My Thoughts on Rifi’s Actions

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Being an outspoken atheist means I get into a lot debates with annoyed theists over statuses. It’s funny how they forget that the “fundamental” elements of their faiths are chopping heads off, selling women into slavery and ethnically cleansing entire regions of the Middle East. But, hey! A status is just as offensive and bad, ok?!

One argument I always hear is that “these extremists are a minority” and “not everyone who is faithful is like that.” Well, DUUUH! No one ever said every faithful person is a blood thirsty barbarian straight out of the Dark Ages. If they did, they’d be stupid and unreasonable (just like the religious extremists.)

But, as Rifi was so brilliantly demonstrated, the “moderates” pave the way for their extremist counterparts by their irrational behavior to what they perceive as “protecting their faith.”

Richard Dawkins said it beautifully once: “The moderate, sensible religious people… make the world safe for extremists… by influencing society to respect faith.” I’ll edit it a bit to fit the current situation to make it sound something like “The self-proclaimed moderate, sensible religious people in Lebanon are forcibly making Lebanon a safe-haven for their extremist counterparts by forcing people to respect their faith.”

Here, I’ll break it down to help you understand why what Rifi did was NOT ok.

MAJOR Hypocrisy

Rifi is from Tripoli, a town where Islamist extremist flags are always a source of conflict. After the Lebanese Army removed the despicable black flags and replaced them with our Lebanese flag, the Islamist elements removed the national symbol of our country and replaced it with the black flags that have become synonymous with horrific death and genocide in our region.

Why didn’t Rifi ever send police cars to arrest these people? Where are the criminals that burned the historic library? The criminals that burnt the Christmas tree? Why didn’t Rifi think that they deserved to be “punished in the severest forms”? Is it because they were Christian symbols? Is it because the people he’d be arresting are constituents where we all know he’s planning to run for elected office?

Why are a bunch of misguided youths in Ashrafieh such prime targets to Rifi, enough to distract him from saving the lives of our abducted soldiers, who, till this day, Rifi and his government have no idea how many they are? How can he suggest he’s protecting the coexistence in Lebanon, when it’s clearly only Christian areas and individuals that feel the full brunt of his legal weight, while murderers and terrorists in his own hometown remain at large, with his blessing and the blessing of his colleagues? Is that really the best way to “protect coexistence”? By targeting Christian youths to try and score points with the extremist elements in his district? I think not.

Christian-Protector Bandwagon: FPM vs LF

The FPM (Free Patriotic Movement), the arch-rivals of Rifi’s FM (Future Movement) immediately jumped on this and even delegated its MPs to act as the youths’ defense attorneys. Though that is welcome, I’m sure dozens of independent attorneys would have come to the aid of these young people. It’s an attempt by the FPM to score points in their own districts, just like Rifi. As Rifi panders to Da3esh and Nusra members who can vote for him, the FPM pander to the Christian community in Lebanon, which plunges day after day into hopelessness and existential fears amid the vicious genocides the Islamic State has committed in Mosul and Syria, and the failure to fill Lebanon’s presidential seat, ceremonially sat on by a Maronite Christian figurehead.

Regardless the real motives though, the FPM deserves a nod of respect for stepping up so quickly and forcefully.

The LF are the ones that I feel are truly embarrassed. The LF traditionally sees itself as the most righteous protecter of Christians in Lebanon. It might not be said explicitly as much (except during the mass honoring their martyrs), but slogans like “Mar Charbel wel 7akim” are always present in their rallies and Facebook statuses. So, to seem them sit mute while Rifi does this to what was traditionally one of their powerhouses: Sassine Square in Ashrafieh, is embarrassing, and goes to show you how dependent Christian parties in Lebanon are to the funds they receive from their Muslim allies. Rifi is Future Movement, so, they keep their mouths shut. A shiite puts tiles in his home in Lasa (Kesserwen), and their media mouthpieces herald it as “an attack on Christians” or something just as sensational. But, prosecuting kids for protesting in what was once their “heartland”, and for strictly religious purposes, doesn’t even make them bat an eye…

It’s the “Orthodox Law” all over again, with both sides trying to score points with the increasingly skeptical Christian audience which is exhausted from the hypocrisy their political parties demonstrate every day, as a consequence of being tied down financially (and security-wise), to their Muslim coalition mates.

Freedom of Speech > Religion

Your faith is yours. Your religion is yours. But freedom of speech is universal, unalienable and absolute. Why can Islamist terrorists burn US and Israeli flags, but a disgruntled Christian kid can’t burn the flag of the most evil terrorist group to grace the face of this Earth? Doesn’t the Israeli flag have a Star of David on it? Isn’t that a religious symbol? A religious symbol of a sect the Lebanese government recognizes? Do people who burn Israeli flags mean to insult all Jews or Judaism in general, or just Israel? Then why did you consider the IS flag an insult to Islam in general? Why the painful hypocrisy?

