Tag Archives: lebanon

So We Had A Religious Marriage

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Yes. We had a religious marriage. A civil marriage, the option we really wanted,  would have cost us 4000$ which we couldn’t afford at the time (5 years ago). Long story short, we went for the local, and cheap,  religious option. That day, my then-fiance and I went to the confessional court that vets the affairs of the sect we were born into. We stood at the court’s door with so much dread and disdain in both of our hearts: we had taken a vow that we were not going to allow an employee in a religious costume to pretend to “bless” our marriage. But these were our circumstances and we had to compromise.

We stepped inside, curious to explore what we imagined to be a world of sanctity and piety – of hushed voices and mystic rose petals. Well, not to burst any bubbles, it was a very bureaucratic-looking room, bare but for the basic needs of chairs and tables and some shady carpets.  We were given forms to fill out with our information, and unlike what I’d imagined, the paper work contained absolutely no reference to religion. They were just regular surveys of names and birth-dates and  blood types. Where’s the mysticism and piety in that? Well, no where we looked.

The sheikh who filled up the forms was aloof and very business-like, which didn’t at all match the mood of the happy occasion he was presiding over; he made sure that all the “females” in the room had their heads covered in his holy presence. My husband was grateful he didn’t have to wear the head cover “2allouseh” because I would have dashed. Once the paper work was done, the sheikh hurriedly chanted a religious verse and dashed. Bam! That was it. Husband and I stared at each other skeptically: had we just had a “religious” marriage? We honestly couldn’t even tell.

Bottom line: there is nothing religious about religious marriages, just like there is nothing non-religious about civil marriages. They are both contracts that are filled up by the concerned parties and presided over by a uniformed employee.

Oh but wait, there is a single difference between a religious and a civil marriage and it is indeed profound: the fee for the procedure after all goes to the pockets of the confessional institutions that hold our reins. Oh, and you get a free performance thrown in at the end.

Lebanon: And It’s Finally Smoke-Free

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Yaaay! At Last!

Of all the social and economic disasters which afflict us, nothing but the smoking ban has moved the Lebanese people into a state of outrage and mutiny. You know, because a free individual has the right to burn their health and money and brain cells with out being bothered by a smoking ban, or so the ban’s opponents’ argument goes. But do smokers give a thought to the rights of non-smokers? No. You, dear smokers, have enjoyed the right to fill our lungs with second-hand smoke for far too long – now our time has come. We will breath fresh air.

And this brings me to the following question: Why, as a people, do we commit to rules and regulations when we’re abroad only? Why do we queue, wait for our turn, hold doors, give our seat to the elderly and the weak? Why do we act civilized everywhere in the world except in Lebanon? The “wayniye ldawle” attitude is not a fleeting phenomenon, it is a wicked tumor that tenaciously grips this country’s brain; we blame all our shortcomings and savageness on some vague entity and then turn around and continue chipping away at our country’s basis.

The argument that the government should take care of  more “dangerous”  violations first is a fallacious and, dare I say, malicious one: this smoking ban is a dire need in Lebanon especially because of the armed gangs and the lawless activity that’s been plaguing us of late.  If we were to put aside the small attempts to reform and improve our day-to-day living conditions until the more “global” issues are solved, then I can assure you, we will never get anything done on neither fronts. And besides, in a more civilized country, 3500 casualties per year caused by smoking-related illnesses would call for a red alert emergency plan, so this is no joking matter.

I wouldn’t be surprised if, tomorrow, smokers and restaurant owners organize a demonstration against the smoking ban. Bya3mloowa. But Lebanon, I beg you, we have enough pollutants and health hazards to worry about as it is, so let’s embrace this simple opportunity of resembling a nation that has the basic requirements of a normal, healthy life.

The Ten Commandments of Being Lebanese

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A Decaying Society

Lebanese? You are to follow these commandments:

1. You shall not eat when you are hungry because meat is rotten, fruits and vegetables are treated with tons of carcinogenic pesticides and are irrigated with sewage, poultry and eggs are choke-full of hormones and antibiotics, dairy products are swarming with bacteria, bread is kneaded with straw and razors, and canned food is a preservatives and additives fest.

2.You shall not drink when you’re thirsty because the Litany River is nothing but a humongous sewage drainage system, and according to the Minister of Health, only 15% of water-bottling companies are licensed; the rest are just distributors of  ‘disease in a bottle’.

3.You shall not breath because according to a study by AUB’s Dr. Najat Saliba, the air in Lebanon is saturated with toxic particulate matter produced by the millions of cars that roam the streets, while factories and power plants emit their fumes raw and unfiltered right into our lungs.

4.You shall not have a decent public transportation system even though a tank of gas costs almost 5% of the Lebanese minimum wage.

5.You shall not enjoy nature because it simply doesn’t exist anymore.

6.You shall not own a house or any other property unless you belong to the elite 1% that has gotten filthy rich selling rotten meat and drugs.

7.You shall not receive medication when you fall sick because you don’t have an insurance, because the NSSF is dysfunctional, because major hospitals give their cancer patients water injections rather than cancer treatment, and because 100% of all medicines in Lebanon are either counterfeited or have a dubious expiry date.

