December 5, 2006

When death becomes a way of life

By Abu Kais

It has been gradual but was bound to happen. Hizbullah’s people are turning other Lebanese into enemies.

Angry mourners chanting "death" to Premier Fouad Saniora buried Tuesday a young Shiite man killed in riots pitting supporters and opponents of the Beirut government.

Mourners marching behind Mahmoud's coffin, while beating their chests to express anger, chanted: "Shiites' blood is boiling."

Shia blood has been “boiling” since Khomeini kidnapped Shia Islam and Hizbullah started farming humans in Lebanon.

“Death to Israel”, “Death to America” and now “Death to Siniora”.

Somehow, these death threats always backfire and countless Shias under the spell of the lords of jihad die instead.

I am reminded of a repulsive music video by a Lebanese singer I used to admire and respect: Julia Boutros. Julia, a Lebanese resident of Dubai, felt a rush of excitement upon hearing one of Nasrallah’s speeches during the war, in which he addressed his fighters as his loved ones (Ahiba’i). So she turned the speech into a song.

In the video, Julia leads groups of children amid ruins, and children morph into masked fighters.

As a Lebanese Shia and a father, I was appalled by this video. Who gave Julia the right to prescribe a future of violence? As a critic of the July-August war, and someone who lived under Israeli and Syrian occupations, I was filled with anger at both regimes at various points of time. I will probably never forgive Israel and Syria for their crimes in Lebanon. But I will not prescribe death and "martyrdom" to my child.

During the Israeli occupation, Julia released a song entitled “We Refuse to Die”. It was my grandmother’s favorite song (that and a song by Fairuz about the south). My grandmother was from Arnoun, one of the first villages in the former security zone to be evacuated by the Israelis and their proxy militia. Born at the beginning of the 20th century, she lost her father in World War I and had to steal food to survive during the great famine. She would tear up every time Julia performed her song on TV to images of the occupied south. “We refuse to die, tell them we will stay, your land and your houses, and the people who labor,” were the words she repeated.

“God knows if I will live to see Arnoun again,” she often told me.

She didn’t. She died the year Michel Aoun launched his liberation war against the Syrians, more than a decade before the withdrawal.

When I visited Arnoun in 2000, it was a minefield. The village she described was gone.

I was raised by my grandmother. Not once did she tell me that I should die. Her husband, who met her at a tobacco field when she was a teenager, threw a fit one day when I threatened to quit college following an argument with my parents. “You will graduate,” he would order me.

I graduated three times after that, but he wasn’t there to see it. Both he and my grandmother, two Shia villagers who migrated to Beirut to raise their children, did not see their favorite grandson (or so they told me), graduate. Both, however, instilled in me the rejection of death as an objective in life. They were both illiterate. My grandmother never missed a prayer. Yet she never told me that I should sacrifice my life. They said go and learn, and hoped they would see the day when I am successful with children of my own.

My grandparents are with me every minute of the day telling me to embrace life and look forward. They weren’t perfect people, but they did not allow anyone to stand in my school to tell me that the future is in sacrificing your life over a dead cause.

My grandmother would not appreciate that this singer is telling my child to take the door to death, when the door to life is wide open.

My grandparents would not appreciate a group of thugs hijacking the hope they carried in their hearts until their last day on earth. They would be sad that Shia youth are dying because to some, war does not end when the occupier leaves—it’s self perpetuating, a circle game where children grow up to be fighters, and new enemies are born every day.

Posted by Abu Kais at December 5, 2006 9:43 AM
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