Dear Minister, Call Your Witch Hunt Off

And focus on our kidnapped boys. You know, the ones kidnapped by the murderers who use that flag you are so dearly fighting for. Apologize to the Lebanese people. And don’t worry about your election hopes, because your protection, and dare I say support for the fighters in Tripoli, has sealed that deal for you already. So, leave Ashrafieh alone, and focus on banning alcohol and other IS-like things in your hometown, the victim of religious extremism with no salvation in sight unfortunately. And if you wanna uphold “principles”, make sure you exert the power of the law equally on everyone. Why should Tripoli youths who burn flags have the right to do so, and kids in Ashrafieh can’t? Your attempt to “protect coexistence” has actually exacerbated sectarian tensions. You are the Minister of Justice, so, please, be just.

What Tripoli’s Municipality Did Is Illegal, Here’s What To Do About It

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The nice thing about our Constitution is that in its preamble, it’s pretty awesome. It ensures Lebanon’s utmost adherence to human rights, the equality of its citizens under law and the absolute right to believe or not believe in whatever you want, and the freedom to practice that freely. The specific articles I’m referring to are the following:

A) Lebanon is a sovereign, free, and independent country. It is a final homeland for all its
citizens. It is unified in its territory, people, and institutions within the boundaries defined
in this constitution and recognized internationally.

B) Lebanon is Arab in its identity and in its affiliation. It is a founding and active
member of the League of Arab States and abides by its pacts and covenants. Lebanon is
also a founding and active member of the United Nations Organization and abides by its
covenants and by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Government shall
embody these principles in all fields and areas without exception.

C) Lebanon is a parliamentary democratic republic based on respect for public liberties,
especially the freedom of opinion and belief, and respect for social justice and equality of
rights and duties among all citizens without discrimination.

D) The people are the source of authority and sovereignty; they shall exercise these
powers through the constitutional institutions.

E) The political system is established on the principle of separation of powers, their
balance and cooperation.

F) The economic system is free and ensures private initiative and the right of private
property.

G) The even development among regions on the educational, social, and economic levels
shall be a basic pillar of the unity of the state and the stability of the system.

H) The abolition of political confessionalism shall be a basic national goal and shall be
achieved according to a staged plan.

I) Lebanese territory is one for all Lebanese. Every Lebanese shall have the right to live
in any part thereof and to enjoy the rule of law wherever he resides. There shall be no
segregation of the people on the basis of any type of belonging, and no fragmentation,
partition, or settlement of non-Lebanese in Lebanon.

J) There shall be no constitutional legitimacy for any authority which contradicts the
‘pact of mutual existence.

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So, as you can see, the extremist stances of the Tripoli municipality chief is illegal according to Lebanon’s constitution, which has precedence over any local government crazy decisions like “banning foreigners from going out at night” and “banning the sale of alcohol.”

Why the Tripoli Affair is Scary

It’s definitely not new. Many parts of Lebanon are already forcibly alcohol-free, like Nabatieh and Sour and other regions in Lebanon where places that sell liquor have been burned, bombed or forced to shut down. What’s different about the Tripoli incident, is that apart from the thugs and extremist elements, it added some “fake” legitimacy to the intolerant decision that encroaches on people’s rights and freedom to choose what to do, and what religion and religious practices to abide by, or not to. I say “fake” legitimacy because the municipality doesn’t have the right or jurisdiction to disobey the unalienable rights guaranteed in the Lebanese Constitution’s preamble. (It is in clear violation of articles B, C, E, F, I and J).

That is why, it’s imperative that this injustice be rectified, and immediately.

How to Rectify this Injustice

Ever since word broke out, a team of awesome people with the support of some of the nation’s brightest legal minds have been considering what can be done, and we’ve decided it’s time to take this to the Shura Council of Lebanon. The Shura Council is sort of like the US Supreme Court, which has the final say regarding constitutionality of bills and laws and other matters in Lebanon. What’s great is that any citizen can file a lawsuit with the Shura Council, and we plan on doing just that. All we need is your help, especially if you’re a Tripoli resident.

We’re very proud to announce that if you’re willing to file the lawsuit, we will take care of all your legal fees and proceedings with some of Lebanon’s brightest and most-connected attorneys and the support of several legal, rights and freedom NGOs.

Just call 01 208 101 and we’ll take it from there!

A Few Words

Despite the vicious onslaught of extremist Islam in different forms in Lebanon, we’re still here, and true to the ideals we all believe in: freedom, equality and peace. Whether its terrorists in Aarsal or delusional murderers blowing themselves up, or extremist clerics derailing women’s rights laws, or even hateful, intolerant municipal chiefs, they’ll never kill what makes Lebanon special: its liberal nature compared to other Arab countries.

