he decided to drop his magnum opus:

ThinkSultan racist tweet - 1

He “may” sound racist, you guys.

Of course, the tweet didn’t exactly pass under the radar. Anis Tabet of Let’s Talk About Movies was appalled and expressed his disgust at what he read, to which Sultan replied with the following brilliant notion:

ThinkSultan racist tweet - 2

 

He can’t be serious, right?

ThinkSultan Racist tweet - 3Umm, no. He was. With a few exclamation points to boot.

ThinkSultan racist tweet 4

And if you thought that he’d be slammed left and right for this, you thought wrong. Some were on his side, defending him because “when was the last time you shook a maid’s hand?”

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What he did is clearly his freedom of speech (or speach?) because other people are fakers. Fakers gonna fake fake fake fake?

ThinkSultan racist tweet - 5

 

Clearly it was just all of us being too sensitive.

 

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Which means that Sultan gets to put his cool shades on, because what he said doesn’t matter.

 

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After all, it might as well just be a phobia?

ThinkSultan Racist tweet- 9

I suppose it would be stating the obvious but Sultan doesn’t have a black-people-and-their-skin-color-being-too-dissolvable-phobia, he is plainly yet another Lebanese racist who thinks he can get away with it just because the country he exists in enables this.

This is not a matter of opinion. This not a matter of freedom of speech. This is not even a matter that is up for analysis: Sultan is yet another Lebanese who thinks black people are beneath him because of their skin color, because he’s probably used to see them being abused at the jobs their life conditions force them to undertake, because he’s just so much better for being white. And that is the only truth here.

I thought long about writing this and whether highlighting such racism serves any purpose. I figured that highlighting it is not only a duty, it’s a must. Showing people like Sultan and those supporting him that their behavior is not okay, that their mentality is an abomination.

This isn’t a matter of “opinion respected but let’s agree to disagree.” This isn’t a debate or an argument. This is plainly disgraceful to every decent Lebanese out there. It is disgraceful to all the strides that human rights have gone through in the past few years. It is shameful that such mentalities can be so proud and public in 2015 and not get any slack for it whatsoever.

This comes at a time when migrant workers in Lebanon are the victims of rampant abuse, horrid marketing campaigns that auction them off like cattle (link), recurrent suicide attempts, next to no basic rights and a labor law that borders on slavery. Add people who probably think they deserve all of that to the list of things that are wrong in this country.

We are born with many things we cannot change: our skin color, our parents, our home country, our identity, our genes, our sexual orientation. It is after we’re born that they teach us to be afraid of those who are different: different color, different religion, different region. Critical thinking is what allows many of us to realize that no, these differences are irrelevant and that, at the end of the day, that person who is different is not just another mass of melanin waiting to be dissolved on us.

In his twitter bio, Sultan states that he is a “catalyst for change” as well as a “critical thinker.” If this is catalyzing a change and thinking critically, then Sultan can keep both his change and his thinking. Non-opinion not respected.

ThinkSultan Racist tweet - 11

Truer words have never been spoken, albeit they’re too ironic coming from a person like him. What’s another explanation he gave? This is the real world not utopia.

ThinkSultan Racist Tweet - 10

Yes, we are all aware this is the real world and not utopia. But this is also 2015 and not 300BC. Get with the times. Think critically. Grow up. Be human.

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Racism, Bigotry and Anarchy: How My Hometown Is Breeding ISIS

Welcome to Ebrine

The sign says: welcome to Ebrine. Huddled on a bunch of hills east of Batroun, my hometown is considered as one of the area’s largest. It is Maronite by excellence. The sign could have also said welcome to Maronistan and you’d still be within realms of accuracy.

Growing up, I never truly fit there but I liked it nonetheless. It was peaceful, serene, had amazing scenery and, at the time, I thought it provided everything that I needed. Little did I know that a whole spectrum existed beyond the realms of those 7 hills, 2000 voters and dozen Churches.

My hometown has also lately become a hub where Syrian refugees and workers have aggregated in substantial numbers, or at least as substantial a number can be to tick off the brains of townsfolk that I had thought were kind. I was wrong.

