Monday, April 4, 2016

To every foreign king and head of state out there: mi casa es su casa

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In Lebanon, we love foreign kings and heads of state. We are so generous, so welcoming, we love them more than our own. Well, we don’t have a head of state at the moment, let alone a king, but still, what an amazing proof of Lebanese magnanimity.

We all remember when, a few years ago, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to Lebanon and how he received a hero’s welcome in Shia neighborhoods. We all remember when his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan showed up and got the same treatment by Sunnis. Why, back then, no one thought of inviting Albert de Monaco to be welcomed by Christians is beyond me. What about Christians rights to also have a foreign hero they can cheer and worship? Perhaps we should right that wrong and send some invites around.

Anyway, a new outdoor campaign appeared yesterday in Tripoli, Lebanon's northern capital, saying to the new Saudi king: "our home is your home". What better answer to the hate campaign against the Wahhabi kingdom some ungrateful Lebanese have been carrying out for the past year or so?

Only a few days ago, a cartoon depicting Lebanon as a lie triggered an outcry on social media. To be fair, not everyone joined in. Some people still had the decency to defend the cartoon and the Saudi-owned paper that published it. Mind you, those same decent people would have screamed outrage if a Lebanese paper published the exact same cartoon, but instead of the Lebanese flag it portrayed a Saudi flag, and instead of the word Lebanon it wrote Saudi Arabia.

If this indeed happened, we would have seen them asking for the paper to be banned and the cartoonist to be thrown to the wolves, or into a snake pit, or even to be crucified in public. Politicians would have made endless tearful statements, begging for forgiveness. Then would have gone to the Saudi embassy, along with journalists and businessmen, to apologize in person and recite poems glorifying Saudi Arabia.

But it was a Lebanese flag and Lebanon as a country that were called a lie. So they didn’t say a word. Not a peep. If this doesn’t prove how full of altruism and abnegation most Lebanese are, I don’t know what does.

On top of that, the Tripoli “mi casa es su casa” campaign doesn’t only invite the Saudi king to share our home, it also stresses on Lebanon’s Arab identity. It stresses on it so much, it repeats the word Arabs 3 times: "We are Arabs Arabs Arabs" – just in case we didn’t get it the first or even the second time.

Personally, I’d love to participate in that campaign but with a first name like mine, I’m afraid I’d look like an idiot. Perhaps I should change it to something more appropriate. Khouloud maybe. Khouloud El Khal, that sounds like a true Arab! But I’m told Khouloud is a woman’s first name, and people will make fun of me. So what? It won’t be much different from the Madame Claude jokes I hear all year long.

© Khouloud El Khal, 2016

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