No matter how much fear, disgust and hopelessness these extremists preach, we should never treat them as they would treat us. Violence and hatred is never an option we’ll want to take. Instead, due diligence and non-violent direct action is the path we choose to take. After all, if there’s one thing that makes us different from them, it’s that we don’t chop heads off and condone raping women and children.

So, no matter how vicious and abhorred the extremist camp and its fans become, we can’t resort to their level. Go party, have a beer and toast them. Go about your every day lives. Try to make where you are a bit better. Show the world and Lebanon that our version is better, happier and more tolerant. Help charities aiding locals and the millions of Syrian, Palestinian and Iraqi refugees who came to Lebanon to escape the hell these extremists made them go through back home. Never give up. This isn’t petty politics or academic debates. This is a real threat to our way of life, our way of thinking, and it’s up to us to keep it alive and well as our petty, dim-witted, corrupt politicians bicker over seats and their wages…

Thoughts About The Aarsal Operation

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I’ve been following the news minute by minute over the past week. The general sentiment was already an unpleasant one with the heart-wrenching crimes against humanity being committed in Gaza and Mosul, by equally extremist ideological entities, and it became worse when it hit so close to home, as we’ve all been predicting.

I’ve been to Aarsal several times over the past two years. I’ve met many locals and many Syrian refugees there. I know firsthand how hard it’s been for that Lebanese town of 40,000 originally now housing some 100,000 refugees in the greater Aarsal area and border regions, a barren, dry no-mans-land with no proper border demarcation. This lack of demarcation makes it difficult for international aid agencies like the UNHCR to get access to many of the refugees who happen to live in the part of town beyond the de-facto border set by the last Lebanese army checkpoint, beyond which the Lebanese jurisdiction doesn’t hold up for the UNHCR and its partners. This leaves the aid up to thousands of these refugees to independent NGOs and individual initiatives like Lebanese For Refugees.

Why You Should Be Confident in the Lebanese Army

Simply? Because I’m confident they’re one of the most experienced, if not most experienced armies in the region and the world when it comes to successfully fighting extremist Islamist terrorist groups. The epic and costly fight in Nahr El Bared, and squashing the “Fateh El Islam” terrorist group was the first major battle, add to that the unrest in Tripoli, the clashes with Al Assir in Abra, and earlier in the decade during the Syrian Occupation when they were attacked on New Year’s Eve Y2K by extremist terrorists as well.

So, training-wise, I know our boys in special forces units like the Mujawkal and Maghawir, are the best and brightest. Equipment-wise, they could always use better weapons and I hope the Saudi-bought French tactical weapons will make it into our soldiers’ hands ASAP.

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Why You Should Be Worried About the Lebanese Army

Because our elected officials see them as numbers. Our media and municipalities see them as “just another martyr”. This is unacceptable. If there’s one thing alone I agree with or would even dare say “respect” about the Israelis, is that they never leave behind one of their own. Every soldier’s safety and life is precious and a matter of national security. We need to take care of our soldiers, decrease as much as possible the loss of life among our troops, who often leave behind families that depend on them.

I’m also worried that the Aarsal operations’ effects extend beyond the Aarsal region. Already you hear voices of dissent and violent attacks against soldiers in the Tripoli area. The excuse is a contorted spin on events that feed off on Sunni disenfranchisement in light of Hezbollah’s virtually unstoppable participation in the Syrian war in support of the Bashar El Assad. Most Sunnis sympathize with the original uprising against Assad, which puts them at odds with the Shiite Hezbollah. The worrisome scenario is when Sunni youths get disillusioned into supporting terrorist groups that seem to many  of them as the only alternative to the Shiite scarecrow Hezbollah. Which puts them at an inevitable clash, which often innocent civilians and Lebanese Army soldiers pay the price for.

Why Everyone Should Support the Army, But Also Hold It Accountable

I cannot imagine someone not supporting the Lebanese Army in this operation. A group of foreign, extremist fighters taking an entire Lebanese city hostage, executing many and using others as human shields and obstructing their attempts to flee to neighboring towns. But also, calls for a media blackout and “unified media coverage” seems unreasonable to me. Sharing false information is unacceptable, but counting on official press releases alone, is not enough for the average Lebanese taxpayer who deserves to know what the LAF is doing in a Lebanese town full of innocent Lebanese civilians and thousands of innocent refugees.

I know many people would wish harm and pain and even torture for these murderous criminals, but when we don’t let proper civil justice take its route, we become guilty of the same crimes as the terrorists: blind hatred and zero rights. That’s why videos of beating up an unarmed suspect in Abra by a group of soldiers and civilians, is unacceptable. The alleged civilized society our boys are fighting for against the barbaric way of life the terrorists forcibly try to impose, demands we respect human rights of both the criminals, as well as the innocent civilians paying the price.

