What Can Arguileh (Hookah) Do To Your Health?

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Earlier in November, Lebanese scientists have joined with a host of officials and researchers in the region in declaring nargileh smoking a “global epidemic”. [Source]

I think we all agree that smoking is bad but the problem lies elsewhere in Lebanon. There are way too many Shisha cafes and the Arguile is cheap and accessible to everyone (No Age Restriction). Added to that, there’s no control on the cleanliness of the Arguile and its pipes and Hookah deliveries are allowed. What I believe should be done is restricting the number of Shisha cafes, or at least banning new Shisha lounges from opening, increasing the price of an Arguile drastically (200%) and fining restaurants who offer them to minors.

New Signs To Be Deployed in Tripoli

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Via @MhdDankar

The heads of the armed groups in Tripoli (Aka قادة المحاور) held a meeting earlier this morning and agreed to install new signs across Tripoli to keep civilians away from the dangerous zones. This agreement was praised by all militiamen and specially snipers who won’t be responsible anymore for shooting innocent civilians if these civilians were trespassing on sniper property. One of the militiamen expressed his joy by donating a huge banner to alert the citizens of snipers before the sign is placed.

The Lebanese Authorities hailed this agreement and asked Tripoli residents to respect the new signs and stop blaming the armed groups for endangering their lives. They also promised to finance part of their installation.

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Censorship In Lebanon: Ekhirta ra7 to2ta3 … (Eventually it will pass)

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The article below was my contribution to MARCH‘s monthly newsletter that was distributed all across Lebanon few weeks back. MARCH has been pulling an amazing job in raising awareness on the importance of freedom of expression as a catalyst for tolerance and acceptance of the other and in fighting all sorts of cultural terrorism.

I strongly believe we should be given the right to choose what to watch, read and listen to and I am offended by the fact that some people get to choose for us.

Here’s the article:

When The Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons were published back in 2005, angry and violent protests were sparked around the world, and several western Embassies were attacked and damaged. Even though the cartoons were meant to “contribute to the debate about criticism of Islam and self-censorship”, The Muslim World took offense in them and reacted aggressively. One of the Danish Islamists who helped fuel the uproar over the caricatures and led the demonstrations against the drawings in Denmark is a Lebanese-born called Ahmad Akkari. He was so infuriated by these cartoons that he took the hassle of traveling to several countries and fuel Muslim crowds against the Danish government.

The reason I mentioned this story is because the same Ahmad Akkari who organized demonstrations that resulted in the death of over 200 people, and had a big part in turning the issue into an international crisis, has come out a month ago to declare that he regrets taking part in these protests and apologized to the Danish Cartoonist Kurt Westergaard and to the entire nation of Denmark. He even went as far as saying that he didn’t mind publishing the cartoons anymore, which were reposted in the papers throughout Europe almost every year after 2005, knowing that he’s still a practicing Muslim.
Now some may argue that the Danish cartoons were indeed offensive to Islam and the Prophet (I personally thought they were), and should not have been published, but as long as they didn’t violate any laws in Denmark, nothing justifies the violent reactions that we witnessed back then. In fact, the outcome of those riots was more harmful to Islam than the cartoons themselves.

Going back to Lebanon, The General Security Censorship Bureau decided last month to ban a play about censorship written/directed by Lucien Bourjeily and produced by MARCH from public performance. Moreover, the head of the censorship bureau was highly offended by this play and based on what MARCH reported, “was shouting and saying the play was not unacceptable as we were making fun of the censorship bureau, and, according to him portraying a wrong image of them and that he will not allow it.”

Even though the first topic mentioned was of religious nature while the other was a play directed towards a governmental bureau, the common point is that both were artistic works aimed at promoting freedom of speech and self-censorship, and in both cases the reaction was impulsive and violent causing more harm than the work presented.
Having said that, I ask the head of the Censorship bureau to look at the bigger image, follow the Ahmad Akkari example, by reevaluating the bureau’s censorship standards and understanding the sacred values of our society and the importance of freedom of speech and accepting criticism. In fact, if there’s anything that history has taught us, is that the censorship of works of art never prevails and harms the censoring party rather than the artist himself.

That being said, let the Lebanese decide what is rubbish or not, what to watch or not, and don’t deprive them of their most basic right, the freedom of choice. Let the bureau be an example to follow by other institutions and its head a role model for the upcoming generations. Let the Lucien Bourjeily play pass and be the first one to attend it.
The greatest statesmen in history were the ones who accepted criticism and took it well. Winston Churchill himself stated that “Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.”

So I Watched Bébé

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I didn’t like the trailer and I wasn’t planning to watch the movie but I ended up going after I read that over 20,000 have seen the movie in its first 4 days. I also went through the movie’s Facebook page and saw that a lot of Lebanese actors gave the movie a positive feedback.

However from the moment the movie started till the last minute, I couldn’t understand what the hell I was watching or what was this movie’s purpose. Moreover, I couldn’t believe people actually thought some scenes were funny and were laughing out loud. The plot made no sense, some of the actors were horrible (Specially Bébé’s brother), most of the jokes lame and let’s not talk about the ending.

Mirva was hot though.

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PS: The movie will start showing in Dubai on the 5th of December 2013.

TransFocus: Lebanon’s First Transgender Festival

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Picture from NowLebanon

According to the Lebanese Law now, you are either male or female.