8.You shall not get a proper education because the Lebanese University is under-budgeted and corrupt and private universities are open only for the daughters and sons of expatriates who toil away all of their lives in the Gulf in order to afford the skyrocketing tuition fees.

9.You shall not have clean, sustainable energy which is readily and abundantly available through harnessing our wind, solar, and hydroelectric energy because importing ship-mounted power plants is much more profitable for the Minister of energy and water.

10. You shall either emigrate or die.

Who Can Own a Police Siren? Just a Lucky Few

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our local version of the beagle-boys

Have you ever wondered who dwells behind the steering wheels of cars with tinted glass? Did you know that they are above the law thanks to “divine intervention”?

On a nice Sunday afternoon, one Mercedes ML350, a big black SUV, was heading towards Faqra. On board were two couples who were on their way to have lunch in a restaurant in the area. The car has tinted glass all over– remember, the installation of this type of glass in civilian vehicles was ruled illegal a long time ago.

Passenger #1: “Cool ride dude.”

Sami: “Thanks man. It’s my dad’s you know, but all of the extras are the handy work of yours truly.”

Passenger #1: “What extras?”

And ON it wailed.

For no more than $100, Sami had managed to buy the most outrageous and illegal of gadgets. He had in his car a police siren device complete with a public address system and a sound amplifier. Is there a need to mention that such a device should be exclusively installed in Internal Security Forces’ (ISF) police cars?

Sami then held the microphone to his lips and mimicked the line usually repeated by ISF when “someone important” is blessing the commoners with his presence among them on the streets: “silver Toyota, move to the right!” And the poor woman driving the silver Toyota actually moved to the right side of the street. The incident had a surreal quality to it: a typical Lebanese– Sami had actually perfected the aggressive tone of ISF officers who always sound like caffeine addicts deprived of their daily dose of the drug. He was maniacally speeding down the sloping hills of Rayfoun, pushing the siren on and on again (the image of a laughing Joker from Batman movies comes to mind), and cars around were frantically moving out of this menacing death machine’s way.

The truly scary bit came later though. Sami confessed that he had tried this trick with a genuine motor officer. He sounded the siren while his tinted windows were rolled up and the policeman moved his motorcycle out of the way of “important man’s car”, no questions asked.

Sami had also added a fake antenna to the top of his car to imply that he had a transmission set in his car, a device usually used by politician’s bodyguards. He put his full gear to use when he was picking up his cousin from the airport. Of course, we commoners get hassled by police officers when we park in front of the airport even if for just a few seconds, however, the ISF officer didn’t even dare look in the direction of Sami’s car. What else could he do? It was an “important-looking car” and he was just a policeman stationed in a hostile territory.

*This post was published a while ago in The Daily Star

Shhhh..We Don’t Want to Know!

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Make Love Not War by ~JamesAllsopp

So we as a race have to have a say in matters. “I like Basam Fattouh’s makeup, I love Maya Diab’s style, Arab Idol is a bore, Paolo Coelho is a con artist, tattoos are scary, Harry Potter is my idol, Green Elves ROCK” and on and on. Fine, to each his own and people are entitled to their opinion, but I think that artists, whether singers or actors, should keep silent about their political views. Simply put, an artist is not a politician, that’s just not their industry, not what they produce. Granted, the artist him/herself might be the subject of dissension among the public, some would be fans and some not; however, when a celebrity takes a public stand on a political issue siding with a certain party AGAINST another, he or she would very much be pitting his or her OWN fans against each other as it is more likely than not that they don’t have similar political views. Thus, instead of being an element of coherence and harmony in a society, bringing people together through the love of art, the artist will have willingly transformed him/herself into yet another element of division creating more rifts and fractures among people.

Prime examples here come from the Egyptian revolution of January 25, 2011. Once loved and respected by millions, Adel Imam now resides at the top of the Black List of artists who defended the Mubarak Regime. Adel Imam is definitely entitled to his opinion, but he could have simply held his opinion in silence, choosing to side with his own image as a popular man of the people instead of trampling in the mud of a dictatorial system.

Another example is from Lebanon, where Lara Fabian’s impending concert has incited its own doze of controversy. Fabian is allegedly a fierce defendant of the Zionist state of Israel. According to Al-Akhbar.com:

YouTube videos have emerged showing the singer performing at a concert in France in 2008 to celebrate the creation of Israel in 1948.In the concert, directed by her fiance Gerard Pulliccino, Fabian sang in Hebrew in front of images of various Israeli leaders, settlements and other iconography.After her song finished she reportedly shouted: “I love you Israel” to the crowd. She has also performed in Israel on a number of occasions and attended pro-Zionist meetings.

Some might still want to argue that artists have the right to practice free speech and to express their opinions regardless of who agrees or not. I beg to differ.  An artist is not a “regular” human being, just like a teacher is not. In her/his capacity as an educator and a public figure, a teacher can NOT express devisive political views in the classroom. Imagine if your math teacher suddenly announced her allegiance with the March 8 movement, how would that impact the students who support March 14?It would simply be an academic catastrophe.

Artists of the world, just listen to John Lennon: he said, “Make Love, Not War.” Amen.