Worst Case Scenario?

That the voices of dissent against the army rise, and unrest boils up in regions like Tripoli, would apart from causing violent clashes and loss of life, would also hinder the immense efforts of the General Security, LAF and ISF to foil suicide bombing plans before it’s too late. The worst case scenario is not yet upon us, and I hope it never will be. Of course, Hezbollah’s possible participation in the Aarsal operations might be the spark that ignites the fuel, but I doubt Hezbollah would take that rash decision. Besides, the LAF is more than capable of doing the job, so their intervention would be even hard to justify to their own supporters, and a blatant reinforcement of every single crime March 14 accuses Hezbollah of.

Best Case Scenario?

That the operations end immediately with the fighters agreeing to release the soldiers they’ve kidnapped and retreat back into Syria. This would hopefully stop the loss of precious life, and jump-start the way-overdue process of properly managing the refugee crisis and making sure none of the impromptu refugee camps become fertile ground for these terrorist to regroup and replenish, for the sake of both Lebanon, and the Syrian refugees who are also victims of these extremist fighters. Talk is already starting about Aarsal being “Kahwagi’s Nahr El Bared”, which compares the success of former president Michel Sleiman as Army Chief in the Nahr El Bared battles that many agree ensured his selection as Lebanon’s next president. Lebanon’s presidency is currently vacant, and no clear resolution in sight, which helped spark hopes for some that the LAF’s victory would speed up the process of electing the current Army Chief, Kahwagi, as Lebanon’s next Maronite president.

We’d also see even more forceful condemnation from more moderate Sunnis, making it clear to the terrorist groups and other Lebanese people, that they stand as one hand in fighting this extremist, violent way of life Lebanon never was and will never be part of. The broken record of “these people don’t represent us!” without any viable action taken to further elaborate that, and the comfortable excuse “It’s Hezbollah’s fault” as an alternative, makes it pretty shaky when it comes to making sure our young men don’t end up enchanted by extremist promises of violent empowerment.

Last Words

Remember, Aarsal is a Lebanese town. The infamy some of its officials and groups have earned doesn’t negate the fact the overwhelming majority are hospitable, kind, generous people who have equal rights to every other person in Lebanon. They need to be saved from the terrorists and expect the Army to liberate them, and care for their safety and wellbeing, which I am one hundred percent sure the Lebanese Army is doing heroically.

As for our troops, we wholeheartedly wish you all stay safe and be careful, and thank you from the bottom of our heart for fighting the fight we never could. You make us proud, and repaying you is impossible, but making a better country to try to make it worth your fight, just might be one small step at a time…

Disturbing Christian Cult Leader Sends Innocent Women to Mental Asylum

This is disgusting on so many levels, it hurts.

1- Delusional Cult Leader

Ok, religion all in all is a group of delusions, but this guy has got a particularly terrible case of them. He thinks the “Virgin Mary” is “inside him”, and has somehow managed to brainwash the faithful in his town, including the clergy, into playing along with his delusions.

2- Delusions Turn into Sexual Assault

Having the “Virgin Mary” inside him wasn’t enough for the cult leader, he wanted to be inside another woman, and what better way than to invoke sanctity and being inhabited by the “Virgin Mary”. That’s when Helene Abi Nader decided to go to the cult leader, in desperate hopes he might heal her “uterine problems”. Of course, the cult leader forcibly insisted that his hand should be the one to massage the holy oil into Helen’s private parts.

Be stupid and delusional all you want, that’s your own problem, but when your delusions become a power roller-coaster where you abuse people’s naivety and force yourself upon them, shielding yourself with words of God or whatever other delusion, is not ok. Never will be no matter what imaginary friend you have inside you.

3- Church and Government Condoning This

Since when the fuck did someone “asking” the government to put someone in Der El Saleeb, all it takes to do that? Yalla, start calling 112 and asking them to put your annoying parents and boyfriends in Der El Saleeb, mnetsalla kilna, why do through due process, legal proceedings, actual check-ups by professionals… Let’s just skip to forcibly injecting an abused woman with a cocktail of unknown drugs because some fucking lunatic decided she was the crazy one because she didn’t accept him sexually abusing her.

The Maronite church’s response was a memo… After mobilizing entire government bodies to “capture Satanists” (which we have yet to find!) and cracking down violently on “slutty nun costumes” and assaulting people shedding light on pedophile priests, the church seemed very disinterested in putting down this “descent”, if it could be called that, and allowed its clergy to be part of this harmful farce.

4- Release Helene, Prosecute the Cult Leader

Inno, it’s like watching a damn sarcastic comedy, where the crazy bastard who thinks a god lives inside him, gets to decide who is mentally disturbed or not… Really? ReallyyyyY?!

