Lebanon

Watch Your Mouth

Don’t miss Jean Aziz’s excellent op-ed in al-Akhbar today; it’s a letter to President Michel Sleiman, asking him to explain his reasons for arresting three young Lebanese for slander and defamation against the president, on Facebook.

The Western press is claiming that the incriminating Facebook posts were taken down, but you can find copies of them on this Orange Room forum.

According to this report at France24, “Lebanon’s general prosecutor must take action in any case of libel, slander or defamation against the president or any “sister state” of Lebanon regardless of whether a plaintiff comes forward to press charges.”

Hmmm, I wonder which “sister state” that might be…

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21 thoughts on “Watch Your Mouth

  1. Obviously a measure meant to protect scurrilous language directed at Nicolas Sarkozy.

    Posted by dbk | June 29, 2010, 12:08 pm
  2. This is a sad statement about free of expression, freedom of speech and the ability of an unconstitutional president to ride rough shod over many of the ideas that he disingenuously talks about all the time.

    There is nothing to discuss in this case. It is an open and shut case, at least it ought to be. The governmnet has to abrogate this law from its roots and in all its manifestations. Nothing else will do.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | June 29, 2010, 12:13 pm
  3. Antoine Ramia deserves the highest honours for this courageous article. As for Saïd Mirza, he deserves that his ass be kicked out of the office as state prosecutor directly to Roumieh prison for what he has been doing for the last few years.

    Posted by Jihad | June 29, 2010, 2:27 pm
  4. “As for Saïd Mirza, he deserves that his ass be kicked out of the office as state prosecutor directly to Roumieh prison for what he has been doing for the last few years.”

    Jihad kindly enlighten us!

    As for libeling or slandering the president…Bah Humbug!! Wiam Wahab should be rotting in jail in perpetuity then! But hold on a second; he can’t be jailed as he proudly declares his allegiance to sisterly Syria and its butcher Bashar!!

    Posted by danny | June 29, 2010, 3:58 pm
  5. “As for libeling or slandering the president…Bah Humbug!! Wiam Wahab should be rotting in jail in perpetuity then!”

    Those were my thoughts exactly. The double standards are appalling.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | June 29, 2010, 4:16 pm
  6. anyone should be able to say “kiss ekht lebnen” :)

    Posted by V | June 29, 2010, 4:28 pm
  7. Two Books

    The hazy lazy days of summer are upon us and many are preparing to take off for some time, relax, go to the beach and catch up on some readings.
    I imagine you would not be reading this blog had you not been interested to some extent in Lebanese affairs and in Middle Eastern politics. If you are looking for something to read about the above then you can do much worse than to pick up copies of the following:

    Beware of Small States by David Hurst

    The Flight of the Intellectuals by Paul Berman

    I did not find either book to be an easy read primarily because I do not care much for the style of both authors. But if you can get past that then both are very well researched treaties and each is full of valuable information.

    Beware of small states is written by arguably the Wests most at home reporterin the Middle East in general and Lebanon in particular. He manages to tell the story of the Middle East through the developments in Lebanon. He weaves an excellent narrative.

    The Flight of the Intellectuals on the other hand is more demanding . It is a special analysis and interpretation of the underlying dynamics in political islam or Islamists if you will. Berman builds a rather detailed point of view showing that many Western intellectuals have misunderstood the real danger of the so called moderate islamists such as Tariq Ranmadan, , Hassan Al Banna and the Mufti of Jerusalem. The book is shock-full-of details about the dynamic that underlies these movements and that have shaped them in the past and continue to exert influence at the present. The book is a tour de force that touches on the strength of the ideas by Al Ghazali,Descartes, Qutb, Qaradawi in addition to the thinkers already mentioned above.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | June 29, 2010, 5:46 pm
  8. As’ad Abukhalil:
    Wednesday, March 18, 2009
    Paul Berman: Fake Leftism of Bigotry and Ignorance
    “But this week Mr. Berman said in an e-mail message that “the Bush administration was foolish to bar Tariq Ramadan from entering the United States.”” Forget about the issue of Ramadan, I want to talk about this Paul Berman, a former leftist who served as one of the most fanatic bigots during the Bush years. And typical of a one of this caliber, notice that he now found the courage to speak against Bush’s policies of excluding foreigners that they don’t like, including communists and leftists. And now this former (fake) leftist is criticizing Bush. Why did you not write in the New Republic at the time, Mr. Berman. Berman is one of those fanatics who invaded Middle East expertise during the Bush years and only to supply the administration with hate and ignorance about Arabs and Muslims. This is a man with no knowledge or langualge skills who decided to offer opinions on Middle East and Islam. And he was never–in his vapid writings–was able to make up his mind: he sometimes would argue that Nazims infested Arab culture and caused all that terrorism, and other times he blamed Islam. Which is which, o person with no knowledge or insights on what you are talking about?