TransFocus is the first festival in Lebanon that explores the sub-culture, the challenges, and the hopes of the transgender community of the country. Yesterday at Minus 1, a new art space perched right in the middle of Ashrafieh, two movies – TransAmerica and Tomboy – were screened and a series of heated debates and workshops were organized with AUB’s Faysal al-Kak. What came out of an otherwise rich and successful afternoon was a portrait of a difficult situation for a minority too often abused and pushed to the margins of society.

The topic is complex, so before divulging more details, a few clarifications on terminology are needed. Bekhsoos, a “feminist and queer Arab magazine,” offers a useful dictionary:

Sex: Assigned at birth, either male or female (“the binary system”), based on bodily characteristics like chromosomes, hormones, and internal and external reproductive organs.

Gender (gender identity): The sex that one identifies with internally. Transgender individuals usually are of a different bodily sex.

Sexual orientation: An individual’s attraction (physical, emotional, romantic, spiritual) to another. Gender identity and sexual orientation are separate; a male-to-female or female-to-male person could be gay, lesbian, or bisexual.

Transgender: Umbrella term for individuals whose gender identity differs from that assigned to them at birth. It spans from transsexuals to cross-dressers, bi-genders, and other gender-variant people. Transgender individuals may or may not choose to surgically and/or hormonally alter their bodies.

Transsexual: This is not an umbrella term, and usually refers to individuals who plan to transition, or are in the process of transitioning, through surgery or hormone therapy. [NowLebanon]

Origins of the Lebanese Dabké

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Picture from Kadmous

Here’s a nice post by Kadmous.org on the similarities between the traditional Lebanese Dabké and old Phoenician Dance rituals based on Sir Gardener Wilkison’s studies on The Historic Illustrations of Dancing from 3300 B.C. to 1911 A.D.

Read the full article [Here].

Of the Phoenicians, we have some illustrations of their dance, which was apparently of a serious nature , judging by the examples which we possess, such as that from Cyprus representing three figures in hooded cowls dancing around a piper. It is a dance around a centre, as is also that from Idalium in Cyprus. The latter is engraved around a bronze bowl and is evidently a planet and sun dance before a goddess, in a temple; the sun being the central object around which they dance, accompanied by the double pipes, the harp, and tabour. The ASSYRIANS ( presently known as syrians of whom Syria Got its name ) , their neighbours , probably danced as much as the other nations, but amongst the many monuments that have been discovered there is little dancing shown, and they were evidently more proud of their campaigns and their hunting than of their dancing. A stern and strong people, although they undoubtedly had this amusement, we know little about it.

[YouTube]

Open Letter From Lebanese Tourism Minister Fadi Abboud To British Ambassador Tom Fletcher

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Drawing By Sareen

It seems Karl wasn’t the only one who replied back to British Ambassador Tom Fletcher’s Open Letter to Lebanon as Tourism Minister Fadi Abboud posted a letter on his Facebook Page after Karl’s reply.

I have 3 things to say about this letter:

– “Love Lebanon, and No Other” is not meant to be as a monopoly. We should love our country before any other. I am not sure how the Minister made the comparison between exclusive agencies and this slogan but it’s a terrible one.

– I fully agree with the minister that our real enemy is Corruption and I ask him to step out of all political blocks accused of corruption, including his current block.

– I loved the “Freedom of Information Act” idea and I would support it fully but I doubt that the UK Ambassador or any Ambassador in Lebanon can help implementing it. The Minister should work on gaining the Lebanese people’s support on this matter before anyone else.

Open letter to Ambassador Tom Fletcher

Dear Mr. Ambassador,

I read your open letter and I read Karl’s remarks with interest , I am a minister in the Lebanese government , and I happen to be a British citizen due to the fact that I lived and worked in your country for years .

I know where Karl is coming from; I appreciate not only his excellent command of the English language, but also his pride which should be without prejudice. I do agree with some of his remarks but at the same time I agree with most of yours. ,.
In my country we find it difficult to share, we hate sharing, we love exclusive agencies. One of the Christian Maronite political parties came up with a motto “love Lebanon, and no other”. We love monopolies.

I have a lot of respect for your country. Great Britain received me, and many other foreigners with open arms, and we received all of what the country has to offer exactly like every British citizen .Furthermore I do not want to fall in the trap of comparison. I love Lebanon my country, I respect my people, I think like you we probably have one of the most interesting cultures in the world, but this will not stop me respecting and appreciating other cultures.
We in Lebanon, at this stage of our long history feel very vulnerable, and we have little space to maneuver when it comes to relations with other countries. This should be clear for everyone to see, Lebanon is not only about Lebanese living in Lebanon, we have a duty towards the Lebanese Diaspora, many of them with dual citizenship, living in other countries around us and overseas.
Mr. Ambassador, yes your help is needed, but let us concentrate on the one enemy from within, this enemy is holding us back and keeping us from achieving any growth, it is the real enemy, more powerful than any other:” Corruption”.

I have been watching all our friends specifically our friends from the free and democratic countries, trying to help through financing NGOs among other things. I think they can do more.
I would like to suggest, a new approach supported by the United Kingdom towards our members of parliament. We need to have a new law concerning the freedom of information. The law should be simple; anything to do with public money should be published on the internet with free access to all. This will also help any country to achieve more transparency, it is to a certain extent available in your country, but transparency in my country is still a luxury we think we can live without.

I call on you Mr. Ambassador to adopt my unloved orphan “ Freedom of Information Act “ and help us by lobbying with all your friends , and ours, to bring this dream to reality. We need all the support we can get to achieve this goal.
This law if passed and applied will radically reduce corruption and will make Lebanon the dream country it should and could be.

Fady Abboud