And stop using the excuse of “holiness” to protect child and sexual abuse. I don’t care how holy you are, if you start forcibly touching people’s peepees, you better damn spend your days behind bars, not altars and cults.

A Friendly Post to Muslims About Ramadan

I’m a very outspoken, irreverent atheist. This makes a lot of people dislike me, and I don’t have a problem with that. I am wholeheartedly convinced religion is not only wrong, but very detrimental to our lives and humanity’s progress. However, please put this aside for this post, and I promise I’ll be as respectful as possible.

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The Abra Memo

This memo made my heart ache. For a municipality to violate the constitution, and its jurisdiction, and issue a memo banning non-Muslims and non-practicing Muslims from “eating in public”, was painful. What was even more painful, is how people twisted it as a “good-will” move that demonstrates how tolerant Lebanese people are, and how coexistence is working between Muslims and non-Muslims.

Really though? Do you really think a move of good-will should be imposed by a municipality? Do you really think a Christian that wants to respect his Muslim friend and not eat a popsicle in the sweltering heat in front of him, was waiting for a municipality memo written by a Christian chief whose hand was forced by a Muslim Sunni mufti? How is that good-will? How is that a choice? How was that respecting coexistence?

It’s good that the municipality chief recanted this shameful memo. It’s a clear victory for the liberal voices in Lebanon, often drowned-out by extremist religious conservative bombings, the violent opposition of Muslim leaders to laws that protect women’s rights and other disgraceful acts fueled by archaic religious beliefs exacerbated by inadequate education and the ever-present existential threats sects feel in Lebanon that makes the religious turn into evil.

Here I’d like to thank Stop Cultural Terrorism, BlogBaladi.com, Trella.org and Joe Maalouf’s 7ki Jelis for the attention they brought to the Abra issue, and helped through public opinion, reverse this shameful memo.

Other Attempts to Oppress People’s Choice

Abra’s got a lot of attention, but many others do not. It is very important this Ramadan that we all stay vigilant to these attempts to put down Lebanese people’s choice to do whatever they want under the law. If a place tries to impose such a religious law, it’s important we shed light on that, and show them we are not happy about this.

Some might say, “so what, it’s just for a month”, but as we’ve already seen in the Hamra example, where Zaatar w Zeit was forced to abandon bacon and beer because their landlord is a religious extremist. This is a dangerous phenomenon, one that should never get traction in liberal Lebanon, the one thing that makes Lebanon stand out from other Arab countries, the one trait that makes Lebanon the crown jewel of the conservative Arab countries.

So, please, if you believe in choice, and coexistence, discourage places and areas that force you to do something you don’t want to. Don’t go there. Don’t pay your money in support of religious extremism. Celebrate the difference, and sanctify the right to choose. Pay your money to Islamic charities if you are feeling charitable, but don’t pay a bill at a restaurant that doesn’t give you the choice to do what you want.

To My Conservative Muslim Readers

As a libertarian, I wholeheartedly respect whatever you want to do in line with your faith. It’s your absolute right, and no matter what I think of it, it’s your holy right to do it. BUT, forcing it upon others will never, ever, ever, ever, ever be acceptable.

If you want to fast, do so yourself, don’t force anyone else to. If your faith in your beliefs is strong enough, you won’t mind seeing someone else eat in front of you. I’m sure you can muster up enough will to keep to your beliefs. Forcing people to do what you want, shows that you are too weak to resist temptation, and that reflects very negatively on your faith. So, please, keep your faith to yourself, be proud of it, show it off, but don’t ever commit the transgression of imposing your beliefs on others, and have the nerve to call it coexistence, when it wasn’t a willing choice.

Some Last Words

Religious freedom is an absolute right in Lebanon. This means that your right to practice your religion is untouchable. It also means that your right to not to, is also untouchable. At a time when religious conservatives are ruining the country, with clashes all over the nation, suicide bombings every other day, executions with no trial and other horrible, horrible things, you must stand with what little human rights and liberal ideals we still have.

Abra was won, but Tripoli has already fallen. A similar, more forceful memo has been issued, in a city that has already suffered for decades from the tyranny of religious conservatives. This is saddening. And it feels hopeless in a city so polarized religiously, that disobeying this memo would put people’s lives in danger…

No one can tell you when can eat and when you can’t. No one can tell you you can’t protect the rights of your mom, sister, wife, girlfriend or friend. No one can tell you you can’t marry the love of your life because she worships another god. You are a free person, with individual rights that can never be robbed. Fight for them. Fight the good fight, not with bombs and suicide vests and intolerant memos and opposing fair laws, but peacefully and rationally.

Happy Ramadan!

Nouwweb by SMEX and Lamba Labs: For a More #OpenLeb

Access to information is extremely hard and tricky in Lebanon. We don’t even know which MP voted for what, much less how to get in touch with them.