    Posted by Jihad | June 29, 2010, 11:57 pm
  9. Paul Berman is the US version of such French loonatics as Antoine Basbous, Antoine Sfeir, Caroline Fourest, Frédéric Encel, Mohammed Sifaoui, etc.

    Posted by Jihad | June 30, 2010, 12:08 am
  10. Such a bunch and those who applaud them use too much “Obsession with Tariq Ramadan” (by Kelvin Klein)!

    Posted by Jihad | June 30, 2010, 12:11 am
  11. Jihad,
    Note that I thought that Flight of the Intellectuals was a well researched book with a special kind of analysis… I did not share with you whether I agree with his analysis or not. I read a book in order to learn from it instead of apparently depending on the point of view of the Angry Arab. I am glad that is the way you get yout knowledge, by letting somebody else do the reading and the thinking for you. I do read and dare I suggest enjoy authors that I do not agree with.

    Let me ask you a simple question: Do you think that an economist should be exposed to the works of Marx as well as Smith , Keynes, Hayek… or should she restrict herself to books written by one school of thought?

    BTW, you never told us whether you have read The Flight of the Intellectuals or whether you have read any of Bermans’ work.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | June 30, 2010, 5:47 am
  12. Ghassan,
    I just finished Beware of small states. I wonder if you got the same impression I did which was that it seems that the history of Lebanon is just the same story repeated over and over again with the same cycle but with the different players taking up different roles?

    I haven’t read Bermans book but it seems to have garnered a number of negative reviews and not all from Angry Arabs either..:) I have to say, its odd that Islam and Muslims seems to be the only area of analysis that Western writers are able to write and publish on (and claim expertise) without actually being able to read or write the language it is based on. I think that they do not seem to grasp the basic intertwining of culture and religion in the Islamic world because, even though the Western world is mostly built on Judeo-Christian foundations, that link is no longer obvious or present.
    But I will try to get a copy before making any final judgement.

    Posted by mo | June 30, 2010, 7:06 am
  13. Since for a change the discussion on the blog turned a bit interesting, I’ll input my 2 cents:

    I read the ‘Beware of small states’. It’s well researched and quite objective. Maybe the first
    book about Lebanese politics that I have read without having serious doubts about either my lived experience or the writer’s sanity.

    Flight of the Intellectuals is on my list (I agree with mo about people writing about a region without speaking the language. But I read a few reviews about the book and I’ll read it).

    I came across an interesting book ‘The stillborn God”, by Mark Lilla. Haven’t read it yet. Has anyone ready it?

    There is article from the author based on the book (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/19/magazine/19Religion-t.html?_r=1&ref=magazine)

    From what I understand the book is about the difference in outlooks between the west and Islam concerning the role of religion in politics. His conclusions and prescriptions in the article are largely controversial, but the book might be worth to read.

    Posted by XP | June 30, 2010, 7:45 am
  14. FYI

    There were two very interesting and lengthy reviews of Berman’s book that recently appeared in The New Yorker (by Pankaj Mishra) and in Foreign Affairs (by Marc Lynch).

    Highly worth reading both.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | June 30, 2010, 8:08 am
  15. mo,
    I agree with your observation about the history of Lebanon over the past 100 years. I found the relationship between the Maronites and the Zionists of the 1920’s to be fascinating. Things have not changed that muchlol.

