We all know Lebanon is definitely a mess, but it is a hot mess for sure. It’s been 20 years or so that the civil war has ended, but we have no constant supply of power, no water (even in a country renowned for its abundance of fresh water in an area as arid as the middle east), very poor infrastructure and telecommunications system (no need to elaborate about the traffic, internet and wireless telephone communications situation in Lebanon). On top of all this, the socio-economic relations in a society governed by tribalism and sectarianism get worse each and every day. You may or may have not heard, but a week ago, a Christian Maronite young woman by the name of Myriam El Achkar was killed in a convent in Sahel Alma (Mount Lebanon) by a Syrian worker who is claimed to be an ex Syrian intelligence officer. I can not even begin to describe the amount of fanaticism this incident brought up after the news spread no thanks to our religiously opinionated Lebanese media. Of course the Christian mainstream media (LBC, MTV, OTV), and the Lebanese Christians (I don’t know how we can define that anyways) treated her as a “Christian martyr”, anti-Syrian sentiments and xenophobia came to the surface. For people who claim to be following the teachings of the Christ, the amount of hatred that was out there was just immense. Yes, I do understand that this was a horrific act of murder and I am very sorry for her family’s loss, nothing replaces a child that you spent your whole life raising and caring after her. But, people, she is not a martyr, she is just a victim of a disturbed person who murdered her because she resisted his attempt of raping her. Now, was he drinking? I don’t know; was he doing drugs? still don’t know; was he a muslim fundamentalist? beats me! All we know is that this man was probably a disturbed rapist/killer! This does not have to turn into a religious confrontation between Muslims and Christians, we already have a lot of that as it is! And another thing, the term martyr is used very loosely in Lebanon, it seems that every person who dies of murder becomes a martyr in the eyes of his religious community only, his/her martyrdom is not accepted by the other party!
Another incident that showed us how primitive we still are in matters of religion is the issue of the flip flop with the cross. Here’s the short version of it: A very cheap ass store, in Beirut’s suburbs, called Big Sale (obvious by its name) was caught by the right-winged Christian (extremist, some may call it) Lebanese forces party’s media selling flip flops with a spooky Halloween theme, featuring graveyards with crosses. The wave of insanity (yes INSANITY) that came with the spreading of the news was out of this world. People went crazy, Christians gathered in front of the store (that is ironically owned by a Muslim Shiite), they protested, began chanting Christian chants and prayers, sprayed Cross graffiti on the store’s doors until they were able to close it down. The store reopened a week or so later. Hysteria was at its peak. I mean really? It was just a flip flop with a graveyard, the cross was not there as an insult! And the media as usual made things worse, by portraying this as an attack on Christian holy symbols.
I believe that these two incidents are very similar, in their theme, to what happened in Ashrafieh in February 2006, when Muslim Sunni extremists attacked Beirut’s Christian neighborhood and ransacked the building of the Danish embassy amidst the Prophet Muhammad cartoon controversy. Yes this last one is a bit more barbaric and medieval, but Christian fanaticism in Lebanon is in no way any better.
You’ll see what I mean by this video that depicts the reaction of Myriam El Achkar’s family’s and friends’ statements in a report on Lebanese TV (LBC).
For those people who don’t understand Arabic, her mother is saying that their region is a friendly and tolerable neighborhood that is being filled by strangers and aliens day after day. Then, the people surrounding her promise that they will catch the murderer and beat him before “others” (I don’t know who) will help him escape. And, her fiancé swears by his name that he will gather all of Zahle and Deir el Ahmar (probably where he comes from) and close down all of Lebanon for her (sounds romantic, doesn’t it?). Her future mother in law continues by saying: “How dare a Syrian (meant in a pejorative way, as always in some parts of Lebanon) come and kill our girl? We will slaughter him the same way he slaughtered her!”. Then later on, some woman in the back shouts: He’s a filthy man! He’s Syrian! He’s an animal!”. At the end, the mother of Myriam tells the reporter:” I’m a Christian woman, my religion is about forgiveness and not violence like his! I hope that God will avenge me!”.
I am in no way belittling the pain that her family is going through, but this attitude that some Lebanese have really makes me wanna puke. No, you’re not of more importance of Syrians because you’re Lebanese and Christian. What is wrong with being a Syrian or an Arab? Are all Syrians filthy and criminals? The family of the victim should have only addressed him as a criminal, murderer, not as a filthy Syrian or a Muslim. And, Shame on LBC for being a medium of religious and racial hatred. We’re a superficial society that cares about looks, we claim and we are proud that we are very open-minded, westernized and secular, but when it all comes back to matters of religion, we’re as primitive as the people that lived a thousand years ago.