December 14, 2009
Below is an excerpt from an interesting article by Hanin Ghaddar in Foreign Policy:
Mohammad, a 40-year old Lebanese Shiite who lives in Hezbollah’s stronghold in Beirut’s southern suburbs, was holding forth on the virtues of resistance, loyalty, and sex. “You could create the most loyal army by providing political power, social services and fulfilling the desires of your men — namely, sexual ones,” he declared.
“And Hezbollah has been very successful in this regard,” Mohammad continued. It is hard to disagree. Hezbollah liberated South Lebanon from Israeli occupation, expanded the Shiite community’s political power within the country, and has provided social services, such as health care and education, to its constituency since the 1980s. Today, it is also working to fulfill the sexual needs of its supporters, though a practice known as mutaa marriage.
Mutaa is a form of “temporary marriage” only acceptable within Shiite communities, one that allows couples to have religiously sanctioned sex for a limited period of time, without any commitments, and without the obligatory involvement of religious figures. In conservative Muslim societies known for their strict sense of propriety, mutaa offers an escape clause. The contract is very simple. The woman says: “I marry myself to you for [a specific period of time] and for [a specified dowry]” and the man says: “I accept.” The period can range between one hour and a year, and is subject to renewal. A Muslim woman can only marry a Muslim man, but a Muslim man can temporarily marry a Muslim, Christian, or Jewish woman, as long as she is a divorcée or a widow. However, those interviewed for this article confirmed that Hezbollah-the “Party of God”-has allowed the practice to spread to virgins or girls who have never married before, as long as the permission of her guardian (father or paternal grandfather) is obtained.
Temporary marriage has long been practiced by Shiites around the world. However, it has recently become more commonplace in Lebanon, notably within Hezbollah strongholds in Beirut’s southern suburbs and in southern Lebanon after the 2006 war with Israel.
November 16, 2009
The Economist has a great article about the ongoing hummus rivalry between Israel and Lebanon:
Last year, a team of Israeli chefs concocted what they claimed was the world’s biggest-ever batch of hummus, rolling out a vat weighing 400kg (882lb) in Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda market. It took a year to muster an Arab counter-strike, but on October 24th a squadron of Lebanese chefs cooked up a bunker-busting bowlful that weighed in at over 2,000kg. For good measure they also unveiled a terrifying 3,500kg batch of tabbouleh, the cracked wheat and parsley salad for which Lebanon is justly famed. Gastronomic gigantism may be a fad in Lebanon, where chefs recently baked a tray of kibbeh, a pie of minced meat and cracked wheat, at 20 square metres (215 square feet) a candidate for the Guinness Book of Records.
I, for one, appreciate the concluding paragraph:
In fact, it is a matter of record that hummus can promote peace. A decade ago, Israeli and Syrian officials faced off in tense (and ultimately unsuccessful) negotiations at Shepherdstown, West Virginia. But there came one moment of heartfelt agreement. All exclaimed that the hummus, served by their American hosts in an attempt to make everyone feel at home, was horrid.
September 30, 2009
From The Daily Star:
Reina Wardini, a mother of two, laughs out loud at the thought of sending her boys to a public school. “There was no decision to make. The schooling my children receive in a private school is of a higher level,” she says. Yet like many Lebanese families, it is a choice she pays dearly for. The Wardini family pays 5 million Lebanese pounds a year for Paul, 15 and again for Jean, 17 to attend the Sagess-Brasilia Catholic School in the Beirut district of Achrafieh.
“It gets more expensive all the time because of the rising cost of living,” says Wardini. “But I would never consider sending my boys to public schools. That is not an option for us” – she laughs again – “except maybe in case of an emergency.”
Many Lebanese families, like the Wardinis, are critical of Lebanon’s public-school system, and stretch budgets thin in order to keep their children in private schools. This attitude is somewhat puzzling given the government’s generous spending on public education – the sector receives around $600 million a year, and is ranked as the state’s third-largest expense. Yet at present, only two thirds of students are enrolled in the private sector.
Click here to read the full article.
July 26, 2009
A 2006 report released by the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies finds,
A recent in-depth Gallup survey in 10 predominantly Muslim countries, representing more than 80% of the global Muslim population, shows that when asked what they admire most about the West, Muslims frequently mention political freedom, liberty, fair judicial systems, and freedom of speech. When asked to critique their own societies, extremism and inadequate adherence to Islamic teachings were their top grievances.
However, while Muslims say they admire freedom and an open political system, Gallup surveys suggest that they do not believe they must choose between
Islam and democracy, but rather, that the two can co-exist inside one functional government.
Some observations I had:
- Lebanon appears the most liberal. I would attribute this to the diversity of the country’s population (Muslims, Christians, and Druze) in addition to its close historical and cultural connections to Europe.
- Turkey’s answers seem to reflect the outcome of Ataturk’s post-WWI secularism crusade. It also coincides with Turkey’s push toward Europeanism as highlighted by their unsuccessful attempts to enter the European Union.
- Iran’s population, after years of living under a less-than-free government, has developed an affinity for the West. Perhaps this is a case of “the enemy of your enemy is my friend.”