    The Flight of the Intellectuals by Berman is one persons poist of view and so it is bound to be very controversial.
    As expected, I agreed with some of the points that he made and I disagreed with others.But I found the book to be full of information that I found to be helpful. He is not writing about Islam but about Islamists i.e. political Islam.
    The book is essentially a response to Tariq Ramadan. Berman is ultimately saying that Ramadan , who likes to pass himself as a moderate is anything but. He even accuses Ramadan of willfully misleading the general public. Berman argues that Al Banna, the Mufti of Jerusalem, Qutb and Al Mawdudi to name a few have shaped Ramadan. I do not want to influence your reading of the book but the special twist ,I guess, is that Berman seems to be saying that Tariq Ramadan is a wolf in sheeps clothing.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | June 30, 2010, 8:12 am
  16. Ghassan,
    Yes, I was fascinated by how much I did not know about pre-40’s Lebanon esp. the fact that commercial and social ties between the Lebanese and the new Jewish immigrants to Palestine were so close that Lebanon actually printed a Hebrew-language newspaper.

    From reading the reviews Qifa posted it seems to me that nothing has changed about Berman. It doesnt seem so much as an attack on Ramadan as using Ramadan as the face of a part of the Islamic Movemement that scares him. I think he seems to argue that the entire “moderates” should not be trusted – And in championing Hirsi Ali, his motivations anad beliefs I think are quite evident. It see,s from what I read that he s saying that its isnt just Wahabi Islam that should worry the West but all Islam.

    If my analysis is correct, and I add the caveat that I base this on the reviews I have read not the actual book, then I go back to the issue that he is scaremongering about a religion that he is not qualified to analyse.

    XP,
    Robert Fisk’s Pity the Nation wasn’t too bad.

    Posted by mo | June 30, 2010, 9:34 am
  17. mo, Berman seems to be an advocate of the Clash of Civilizations idea that I have never stomached. But realities in the world have a funny way of conflicting with what we think ought to be. There is no doubt that the Clash of Civilizations concept was rejuvinated after 9/11. Does that make it right? Of course not but the rise of the teachings of Al Maududi, Qutb and Al banna cannot be dismissed. Bassam Tibi, the Syrian political scientisthas warned about the hijacking of Islam by the Islamists long before Berman. Again that does not make him right. But I find it difficult to dismiss the Brotherhood and the Mufti and especially his Nazi ties simply on the basis of The Enemy of my Enemy is my friend. Ultimately there is a question that I am not qualified to answer since I do not believe in any of the sacred storiesand that is simply whether there is anything to prevent an individual from being a believer in Islam and a secularist at the same time. Ido believe that this is not only possible but 100’s of millions live it every day. It is on this basis that I find political Islam an idea whose time has gone. I do not think that the future is in building theocracies but I agree strongly with Ramadan on this issue, we all have a multiplicity of identities. But I am not comfortable when someone looks into the mirror and seems herself only as a Moslem /Jew/Hinduetc…
    As for Hirsi I have never taken her seriously. One can be against the abuse of women without being against Islam.
    I must log off. Sorry about that.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | June 30, 2010, 10:05 am
  18. Aren’t the facts clear that political Islam is on the rise? There is nothing inherently bad in that by the way, just as political Judaism in Israel and political Christianity in the US and Europe are all legitimate.

    The problem with political Islam is not really a problem with political Islam but with the nature of the countries in which it arises. These countries do not have stable democratic traditions and therefore in them political Islam tends to slide into political Islamism which is another way of saying it becomes fascist.

    Take Gaza as an extreme case. Hamas was elected by a religious but by no means radical majority of Palestinians. However, the Hamas regime has turned out to be an Islamist one. Nobody believes that Hamas will relinquish power peacefully or that they will pursue a liberal democratic agenda. The facts on the ground prove the opposite.

    Turkey is the other extreme, but even there the ruling Islamic party is threatening journalists who do not support it and pursuing populist agendas to stay in power. Will they relinquish power peacefully if the lose an election? Let’s hope so.

    Then we have countries like Iran in which it is clear that political Islam has led to a non-democratic regime. So, the question remains, once the Muslim Brotherhood take over one of the major Arab countries, what should we expect to happen there? Will it be Gaza or Turkey? All signs point to Gaza or Iran being the model. And that is the problem with political Islam.

