For the second year in row, the LGBT community rose in a roar following the an aggravated act of hatred against it. Within the span of one night, the mayor of dekwene, Mr.Antoine Chakhtoura, committed eleven violations by closing down the night club “Ghost” and arresting and torturing a group of the clientele. As a response, a group of NGOs including ALEF, Legal Agenda and Helem along with a number of activists and supporters moved on to call for the legal and administrative agencies to hold the mayor accountable for these violations. The media heavily supported their work and condemned the actions of the mayor and the violations of human rights that occurred, raising the visibility of the call and mobilizing the public opinion.
On Tuesday 30 April 2013, the talk show “Enta Horr” included a segment on the Dekwene incident. Its presenter, Joe Maalouf, hosted the owner of the night club “Ghost”, Mr.Rabih Dagher, and the vice president of ALEF, Dr.Elie Abou Aoun. In this segment, Maalouf attacked the actions of the mayor and defended the detainees and the victims of these violations. The surprising move by Maalouf sended another roar of applause and support for him throughout the LGBT community noted in the online posts congratulating him on his “bold” support for human rights and our community.
I write this post on this particular issue. I personally find it appalling that a person who was responsible for the arrest and torture of 36 individuals for being gay. In the incident of the Cinema plaza, the individuals were arrested for being gay and engaging in consensual homosexual behavior. Maalouf went on his show and, similar to the statements of Chakhtoura, fueled the public with fear using homophobic statements and allegations of prostitution and drug use. The civil society condemned his actions of hatred along with other incidences where he invaded the privacy of various individuals notable the survivors of child molestation at school in Qornat Shahwan.
So back to the Dekwene incident; prior to the airing of the show, Helem refused to take part of the segment in-line with its policy to boycott the homophobic show and its presenter.
I find it important to look at this “change in heart” within the whole context of the Maalouf’s own past violations of human dignity and rights. His disrespect to the autonomy and rights of individuals on the expense of raising the rating views of his show should not be forgotten or put aside. The “support” of his must not overshadow his past violations (and probably his future ones).
As a gay person, I refuse to let him take advantage of our struggle to pink wash his image. Our struggle cannot be separated from the overall struggle for civil equality and respect for human rights. Maalouf should not be hailed as the bold “hero” that he is not. The only good thing that he can do is to apologize for the people that he has hurt a year ago as well as all the others later on and before that. Only then, can we say that he is bold enough to address the wrongs that he himself did before he plays the role of the “social reformer” who calls upon the wrongs of others.
We need to be careful who our true allies are. Our allies share our struggle and our principles of respect to the autonomy of every citizen in Lebanon. We cannot sell or compromise these principles for anything or anyone. A year ago, we were able to overturn a great injustice by outlawing the practice of coerced examinations in detention centers. We did it ourselves by resolving to the civil law of the country that everyone has to abide to. We will do it this year through honest and just advocacy. We do not need shady and inhumane allies to “support” us. We are just and we are right, and right rules all. This is not an idealist dream. In the face of injustice, righteousness always wins and discrimination succumbs and fails.
On another note, I also find it such a pity that I have to actually write a post about Maalouf and his show.