The Mideastwire Blog

Excerpts from the Arab and Iranian Media & Analysis of US Policy in the Region

An-Nahar and respect for Ramadan

This from today’s An-Nahar – it provides one small reason why so many foreigners who come to Beirut often find the Islamists to be more reasonable than some in the Christian community – to their great surprise!

Some accuse these foreigners of limousine liberalism, false consciousness etc – but reading this piece today one can see why this is indeed the case in the majority of (self-funded) visits by foreigners at least.

- “Vice police in Downtown Beirut”

On August 25, the pro-parliamentary majority daily An-Nahar carried the following opinion piece by Hiam Kossayfi: “When we used to hear and read about the religious police (the vice police) from Indonesia to KSA, Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan…[ellipses as published] we used to think that we are still safe from it. [We] never thought that we would be confronted with the religious police at the heart of a modern hotel in Downtown Beirut, owned by a Maronite individual and consecrated with holy water by a bishop upon being built.

“We were getting ready to eat dinner the day before yesterday at the restaurant of the modern hotel. And after we ordered the food and drinks, and after the waiter insisted on recommending a certain bottle of wine, he swiftly came back apologetically and shyly withdrew the wine glasses. He apologized, saying: “I am embarrassed by what I have to say but we cannot offer wine because this is Ramadan.”

“It was eight o’clock and the guests of the restaurant from different nationalities were either having iftar or dinner. At first glance, we failed to comprehend what the waiter was telling us. We tried to inquire, and the man in charge of the restaurant came in and said again: “In respect for the feelings of the Muslims present here, we cannot offer you wine.” We replied: “We are Christians, and you must respect us and respect the others as well because we are not [being insensitive] and we are in Lebanon, not in an Islamic country.”

“The man in charge informed us that the administration’s orders were clear and that wine could not be served during Ramadan, although the food and drinks menu had not been modified. We told him: “Well then you should hang a banner outside announcing that wine is prohibited in your hotel.” And when we clung to our position, the man in charge tried to find a way out that he considered honorable for the hotel’s administration. He suggested that we switch our transparent wine glasses with blue tinted ones so that the [offensive] wine would not be apparent to the public and the restaurant guests. He also offered to “bribe” us by offering the wine bottle for free!

“The shock of the [surreptitious] suggestion was stronger than the initial rejection. [It was] commercial malice [under the pretense of] coexistence and respect for Muslims’ feelings. We simply refused the “forbidden bribery” and [said that] we would either have the wine in its [regular] glasses or we would leave the restaurant. Surprisingly, his response to our desire to leave was a strange one: “You don’t understand while all the foreign clients do?” He was right. We do not understand… Did the religious police reach Lebanon and the commercial Downtown, which is the front of the modern Lebanon, [and did it] start wearing a foreign suit and a necktie? And is [what follows] even direr?” - An-Nahar, Lebanon

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Written by nickbiddlenoe

August 26, 2010 at 7:50 pm

Posted in TRANSLATIONS

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