The argument went: “if those Syrians got slingshots, they’d be able to overtake us.” Yes, 500 Syrians with slingshots overtaking a town of about 4000 people. Because that made a whole lot of sense. So some people in my hometown, without a municipality due to political bickering, decided to devise an ingenious idea: set up guard duty, whereby men whose ages range from prepubescent to senile made sure those Syrians were kept in line, whatever it took.

Those guards were self appointed, related to whoever felt it was his moral duty to protect the holy Christians of Ebrine from the fictive threat of Daesh looming among those dark Arab faces coming in from that desert to the East. Their duties were also entirely dependent on whatever they felt like doing. They circulated fliers, forcing shops to put them on their storefronts, to make sure that order is kept: you have to make sure the Syrians renting at your places are registered. You are not to hire Syrians to do work around the town. You are not to let those Syrians do anything that any normal human being is supposed to be able to do, because they are not worthy.

Day X of guarding. A Syrian woman goes into labor in my hometown. It takes her husband an hour between calling this or that to be able to get his wife out of their apartment, into a car and in to the nearest hospital so she can deliver her child. One more Syrian to protect those God-fearing Christians from. What a tragedy.

Day Y of guarding. A male Syrian worker is kept up by his employer at work beyond the 8PM curfew time for Syrians that the guards of my hometown set up for them. He complains about it because of how worried he was at the impeding hell he’d have to go through at the hands of those guards, manifesting primarily by a lovely town policeman who has been around as far as I can remember, bolstered by a support from the Frangieh household, that has seen him pull through a bunch of corruption scandals and still maintain his position. When that worker reached his home, he had the phone number of his employer at the ready, as the latter had told him to do, to ask the guards to call him. Our town’s policeman looked at that Syrian for a minute and told him: say this to your employer, slapping him across the face so hard he was left with a bruise over his left eye for the following week.

Day Z of guarding. Another male Syrian arrived from Syria to join his family at the very welcoming town of Ebrine. That young Syrian, aged in the early 20s, didn’t know of the rules that some random self-appointed people at that town had set up. So at 9PM, on the second day of him being in Lebanon, he decided to leave his house and visit a shop at the town renowned for opening late in order to purchase groceries. He was spotted by our town’s policeman. Why are you here was not even asked. Are you not aware of the rules was not even thrown out in the air. The next thing you know, that policeman was hitting that young Syrian like his entire existence depended on it. A few minutes later, he was joined by 5 or 6 other young men from Ebrine, with all their built up testosterone, and they let that young man have it. It wasn’t until his father showed up, and saw his son being tossed around from one macho to the next that they stopped. My son isn’t aware of your rules, he told them. He’s only been here for two days, he pleaded. What a shame.

I presume a bunch of thank yous are in order:

THANK YOU to those guards who found it’s their Jesus-given right to protect the townspeople against the nonexistent dangers of Daesh at the heart of Maronistan. I’ve never felt safer, or at ease at Ebrine as I do now. 1984 is alive and well. Bravo, bravo. Applause everyone.

THANK YOU to the Qa’em Makam of Batroun for turning a blind eye to the practices of those guards and the arbitrary rules they’re setting up for everyone and the sheer immaturity with which they are governing a town that has no actual governing body. Bravo, bravo. Applause everyone.

THANK YOU to my hometown’s policeman, roaming around with that SUV on which “Baladiyyat Ebrine” is plastered across. I am eternally grateful to those muscles you used to beat up unknowing Syrians whose only fault was them being Syrians renting at the premises of someone you didn’t like. I am eternally grateful to you being the man that you are because if it hadn’t been for that, none of us would be safe and sound. None. Bravo, bravo. Applause everyone.

THANK YOU to the Frangieh household which has stuck with that policeman through thick and thin. Pistachio goes a long way round this town. Corruption? Who cares. Madness? Nobody gives a shit. Bravo, bravo. Applause everyone.