    Posted by AIG | June 30, 2010, 10:57 am
  19. Ghassan,
    (for when u log back on :))

    The clash of civilizations is a front for the neo-con Orwellian project that states that the US cannot flourish without some sort of global enemy. Islam simply replaced Communism and is more useful because there is no one person/country to defeat.

    You cannot clash with a civilization that does not exist. The Muslims of Aghanistan are as different from the Muslims of Lebanon as the Muslims of Lebanon are different to the Muslims of Morrocco.

    The teachings of Slafists and their ilk can be dismissed by the West for some very good reasons. 9/11 has put up security structures that makes them of minor threat to the West, and the “rise in teachings” is barely registable on an Umma wide basis. They are mice that have, by the Wests own actions, been given the opportunity to roar. It is we Muslims in the Middle East who are in fact in far greater peril from these people than the West.

    Why do you find it difficult to dismiss the Mufti’s actions as a case of the enemy of my enemy? Palestinians were seeing the British allow in and colluding with a bunch of colonial interlopers and they could do nothing. I don’t think his actions were much to do with Politcal Islam as they were with purely national aspirations.

    Islam does not demand a theocracy, and historically has not been. The Caliphate has not traditionally been held by people of a theocratic ilk. And not many Muslims, or in fact any Muslims I know, want some sort of Iranian style state (personally, i think that the first law of any Muslim state should be the first rule of Islam in that there should not ever be compulsion in religion). So in a sense, historically, the Caliphate could be described as a secular leadership, but one leading a state founded on Islamic principles. Which is effectively a description of most states: Secular leaderships founded on dogmatic philosiphies, be it Western countries and Christianity or China and Communism.

    However, saying all that, political Islam is not an idea thats going away because to a practicing Muslim, who is involved in politics, the term is redundant. There is in Islam, too much intertwining between the material and the spiritual. And in the Islamic world, it is what is termed political Islam that is on the rise, not through the likes of Al Qaida, who have the kind of public support that puts them only a notch above irrelevant, but through The Brotherhood in Egypt and Jordan, Hamas and of course Hizballah.

    They are not on the rise because people want theocracies, or because want to bring back the Caliph; Nor are they on the rise because people have become more religious (although I believe in general, the Arab world, esp. the Levant countries are becoming more religious). They are on the rise because they are delivering both politcally and socially; They are providing a measure of dignity not seen in Arab leaders since Nasser, but unlike Nasser and his contemporaries they have not failed to live up to the expectations of the Arab street.

    But of course, the irony is that they grow and flourish simply by being the bulwark to Western actions against Muslims, perceived or real. Or in other words, if the likes of Breman insist there must be a clash of civilizations, we better have someone on our side willing to do the clashing!

    Posted by mo | June 30, 2010, 11:02 am
  20. mo,
    Sorry for the abrupt log off earlier today but I had lost track of time:-)
    We are in agreement about Huntington’s concept of the Clash of Civilization. I do not agree that it was created in order to find an enemy to replace the Soviet Union. Far from it, it was created is essence as an alternative explanation to the forces at work in moving History forward. Huntington could not understand the popularity of Fukuyamas end of History and he felt that his theory is a more pragmatic explanation . Anyway, I recall an article, I believe in The Nation by Edward Said in which he took the position that a more apt name for the Huntington concept would be The Clash of Barbarians. I second that.
    Political Islam is a relatively recent development; besides the salafis; that , from where I am standing, has nothing to do with Islam besides the trappings. Political Islam whether it is Qutb, Al Banna or Ramadanis not about emancipation as Samir Amin put it but it is about submission. It is not a liberation theology but a means of controlling the power of the state by denying individuals their democratic natural rights.
    Yes what you say about the number is true but that is precisely the idea behind vanguards that was promoted by Qutb. He did not want the masses for his revolution. He was willing to operate with small clandestine cells.
    All fundamentalist groups pause a threat for democracy and not only Political Islam. (This is where I again disagree and rather strongly with AIG. Hindu fundamentalism, Christian Fundamentalism and Jewish Fundamentalism are just as big of a threat to a modern, free and democratic world. I do not believe that there is any room not an inch, for personal religious beliefs in the public square. Religion ultimately discriminates because it cannot accept the other on an equal footing and it demands various levels of privileges one for the believers and another for the rest of us heathens. I beg to disagree with this view. If anyone teaches authenticity and the belief that my God is superior to yours then such ideas imply to me the impossibility of coexistence between the sacred and the secular.

