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.
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.