THANK YOU to the people of Ebrine who haven’t spoken up against the guards roaming their streets, who believe their presence is absolutely normal, who think those duties are actually protecting them and who have forgotten how it is to live under duress, under an all-seeing eye monitoring your every move. What goes around comes around, indeed. Bravo, bravo. Applause everyone.

THANK YOU to the Lebanese government, in all its facets, for turning a blind eye to the rising self-governance taking place across the Lebanese republic. Extending the mandate of parliament is definitely more important. Bravo, bravo. Applause everyone.

Some people, like those guards and that policeman, deserve Daesh. So, in frank Lebanese let me tell them: tfeh.

Disgusting Lebanese People: The “Help” Doesn’t Get a Chair… The Purse Does

Disclaimer: This post was published originally on Sunday October 20th. I then took it down as per Dyala’s request because she got word that the family had actually asked the maid to sit and she refused.

My friend Dyala Badran was having lunch at a Beiruti restaurant today when she spotted something that made her twist in anger.

A Lebanese family was sitting across the place from her having their Sunday lunch. They were all seated happily, enjoying their food. The father was cuddling his newborn who was sitting on his mother’s lap. And there was their maid, standing there, clutching the chair that was empty… save for the bag of the madame.

And Dyala documented that moment in picture.

Let’s talk about two scenarios.

Scenario #1: 

The maid wasn’t actually told to sit as Dyala was told, in which case I wonder what is it about the madame’s brain that got her to think that poor human being, who probably spends more time with that woman’s children, looking on their table had no right for a chair. Oh, nevermind. How could a Lebanese share a table with the Help? It’s so beneath us, duh!

The maid actually sat at one point to nurse the baby. Then she was told to stand up again after finishing.

The madame probably thinks she’s doing her maid a great service by taking her out with them for Sunday lunch. Who’s willing to bet she will brag about her open-mindedness in that regard to her friends in a few days? Who’s willing to bet she may have also forgotten to feed her lunch? Who’s also willing to bet she’s even prouder of that uniform she got her because “their clothes are just too filthy?”

Scenario #2:

The family asked the maid to sit and she refused. People took this as a sign that the family is good, that people treat maids well but they don’t want to benefit from our goodness as Lebanese.

Has anyone wondered though: why did that person refuse to sit? Why does she refuse to take a chair? What has led this person to believe that sitting, as an equal to the family on that table, is an abomination? What has gotten that poor woman to believe that she shouldn’t take the seat that the bag ought to have?

Conclusion:

Regardless of whether scenario #1 or #2 played out in that restaurant yesterday, a pattern emerges of a disgusting Lebanese mentality that manifests in a behavior that believes sharing the table with that person is a disgrace, a lowering standards. That woman didn’t sit because this country is brimming with disgusting individuals who don’t think she deserves an empty chair.

Dyala has written her own blog post on the matter in which she has declared “shame on [her]” for taking down the picture. I regret hiding this blogpost yesterday as well.

We “import” these people in a form of modern day slavery. We work them like there’s no tomorrow on a salary that is not only laughable but a disgrace. They don’t have rights and even if they had, we make sure they don’t have access to any of those rights’ forms. They cannot seek protection. They suffer from our abuse day in day out. Our media ridicules them or goes on manhunts against their existence because the Lebanese is always right.

But that doesn’t matter, I guess, because Beirut is THE place to visit.

Lebanon, Now RefugeeStan: Enough With The Humanity Talk?

Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images

Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images

I was going from my hometown to Batroun a while back when I saw two hitchhikers asking for a ride. I’m not the type to worry about such things – transportation between my hometown and Batroun, if you don’t have a car, happens through that method. So I picked them up and off to Batroun we went.

They were both men. The one sitting in the back was very quiet. The one sitting in front was pretty chatty. We were talking in Lebanese. I would have never thought there was anything odd about his dialect until I asked him where he was from and he replied: Homs.

He was worried about his reply so I tried to defuse the tension by saying that I visited his city back when it actually existed and it’s a nice place. The Syrian man, however, felt it was adamant to tell me that they were both Christians who want nothing to do with the war in Syria and who think everyone is at fault.