    Back to Berman. As I said earlier there are parts that I agreed with his analysis and parts where I did not. The book is very well researched and is possibly a personal attack on Buruma who authored a major article for the NYT magazine about Ramadan. He seems to be obssesed with Ramadan and his ancestry. Although one will find many points to disagree with him yet brings to the fore some contradictions in the way we deal with events that are similar. That is why he feels that he has to defend Hirsi. To him she is another Rushdie and so the intellectual community must have come to her defense just as strongly as it did for Rushdie.

    One more thing before I end this monologue of ramblings. You asked why cannot I accept the Muftis behaviour on the basis of the enemy of my enemy is my friend.Again I admit that I am on weak grounds on this since I am not a historian and so I have not read many different accounts of this. Based on what I know the zealotry of the Mufti in his radio addresses, and his recruitments for the Nazis went beyond an association between two who share an enemy it appeared to be a whole hearted effort to unite awith abd even advocate the ultimate solution. i cannot accept that for a moment, I guess that I have never been a Machiavellian. I honestly feel, in all areas, there is such a thing that a price that is too high to pay for an end.

    To be realistic, religions are here and they play a huge role so what do we do? I think that there is one way out. No theocracies and a separation between the secular and the sacred.( BTW, spirituality does not equate with religious teachings)

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | June 30, 2010, 1:04 pm
  21. Ghassan,
    Personally, I was thinking more of Leo Strauss than Huntingdon as to why we have this clash and why Islam replaced Communism after the fall of the Soviets. His vision of perpetual war in order to bring about benign hegemony while at the same time using the fear generated to control the populace is what I believe the US, and esp. the neocons have practiced for many decades.
    Ironically, I have heard him described as the American Qutb.

    Political Islam, as I define it (ie politically active groups who behave and adhere to Islamic teachings) is actually not a relatively recent development; It emerged in the 1940’s but was soon trumped and mostly extinguished by the Nationalist forces in the 50’s and 60’s.

    I think its a mistake to bunch all political Islam into one definition. For example, for Qutb, Jihad was an offensive tool used to subjugate all those that opposed his ideas of what Islam should be. For Al Banna, Jihad was a defensive tool to defend against attack. Yes, they both sought to bring an inordinate amount of religion into govt. but I think we have to take into account the timeframes both men lived in. Furthermore, if you ignore Al Banna’s motivations and look at his strategy, the man was well ahead of his time.

    And again, if we look at the modern Political Islamic groups, I see nothing yet as evidence that these groups wish to deny people any democratic rights – and if we compare what they say and do in comparison to the Arab leaders currently in power, their taking over would probably be a light year forward in terms of peoples democratic rights.

    Correct me if I am wrong, but I thought it was Al Banna that conceived the Brotherhood to work in small cells and that Qutb wanted a mass revolt were people stop “worshipping” officials in govt. by not taking orders from them.

    I understand that you do not feel there is room in the public square for religion. But the question is what do you do when the majority of the citizenry disagree with you? I agree with you that there should never be theocracies as it is clear that knowledge of the sacred does not imply knowledge in how to run a country properly (but obviously that should not mean that a man who is a cleric should be barred from running for public office). But your way out works in a nation were most people are secular. What do you do when they are not and in fact wish religious influence in the state? In fact, the answer lies in every Western nation, including the US. Because as separating of Church and State as they are, their basis, legal and moral, is Christian teachings because when all these states were founded, the secular were in the minority.

    I think we are as far as we can go with Berman. You have the advantage as you have read the book, but I feel, given the mans history and attitude to Arabs and Muslims, I believe his mission is more sinister than a personal grudge.

    In regards to the Mufti and his association with and knowledge of the “final solution”, I will leave you with the words of the woman you said you admired not long ago, Hannah Arendt, after the trial of Eichmann which were “The trial revealed only that all rumours about Eichmann’s connection with Haj Amin el Husseini, the former Mufti of Jerusalem, were unfounded.”

    Posted by mo | June 30, 2010, 6:34 pm

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