The guys and gals at SMEX and Lamba Labs have started an online tool that will hopefully snowball into the kind of information we demand becomes available, and is our right as Lebanese taxpayers.

The usual scenario is, if you tell your friend “General X has stolen so much money”, his answer will usually be, “Well, so has Dr. Y”. It’s an endless circle jerk with no real effect on political decisions and attitudes. But, if I can show you what, how, when, etc. You probably won’t defend the corrupt and wrong so easily anymore.

That is the plan eventually, for now, Nouwweb is making the MPs in Lebanon more accessible to us, the voters. It includes information about their districts, sects as well as contact information including cellphones when available and social network accounts.

Here’s an example:Screen Shot 2014-05-31 at 4.26.31 PM

 

Check out the website here.

Actions by Pro-Assad Syrians in Lebanon Today Were Unacceptable

Syrian presidential elections in Lebanon

Today was a dangerous, disgraceful, distasteful, rude, disruptive and ungrateful display by the tens of thousands of alleged “refugees” on one of Lebanon’s main thoroughfares and areas.

1- Ungrateful and Hypocritical

Lebanon has been the absolute most generous host of Syrian refugees around the world. Almost 2 million Syrian citizens flood Lebanese territories. Despite minor racist slogans and banners, the overall hospitality has been unprecedented.

The fact that these people who are seeking refuge on Lebanese territory blatantly violated a ministerial decree banning such political rallies and blocked the international highway into the Lebanese capital, was disrespectful, ungrateful and scary.

Personally, I believe every single person who came out to vote today and blocked the streets, needs to be considered a persona-non-grata, an unwelcome person in Lebanon, including the Syrian ambassador.

2- Shameful

The Syrian regime has done everything to obstruct relief efforts in Lebanon. Syrians are terrified to register with the UNHCR for fear of retribution when they get back home. Logistically, the Syrian government has done nothing to aid its citizens seeking refuge in Lebanon.

However, the regime had no problem pulling off a logistical feat by getting buses and organizing elections on a scale that makes the March 8 and 14 2005 logistical preps pale in comparison. What a hypocritical stance… Not lifting a finger to aid refugees, but making sure the logistics of this charade are pulled off perfectly. For shame.

3- Unacceptable

Bashar Assad’s regime is one that caused Lebanon and the Lebanese unparalleled pain and suffering for over 3 decades. Tens of thousands of Lebanese people were butchered, imprisoned and kidnapped, and thousands more remain in Assad’s notorious prisons. To see tens of thousands of people so disrespectfully and provocatively insult the families of the victims of Assad’s barbaric regime, was both unacceptable and scary, and I’m glad Lebanese folks kept their cool and didn’t get provoked by this disgusting display of force and defiance.

4- A Resounding Message to March 14

March 14 has always felt that the Syrian refugees are mostly anti-Assad, and hence had no problem with the lax security and maintenance as to the refugee crisis. I believe the March 14 bloc should reconsider their positions, and push forward for refugee camps on the border regions that are better controlled and maintained.

5- Go Home Pro and Anti-Assad Supporters

Lebanon welcomes civilians seeking refuge, not disturbers of the peace and militants. Every militant or activist that broke the law today and closed the streets, is unwelcome in Lebanon.

6- Step-up Government

Eject every single disturber of peace that participated in this fiasco today. If they feel this confident and safe with the murderous Assad regime, then they’re more than welcome to go back to the territories he controls. But, for them to abuse the hospitality of the Lebanese people and government, who has suffered enough from Assad and his troops, is a point no Lebanese person can accept, regardless of the narrow political mindsets. Also, make sure the roads stay open tomorrow for the second day, no matter what.

7- For Peaceful Refugees

We have been your closest friends for 3 years now, and we have done the absolute most to help whichever way we can. This post is not aimed at you, it’s aimed at the questionable behavior today that many if not most Lebanese are not OK with. Please don’t take this as an attack on you, we know your safety is in danger back home, and we welcome you with open arms and homes till the day things better in Syria. However, please keep Syrian politics out of Lebanon, and help us maintain what semblance of a functional country we have managed to pull off.

Comments on the Rai Visit to Jerusalem

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The recent uproar about the Maronite Patriarch’s visit to the Palestinian territories is yet another installment of the painfully hypocritical ideological stances political and religious figures in Lebanon take.  Before we begin, let me be clear this is no way an endorsement of the Maronite church and its patriarchy, just common sense.

The critics of this trip cite their mortal enmity with Israel as the reason the Patriarch shouldn’t accompany the Catholic Pontiff to the Holy Lands of that faith. Here though, I want to remind those critics that the Maronite church has an archdiocese there. There are Maronites there, and just like Rai visits Mexico and the States and Cyprus to check up on his “flock”, why should Palestine be any different?