As I dropped them both off and went about to finish my errands, I started thinking: how bad must it have been for that Syrian for him to decide that telling random people that he was Christian whilst giving them the most diplomatic version of any person’s stance over what’s going in Syria is what everyone wanted to hear? I figured he must have gone to hell and back with him being Syrian in Lebanon lately. And I felt terribly sorry for him back then.

I’ve spoken about the issue of Lebanon’s Syrian refugees before. They’ve become so many that they turned into a source of jokes, though those have also become extremely redundant as well.  However, the issue of those refugees has never really been tackled. Municipalities and some Lebanese ministers spew racist speech that only works to boost their popular basis. The government is as comatose as it has ever been. I guess they’re more worried about the potential ramifications of Ania Lisewska’s sexual escapades. Moreover, the entire rhetoric has been about how we simply couldn’t humanely stop those refugees from seeking help here while acknowledging that the problem was slipping out of control.

The question today is the following: is it the time to draw the humanitarian line on the issue of Lebanon’s refugees as our country quickly but surely turns into some form of refugeeland for the troubled people of the region?

Recent economic studies have revealed the following data about the Syrian refugee situation in the country:

  • Our GDP will decrease by 2.85% per year between 2012 and 2014,
  • Our debt will increase by $2.6 billion,
  • Unemployment will double,
  • By 2014, the number of Syrian refugees in the country would equal about 40% of the country’s pre-Syrian war population,
  • Lebanon’s cumulative loss because of the refugee crisis will be approximately $7.5 billion,
  • More than half of students enrolling at our public schools will be Syrian refugees,
  • More than 40% of primary healthcare visits are of Syrian refugees,
  • Another 170,000 Lebanese will be pushed into poverty because of the immediate ramifications of the refugee crisis. By definition, that is living under $4 per day.

Our refugee problems are not only Syrian. We keep forgetting about Palestinians because their problem is more universally acknowledged, but they have their share of woes that they are bringing on our communities:

  • The number of Palestinian refugees in the country has increased by 16% lately, according to UNRWA,
  • Lebanon already has over 400,000 Palestinian refugees residing in it,
  • Most of those refugees live in refugee camps,
  • Those camps are outside state control and have a self-security system going on,
  • Their self-security system has caused security trouble with Lebanese for a long time, the most recent of which is the altercation with Hezbollah.

Lebanon, the smallest of Syria’s neighbors, is taking the biggest load because:

  1. Many of us believe that the problems of those refugees are not as severe as the numbers say they are,
  2. Many Lebanese refuse to address the issue of the refugees due to political reasons or because they see no problem in those refugees being here,
  3. Some Lebanese parties had decided once upon a time that there was nothing happening in Syria and that those people are here for tourism, while parties on the other side of the spectrum stood by as they waited for ways to use those “tourists” politically,
  4. Our country is simply not capable, neither financially nor logistically nor influentially, of handling such a load – but is the solution simply letting the load pile up while we stand idly looking around?

Most Lebanese were more worried about the situation of the refugees with the most recent rainstorm to hit the country than of other Lebanese who are living in similar, if not worse, conditions. During a recent session with Medecins Sans Frontières, I asked: how does the living situation of people in Bab el Tebbaneh, Jabal Mohsen or Akkar compare to what you’ve seen of Syrian refugees? The spokesperson answered: it’s worse.

But their effect on our lives, even though many refuse to see it, is not only related to the way they live.

For the Lebanese who don’t need to seek out an apartment for rent, the housing market is the same it has always been. But renting fees have risen sharply over the past year or so. Even shabby apartments in my hometown, which many would say are not that well-equipped, are going for rates that might rival Beirut due to the extremely high demand imposed by the refugees. If one can’t pay, they get kicked out and the other refugee on the waiting list takes his place. Lebanese people, living off our country’s dismal salaries, have to abide with landlord demands that come out of the blue and blindside them into eviction. A friend of mine will soon leave her Achrafieh apartment because her landlord decided, just as the new school year was starting, to ask for a rent increase. Lebanese are anything but lousy traders.

