Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Yologious

Farewell Beirut (Book review, part 2)

Posted on November 16, 2008

Note: Paragraphs in parentheses are my own interjections.  The names and characters in Mai’s manuscript are not fictitious; she personally eye witness the stories.

The main theme in “Farewell Beirut” is “revenge” and the associated concepts of honor, genocides, nationalism, heroes, traitors, martyrdom, hate, love and the fundamental human emotions that might be interpreted differently through the ages, periods and civilizations… but where the moral values of wrong and right should not be personal matters of point of vues.

In part 1, I related the stories of “Um Ali”, “Said”, “Abu Firas”, and “Hashem”. 

This part would be more related to fundamental questions that Mai Ghoussoub tried to struggle with and to investigate moral issues.

But first, I present the story of Fadwa.

“Fadwa” was sent overseas in 1916 in order to avoid famine and be married to Salem.  In those years parents sent their children by sea, supposedly destined to “America” (USA or Latin America) because they paid high fees.

Instead, and frequently the ship Captains landed them instead in Africa telling them “We reached America, get down” And thus, many Lebanese ended in Africa and kept sending letters to their folks not daring to acknowledge their wrong destinations, and parents resumed sending people to “America”. 

The mother of Fadwa reminded her daughter, before sailing, that she is from a much higher social stratum than her future husband Salem and that Fadwa should remind her husband of that difference. 

Fadwa landed in Ghana (Africa) and had five boys and one girl and she expected Salem to worship her for giving him so many boys. 

Fadwa refrained from mingling with the Lebanese and Syrian families on account that she is of a higher status and had many helpers at home. 

When Ghana got its independence Fadwa was sent back to Lebanon with all her children for fear of reprisals. 

At the airport, the immigrating ladies made sure that Fadwa overhears their conversations that Salem was cheating on her and that he had married an African girl and has African offspring. 

Salem joined Fadwa a month later looking much older and deprived of wealth; but he didn’t expect the hatred and all consuming feeling of revenge that were eating up Fadwa. 

The couple slept in separate beds and Fadwa never called her husband by his name or even faced him. Salem was the “He” or the “decrepit old man”.

Salem’s old friends were admonished never to pay him further visits. Salem was homesick to Ghana because he spent most of his life there and the surrounding family was not cheerful.  Fadwa never smiled and children were scared of her outbursts and rigidity. 

When Salem became handicapped, Fadwa confined him for perpetuity in the house and never cooked his preferred dishes and locked on the sweets and chocolates on grounds that they are forbidden to his health.  Salem died miserably. 

Fadwa died shortly after Salem, totally frustrated and a very unhappy old lady that could not feel that the fruits of her revenge were satisfactory.

The author Mai returned to visit Lebanon after the civil war.  She is repainting her apartment to erase the slogans that militias have painted over the walls; she kept the slogan “Those who teach us lessons in moral values are hypocrite and insolent”.

In the seventies, saying that a person is sure of his opinion was a bad connotation of someone who refuses to detach from traditions.  It was a period when moral issues were not absolute: a person had to take into consideration the environment, the period, and all the facet of the story. 

Opting for neutral stands were cherished values. That was fine and dandy until you are confronted with these sample accidents: thousands of women raped in Bosnia, racist gangs killing whole families in London, cutting off the sexual parts of a 4-year old girl by its family living in Paris according to customs… 

Then you realize that wrong and right are no longer personal opinions.  Vaclav Havel said “The concepts of justice, honor and disloyalty are palpable nowadays”

A chapter compared the act of martyrdoms of the young 16 year-old Lebanese girl Nouha Samaan against the Israeli invaders in South Lebanon and Flora in 10th century Andalusia (Spain).

(Between 1983-87, at least 3 young girls committed suicide acts against the Israeli forces of occupations, such as Sanaa Mheidly, before the young males replaced women).

In Flora’s period, Spain was ruled by the “Arabs” and mostly the Muslims from Morocco and it enjoyed a long period of prosperity and cultural development and tolerance for other religions and ethnic immigrants. 

The mother of Flora was Catholic and her father a Muslim and they lived in Cordoba.

By the age of 16 Flora became a ferocious, one sided Catholic zealot; she proclaimed in front of the tolerant judge that the Prophet Muhammad is a cheat and the devil. 

The judge had the right to execute her but let her go.  Flora would not desist. She associated with the bigot preacher Yologious who claimed that the educated Catholics have taken the road to perdition: instead of focusing their readings solely on the Bible “they are reading literary manuscripts, scientific books, learning to write well and composing poems”. 

Many young disciples of Yologious were harangued to sacrifice their lives for Catholicism and finally Flora had to be executed. 

At that time Europe needed “martyrs” while the Muslims were tolerant.  In this century Europe stopped commemorating its “martyrs” while the Muslim World need “martyrs” for their struggle. (To be continued)


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

September 2021
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