Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Lebanon, it's Paris calling

A photo of Ehden: the village where all Zghotiots spend their summer

By a guest writer
Once every week from Paris, I call my parents who live in the Zgharta, North Lebanon.

Zgharta, a very conservative Christian city, is becoming more open to Muslims. How is that? Simply because Suleiman Frangieh, who is the most popular politician in Zgharta, is a loyal ally of Syria and, with Hezbollah, is now co-leader of the opposition. According to this collaboration, most of the Christians in this city and its neighbouring regions are strongly against western hegemony in the Middle East and are more in favour of an Arab led policy.

The latest phone call I had with my parents was a very worrying one: my mum told me that the radical organisations fighting the Lebanese army in the North are threatening to attack Christian schools, universities and churches, even in Zgharta. Why? Ironically it is to harass those who collaborate with western countries! Of course, anyone who has any common sense will find this threat outrageous. However, rumours abound every day of these attacks being prepared. Last week, they were saying it was the turn of the school of my 10 year old sister. Mum panicked (I heard this story days later), but to reassure me, and herself of course, she told me that the army remained all day long at the school to control any suspicious movement.

There are two ways to deal with radicals: to judge them harshly and punish them, or to try to understand what made them monsters and to help them get out.

Of course, the second option is politically incorrect. For all media now, radicals are just animals, as if violence were genetic, and the genes only present in Muslims! What about western politicians? They are surely a worse species of animal because they are completely conscious of how many millions of people they are sending to their death and that they are dooming millions of others to harbouring this unpleasant feeling: HATRED.

So, as powerless and peaceful as I am, I address this to those who are threatening people’s lives for political reasons. I could be addressing those radicals in northern Lebanon, or equally the western politicians who have gone to war, and from a safe distance, killed millions and inspired the hatred of one particular religion, as well as those who encourage them - their supporters in the case of the former and voters in the latter case. Let us consider, however, the second point which is, I repeat, politically incorrect and has never seriously been considered as an alternative way of dealing with this big problem nowadays. We might ask: what is their objective; their motivations; their ulterior motives; what are they fighting for?

Of course, you will say that many are engaged in fighting in the service of many different ideas and ideologies, but they do not kill for that. A big difference between non violent and violent people engaged for their cause is the social and economical status that plays a big role in deciding how one can express his/her beliefs. But guess what these people are fighting for?! One was convinced he was fighting in Jenin against Israel, another said he was fighting Crusaders! What a fine brain washing these people have undergone! Everyone has been brainwashed - by leaders, by the mass media, by scientific dogma, by clerics… How to stop all this? How to explain to people that the best way to develop an opinion is through open discussions and individual research, and not through the passive reception of information or ‘knowledge’?

Take television for example. How many times did you hear or see on the big channels a funny Muslim? Did you ever hear someone telling a Christian “you are really fanatical” whereas a Muslim is regularly judged only because of his or her Muslim identity! Yesterday I was checking the Lebanese news and the biggest news of all is that the front page is now divided into two parts, for the two fronts: the first in the North, the second in the South! It is ridiculous! Now we will probably hear of a third, or fourth front exploding… Can’t we just live in peace?! Those who have stayed in Lebanon live haunted by the spectre of bombings and constant worry about the lives of their beloved, not to mention the shitty economical situation.

My aunt joked the other day that Lebanon will be rewarded for building the biggest mental asylum ever; the whole country will soon be populated only by crazy or depressed people! For those who left (almost all young people) live in the hope of coming back one day and building up a new Lebanon… Of course I might sound very naïve, but I hope that one day people will be ready to talk and to admit their mistakes and to stop killing other people’s children to further their own interests!



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