Another friend of mine lost his job recently. He never figured he’d still be out of a job almost 5 months later  – he worked in architecture. How rare could those jobs be in the country? It turns out the job market has also drastically changed since he last tried his luck in it. His former job was taken by a well-qualified Syrian who’s getting paid half his salary. Can that Syrian complain? Of course not. Employers now prefer to hire Syrians over Lebanese because they’ll do a similar job for much, much less salaries. How are we supposed to compete with that? Is it plausible for a Lebanese with an engineering degree to accept a $900 per month salary in order to say they’re not unemployed?

You’d think that with this influx of people into the country, business would somehow either stay the same or improve. Well, guess again. Even though goods prices have not drastically increased lately, as they somehow find their way to do whenever something happens in Lebanon, the growingly terrible security situation in Lebanon is deterring people from doing what Lebanese do best: joie de vivre and all. A well known Lebanese restaurant has witnessed a 20% decrease of business per year, over the past two years with this number reaching 40% at some of its branches. Weekend walks around some of Lebanon’s bar streets reveal a drastically different scene from the one that was present a while back: how many times have you seen Gemmayzé near-empty on a Friday night? Many food chains around the country are closing due to the recent instability: Hard Rock, Krispy Kreme, etc…. And I’m sure common sense dictates that smaller businesses are taking it harder. At one point, I’d have said the refugees had nothing to do with this. But the aforementioned World Bank study seems to indicate that they are playing a major role in the stagnation this country has reached, harsh as that realization might be.

What To Do With All Those Refugees?

I’m not turning into a Gebran Bassil-esque character who bashes the refugees one day, calls to get them kicked out of the country, but would have no problem bringing in the people from Maaloula just because they’re Christian and can be milked politically over here. I don’t think what municipalities are doing is acceptable in the context with which it’s being carried out but they are legally free to do whatever they want. What I can do regarding those regulations is not vote for the people who enforced them come next election time, which in my hometown should be soon. But what we also cannot do – and Angelina Jolie would certainly not approve – is stand by while the country is over-run.

How are we supposed to deal with the refugees? Well, for starters regulations that ban any Lebanese employer from hiring them in select jobs where our country has a surplus of people who are willing to work but can’t find the opportunity to should be enforced. Instead of municipalities settling for curfews on the foreigners they don’t like, they should start up regulations that lead to the organization of the refugees in their jurisdiction instead of limiting their liberties. Instead of panicking about an increasing number of refugees in the country, we should enforce regulations on how many refugees we can accept through border regulation. Instead of letting the refugees roam around the country, sleeping under bridges and whatnot, we should set up refugee camps in the Bekaa that can agglomerate them somewhere where their basic necessities can be addressed.

The humanitarian thing to do is not to make it harder for our parents to get by, it’s not to leave ourselves without jobs and it’s not to get our businesses out of business. The humanitarian thing to do is not to call for humanity just because it pleases our conscience while the country burns and we sit by blindly, not seeing the effect of our humanitarian action-less actions. It’s difficult sure. They don’t want to be here, definitely. But it’s time we think about the country that we want to have for ourselves because, by the looks of it, nobody cares about us.

 

Racist Lebanese Municipalities or National Policy Against Syrians?

My uncle was shot and killed 14 years ago today, March 26th 1999.

His killer’s name was Tony Rouhana. He was from my hometown, Ebrine. He was Lebanese. He was an active wartime member of one of North Lebanon’s well-known parties. They call themselves “Marada.”

May 2008. My mom enters our house and finds a hooded-man there. She shouts and runs after him. He was going through her jewelry. He makes a quick escape through our window. A couple of weeks later, his identity is known. He is also from my hometown. A Lebanese. He was only reprimanded – never arrested. Why should they ruin his future?

March 2013. A member of our municipality has his motorcycle stolen by a gang from Tripoli. They chase the thief, are on the phone with our security forces at all times, but are unable to catch him. The theft happened in broad daylight at noon. You can check more details here.