Don’t you all agree that what religious figures do is above the “law” and what applies to normal folks doesn’t apply to the ones that don a black robe and shiny bling bling? Remember when muslim religious leaders went absolute ape shit over the law to stop men from beating and raping and killing their wives? Remember when they resolutely stood against popular demand to allow civil marriage on Lebanese soil? What was that? How is a religious figure allowed to change the whole policy of a nation? Disobeying the will of its educated youth, for their archaic means of making money while not giving back any in taxes?

I know these two examples aren’t really comparable, but the point I’m trying to make, is that the very same people hiding behind their ideologies, take the liberty to do what a sizable part of the Lebanese population considers horrendous, and they get away with it. Personally, visiting his faithful parishes in Palestine is a far less grievous crime than sanctifying butchering women and encouraging division by barring civil marriage for immensely idiotic reasons like “it’s an Israeli conspiracy” or “we wouldn’t be able to control our women”.

So, respectfully, spare us the emotional blackmail we’ve grown accustomed to ignoring. Murderers of women and the youth’s dreams have no say in what another religious figure can and cannot do. If anything, it’s the smartest thing he’s doing in the wider anti-naturalization movement. Instead of being scared silly and hiding away in big halls built with your money, he’s actually going there and making a statement. Proving Israeli authorities cannot control this religiously driven visit, breaking the self-imposed ban we’ve maintained on ourselves from visiting Palestine.

I for one would love to visit a land only a couple of hours away from where I live, but that doesn’t mean I support Israel. If anything, it’s supporting the sovereignty of a Palestinian state we all aspire for, visiting them and sitting with them and performing religious rites there. Sure beats censoring movies because their director is Jewish, don’t you think? What’s sad though, is that the Patriarch can go because he’s a religious figure, but you and me cannot. Another example of how sectarian control of our daily lives is an inconvenience to our progress as a nation trying hard to break free from the civil war days which never really left us…

So, if you want to condemn the patriarch for this visit, I’m not really gonna take you seriously unless you condemn the muslim religious leaders whose crimes lead to the abuse, torture and death of Lebanese people every day of every year. But, you overlook that human rights abuse and encroachment of mosque on government, you know, cause they say they hate Israel in public and do nothing about it in reality. Oh, and when Ahmedinajad was lecturing in universities in New York, why didn’t you feel offended? Why wasn’t this as unacceptable as the Rai visit?

Hypocrites.

Cowardly Parliament Paralyzes Capital Every Week for Theatrics

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If you see this photo, and the roads closed on a 2-kilometer radius, you’d think that Lebanon was at war and suffering from an invasion, necessitating the barricading of parliament in such a desperate manner.

This is something no one addresses, but it’s something thousands of us suffer from every single week. It might seem as something trivial, but being stuck in traffic for hours because illegitimate MPs want to go get a photo opp to pedal the BS even they don’t believe anymore, is unacceptable. These MPs’ salaries are paid by you guys, so is the salary of the police officer that stops you forcibly when the green light turns on because some political prick is going to parade his black SUV convoy in front of you, and the police officer has the nerve to say: “it’s for your safety and security”. HAHAHAHAHAHA! assholes.

The Security Excuse

It’s not my problem. It’s not your problem. It’s their problem. I don’t have to go through that because a politician thinks their life is in danger. That’s their fault, their responsibility, and we shouldn’t pay for that ourselves. The saddest part is, they’re not doing anything. If they were actually legislating proper laws, one would shut up about this inconvenience, but all they do is mangle and maim laws we want to see, or waste time joking and frolicking around the halls of the parliament your tax liras rebuilt for these clowns to kill a few hours in.

If it’s really that much of a concern, let them sit in their fortified castles and teleconference to parliament. Heik heik they’re doing nothing there, why waste their time and ours? Just let them Skype their rehearsed lines of bullcrap via VoIP, maybe it’ll push Boutros Harb to actually improve our Internet, which has severely deteriorated in the last two months for some unknown reason when it was expected to get better…

They Serve You, Not The Other Way Round

I know many of you might consider yourself slaves to the MPs you vote for, but even if they pave the road to your home or pay your hospital bill, you’re paying their inflated salaries so they can refuse to raise yours. You also pay the salaries of the personal armies each MPs feels entitled to, to help intimidate and humiliate the average Lebanese citizen so that an MP can go have dinner and a drink somewhere. Disgusting.

23od bi baytak habibeh, manna mishkletna.

A Kind Request to Parliament

Keep the roads open. Stop inflating yourselves to levels you don’t deserve. No one cares about you. No one cares about your cars. And if they did, a piece of barbed wire won’t stop them. So, stop the theatrics that ruin people’s days and stick to trying to find a spine while you’re at it, you know, so maybe you can actually vote without a check from a foreign bank in your other hand. Who knows, miracles can happen!

