Thursday, January 24, 2013

Jokes aside, this is the sheerest sectarianism

[Originally posted at NOW]

Few things will lighten up a morning like the news that a convoy of 500 Salafists, led by one of the most controversial clerics in the country, has been prevented by irate Christian mountainfolk from enjoying a day on the ski slopes.

Yet this is distinctly black comedy if it is indeed funny at all. Astonishingly, the mayor of the town in question, Kfardebian, has defended the roadblock – which involved the use of a bulldozer and had to be dissolved by the army – on the grounds that it might harm the tourist season. Never mind that, at $27 a ticket, Ahmad al-Assir’s entourage would net a $13,500 windfall for the Mzaar resort. Nothing, apparently, could be worse for business than the ghastly sight of hundreds of Muslims everywhere.

Granted, Assir is the head of a quasi-militia. And he has proven himself more than capable of stirring up sectarian ugliness when required (remember this?). But to forcibly prevent him from using a public road to enjoy Lebanon’s most famous winter activity – on a national holiday, no less?

That is the sheerest sectarianism, not to mention the cheapest political hypocrisy. One wonders: would Mr Aqiqi be equally willing to stop a 500-strong Hizbullah contingent from passing through his town?

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