March 2013. I’m sitting with my family as we bid farewell to my uncle who was going back to his home in the United States after a short stay. We hear the sound of a four-wheel drive rolling by. They say it’s our municipality policeman’s new car. Why was he driving around at 10:30 pm?
Because my hometown, Ebrine, is now enforcing a curfew on Syrians. I expressed outrage and was told I oppose things way too often, way too much.

No, my town is not, like other places, hiding behind the shroud of “foreigners” when they mean one thing and one thing alone. There are no fliers being posted around the place. There are no banners to welcome you with the news. It’s all under the radar, hoping it would go unnoticed: a subtle regulation that won’t affect my life because I am Lebanese, from Ebrine and there’s absolutely nothing bad that I can do.

I didn’t want to write about this issue until I made sure it wasn’t simply townspeople gossip. I went to the municipality and asked. They confirmed. Their explanation? We got an order from the ministry of interior affairs recently to organize the Syrians inside our town and to have them listed – as per orders of Lebanon’s intelligence. They didn’t say anything about a curfew but, believing I was worried about the Syrians in my town, they went on further: “you don’t have to worry. A curfew was enforced on Syrians. The policeman is also patrolling the streets from 8 pm till 12 am. The town will stay safe.”

How beautiful and reassuring is that? I should look into extra safety measures against Ethiopians, Egyptians – basically anyone whose skin color or clothing style is too inappropriately poor for my taste.

I also find it hard to believe that such an order would come from the ministry of interior and would go unnoticed everywhere, especially that Marwan Charbel, our current minister of interior affairs, said municipalities who enforce curfews are committing illegal acts (link).

So which is it? Is our government or entire Lebanese administration, now that we don’t have a government, relying on vigilante justice in Lebanese municipalities to regulate the Syrian influx in the country? Are all our municipalities and circumscriptions now limiting the movement of “foreigners” just because the situation in the country is worrying?

Last time I checked, it wasn’t Syrians who were fighting in Bab el Tebbane and Jabal Mohsen nor were the Syrians fighting in May 2008 when all hell broke loose in Beirut.

Should the Syrians in Lebanon be regulated? Sure. Is their influx worrying? I think so. But turning their forced stay here into that of people living in an emergency nation will help things how exactly?

Let’s call it a temporary fix – a plug in a collapsing dam.

Do we have a lot of Syrians in my hometown? Frankly, I don’t see any huge numbers that were not there in 2008, 1999, etc. We are not that affected. Those Syrians are renting apartments here, buying stuff from the shops that even our townspeople don’t go to anymore (going to buy groceries in Batroun is much cooler. They get to use a trolley and pay 10,000 in gas in the process). And yet, somehow, those new Syrians are now posing such a big security threat that our municipality decided to do something for the first time since it was formed in 2010.

Our municipality, which left our roads go as the below pictures show, for over 2 months, which didn’t say anything and even sent a thank you letter for Gebran Bassil (who in all fairness was later outraged and called them out on it) is acting out, protecting us, making us feel safe, as part of a developed country. What’s worse is that this could possibly be some form of national policy.

Roads Ebrine Batroun Roads Ebrine Batroun - 3 Roads Ebrine Batroun - 4 Roads Ebrine Batroun -2

Racism With Middle East Airlines (MEA). Again.

I recently got a tip from a reader regarding another racism incidence with Lebanon’s airline carrier MEA that is not dissimilar to the one that became everyone’s talk a few months ago, culminating in firing the employees involved.

The story goes as follows:

The export manager of a Chinese company was visiting Dubai for a few days after which he was sent by his company to Lebanon to work on a certain deal with a local business. Once his work in Lebanon was up and he had to go back to China, he presented at the MEA counter at the airport but the employee refused to issue him a ticket.

She said he didn’t have a visa for Dubai, which he did. He was also going through Dubai simply as transit to China, which is allowed even if you don’t have a visa. So shouting at the Chinese man, the employee talked down to him, dismissing him. A quarrel ensued, which was only stopped up by another employee interfering and issuing the ticket in question.

I wonder: how difficult is it for MEA to vet its employees before actually hiring them when it comes to the most basic of qualities that people who handle international customers should have? Or how difficult is it to actually have MEA’s employees go through some trainings in dealing with customers in respectable ways to bring them to the 21st century where a passenger isn’t dismissed based on the color of his skin or how stretched his eyes are?