My Thoughts on the STL Summoning Lebanese Journalists

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First Don’t Like Al Jadeed or Al Akhbar

Before the March 14 fangirls and boys start whining that I am pro-this and anti-that, let me assure you to me, they’re both equally smelly bags of diseased crap (March 8 and March 14).

I am not a fan of Ibrahim Al Amin’s writings, which is basically a rude mouthpiece for Hezbollah. I am not very familiar with Khayat’s work, but I assume it goes in line with the often melodramatic, confused stances Al Jadeed takes (sometimes ultra-liberal, others ultra-conservative and disgustingly intolerant).

However, a motto I live by religiously, is Evelyn Beatrice Hall’s, when she was summarizing Voltaire’s school of thought:

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”

Freedom Comes Before Justice

Too often we’re told to give up our rights and freedoms for the sake of security, stability and “justice”. Whether it’s Hezbollah asking its popular base to give up their rights for the sake of fighting Israel, or takfiris, or whatever the trend is in scaremongering people, it’s unacceptable. Just like the anti-Hezbollah talking heads on TV justify their ineptitude and corruption, by blaming it on Hezbollah’s power and arms.

Stop selling us that cheap, dirty talk. I’ll quote Mashrou’ Leila here (which I don’t think I’ll ever do again)

“bass tetjarra2 bi soo2al, 3an tadahwor el a7wal, bi saktook bshi3arat, 3an kol el mo2amarat”

“khawwanook bil 2atee3, kil ma talabet bteghyeer, el watan”

“ya2asook 7ata tbee3, 7oriyetak ta ma ydee3, el watan”

So I don’t care if the court is investigating my own murder, never, ever should it punish or oppress anyone other than a suspect convicted beyond any reasonable doubt.

Mockery of a Fundamental Right

Watching former Syrian bootlickers gather to “support” free speech today, was adding insult to injury. The same people who put their paws up and laid on their back to have the Assad regime scratch their fat bellies in return for their complete and utter loyalty with no regards to Lebanon’s and the Lebanese people’s interest, was nauseating. What was also nauseating, is that media outlets on the payroll of pro-STL politicians like Future TV and MTV took a stand against this action, for the pure sake of politics-as-usual and the painfully shortsighted tit-for-tat game, without realizing that MTV and Future have both suffered unjustly under the hand of corrupt justice and violent vigilante justice (MTV’s closure in the early 2000s, and Future TV’s torching by pro-Hezbollah thugs on May 7).

First Amendment Reflection + WikiLeaks Example

For champions of the “burn them at the stake” stance that use the excuse that what the journalists published was “hurtful” to Lebanon and the STL, I give them the WikiLeaks example. The hundreds of thousands of cables were extremely damaging to the US and its foreign relations. It also arguably endangered many people’s lives in the process. But, the United States never took action against a publication or news outlet that published these classified documents that often had to do with national security issues. It’s even had trouble indicting Julian Assange, using silly trumped up charges of sexual assault to try and capture him, instead of the actual act of leaking state secrets.

The person who did get punished though, was Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning, the US soldier who leaked the cables to WikiLeaks. Now, I don’t think punishing her so harshly was fair, and I don’t want to see her spend most of her life behind bars, but Chelsea knew the risk she was taking as a government employee, and the laws she broke that eventually got her convicted for violating the Espionage Act.

Now, here I draw the comparison between these two cases. Many people suggest the source of the names published by these journalists were stolen by a pro-Hezbollah mob from the team of investigators on a visit to Beirut’s Southern Suburbs. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but when you send STL investigators to a staunchly hostile area with sensitive information on them and with basically no security, what else would you expect? If anyone should be summoned, it’s the STL people behind that blunder, which effectively delivered secret information to Hezbollah, which the four suspects indicted by the STL belong to. These are the people to blame for this “obstruction of justice”, not the journalists (even if their intention was malicious, given Al Amin’s track record).

In Conclusion

I don’t approve of what the journalists did. But, I was horrified by the police-state like summons of the STL. When given the choice between petty politics and fundamental rights, I’ll always choose the latter, always. I think the journalists should disobey the STL and refuse the summons (even via tele-conferencing). As for the threats to the witnesses lives, that ship sailed the second Hezbollah allegedly got its hands on the sensitive data on the stolen laptops, not when the names were published. So, preying on hired pens is sad, and the real people liable should be the ones being summoned. Here, I want to salute LBC for taking the same stance, regardless of the politics. Pierre El Daher definitely doesn’t belong with the rabble that came together today, but he and LBC did what’s right, and I’m doing the same.

I write this in my capacity as a Lebanese taxpayer, whose tax liras fund the STL. I have every right to comment, just like each and every one of you who pay your taxes at the gas pump, your cellphone bills and the 10% VAT do…

Peace.