Racism isn’t exclusive to MEA. It spreads to a lot of people across Lebanon with municipalities illegally banning Syrians (and officials who don’t want to do anything about it) to severe discrimination against migrant workers even in the media that should be helping to lessen this among people (link). But the least we should expect is for one of the country’s major companies – especially one that represents Lebanon to the entire world – to be stringent with the image it wants to give to the world.

As for how I believe racism in Lebanon should stop, I quote something I wrote (link) when the first racism incidence with MEA happened:

Racism isn’t also a Lebanese problem. It is a worldwide problem that takes many forms. It transcends the hate towards others based on skin color. It is the intolerance towards another’s religion, the intolerance towards another’s nationality. And if a country doesn’t have a predominant problems with someone’s race, then they probably have a problem with differing religions. It is the problem of “difference.”

We dislike those with whom we can’t easily relate.

So what’s different between Lebanon and those supposedly racism-free countries? It’s quite simple: accountability. And that’s what works most with us Lebanese: a slap on the wrist when we do stuff wrong (fines for smoking, for not putting on the seatbelt, for speeding….)

People who get accused of racism in those countries have consequences to deal with. In our country, racism is met with indifference. A prominent TV anchor was blantly saying that an Ethiopian maid who committed suicide a few months ago was deranged (click here)- and he found no trouble at all in passing his ideology to his viewers. I’m sure he got high ratings for that episode as well.

If that anchor had met the same fate as the employee, people would have known that what he said was wrong. They would have known that talking badly against someone else just because you don’t like the skin they were born in is unacceptable. And they would have realized that it is no longer accepted to have it happen.

Their racism would then regress – it would get suppressed. And that is how other countries do it.

Racist Lebanese Municipalities & Marwan Charbel’s Inadequacy

You’ve probably been inundated by picture of the town of Betchay in the Baabda district who issued an impromptu curfew on “foreigners.” It is reminiscent of something the municipality of Bhamdoun did back in August which was more precise and didn’t nearly get the same attention (link) – the issue of the Syrian refugees hadn’t been this thorny back then.

The picture below is of the banner in the town that has gotten the country talking:

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What you may not already know is that the issue hasn’t been exclusive to Lebanon’s online community with us discussing it over and over again and the issue not reaching any form of “higher” authority.
Lebanon’s ministry of interior Marwan Charbel knows about the municipality of Bechtay’s decision. He knows it’s illegal for them do so. But he won’t take any measures. If you don’t believe me, check out the following picture I took of the highlights of his interview with LBC:

20130225-141926.jpg
To “clarify” his decision not to pursue the illegal matter, he said it could be the municipality’s way of pressuring those who might want to mess with its security.
As if that is remotely acceptable.

The Municipality of Betchay is racist, yes. Their mayor went on TV to say the following: “We obviously mean Syrians with “foreigners” because French and Europeans won’t be driving Vespas after hours in our village.”
And despite such statements, our minister of interior still wants to let things slide. What can you expect from someone who believes a bomb exploding in Tripoli is “a bunch of people playing with it?”

The problem isn’t that the municipality has a backward mentality that should not be accepted. It’s with an administration that is so entrenched in apathy that they’d rather let such grave violations slide without doing anything about it.

I don’t care what the municipality of Betchay’s justification behind such a banner and decision is. If any entity in this country, especially one that is supposed to run the affairs of other people, broke laws in such a flagrant way, it should face the repercussions that such illegalities entail. It shouldn’t face an over-philosophical minister who doesn’t want to do anything about it.

Lebanon currently has over 300,000 Syrian refugees. They are spread across the land. All our towns have Syrians currently in our midst. The difference is our towns didn’t see it fit to break the law in order to prove a point that is mute to say the least. Not that it would matter anyway with Marwan Charbel in charge.

Let’s categorize this as a massive failure in humongous scales. Now who wants to play hide and seek with a few Khaybar missiles? No one will mind.