Thursday, January 17, 2008

About that call for a Fairuz boycott

More and more, the story that Fairuz should be boycotted to play Damascus is picking up wind. See here or here, for example. Personally, I don't agree and think she should play as argued in my previous post. But for the sake of argument, let's follow through with the logic of those who think a boycott is a Good Thing ©.

Who and what else should be boycotted, too? After all, we don't want to single out only Fairuz, now would we?

So let's be systematic about it and boycott all cultural exchanges between Lebanon and Syria. NO MORE PERFORMANCES of Lebanese artists before Syrian audience. Even our sub-standard artists they can't have.

Obviously, we have to be thorough about this so we'd like to check ID cards at the entrance of any and all cultural event in Lebanon as well, just to filter out those pesky Syrians who thought they could circumvent our boycott by simply coming to the artists instead of the artists coming to them.

It goes without saying that this entrance validation would apply on a global scale. Imagine that a Lebanese artist would play Dubai. The moment this would be published, expect a FLOOD OF SYRIANS heading towards Dubai, thinking they're smarter than we...eh...smarter than us...ah...well, you know what we mean.

It might take some convincing so best to start IMMEDIATELY because TIME IS RUNNING OUT!! Who knows how many Syrians have been seeing Lebanese artists, even as we speak!

Actually, come to think about it, why limit ourselves to a cultural boycott only? I mean, a bunch of singers, who really cares, right? Let's hit them where it hurts: an economic boycott, let's close the borders and CONFISCATE all Syrian property in Lebanon. Better yet, BURN THEM UP, just to be on the safe side that they're really out of business.

Only downside is that from then on, the Lebanese would have to do the constructing of our apartment buildings and the cleaning of our streets. But hey, that's a SMALL PRICE for taking the high road!

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dear Sir,

I am a faithful reader of your blog. It does not bother me that there are few comments on your posts, it still is a popular blog. Some comments are in dutch, that I cannot read (yet), but this is not important. I won't comment on dutch news, anyway. Not for now at least.
In your former post about Fairuz, you commented with relative length on the word "janissaries", which I could not find in the arabic text. Did Akram Shhayyib change his wording? Or did you use a bad translation? I cannot tell.
While I don't mind Fairuz singing for the syrian people whom I hold in high esteem, I think your arguments against the critics are not strong enough. I mean, most of us do actually single out Fairuz. She is a national symbol. And the more intelligent critics of her singing in Damascus were referring to the fact that freedom of expression in Syria is under siege, the intellectuals there facing or enduring the threat of prison. It is not about the boycott of Syria, it is more the boycott of an event (that of proclaiming Damascus the city of arabic culture for the year 2008).
I don't know where you live in Lebanon, but where I come from, many lebanese won't mind cleaning houses and working in the fields. The only problem is that they live in Lebanon, where life does cost. They have dreams for their children in a country where education costs. They cannot compete with the low wages of foreign workers. Nor can the entrepreneurs afford to pay them what they would need. It is an integral economic problem that cannot be reduced to smart remarks.
Excuse the length of my comment and my bad English, and have a nice day.

Riemer Brouwer said...

@Anonymous,
Thank you for reading my blog and for your thoughtful comments.

The quote of janissaries is from the Lebanese newspaper l'Orient-Le Jour. I didn't find it in the English news sources.

The problem I have with singling out Fairuz and Syria, is that it is quite selective.

Personally, I fully agree with anyone complaining about the lack of freedom in Syria. Unfortunately, Syria is no exception. So why boycott Syria and not boycott other Arab countries as well?

As for selecting Fairuz as a target, I can understand it to a certain extent because she refused to play in Lebanon during the Civil War. This has given her a moral responsibility in many people's eyes.

Still, if you start holding artists accountable for politics, then at least be consistent. Why not also boycott others singers who sing about freedom? Julia Boutros comes to mind, but I doubt anyone would complain if she were to perform in Syria.

Bottom line for me is that artists should not be linked to politics. Why blame the Syrian public, e.g., by withholding them Fairouz or anyone else for that matter?

Let people decide for themselves if they want to give or attend a show.
The last thing we need is more censorship in the Arab world.

Anonymous said...

i generally enjoy this blog, but i found this to be the most poorly thought out, insulting post i have read in ages. you have completely missed the point here -- so your rebuttal only exposes your own ignorance and lack of understanding.

as anonymous mentioned, the issue here is that it's fairuz. and this is a syrian government sponsored concert, not a private one. and she is essentially their headliner.

if you don't see why a LOT of people in lebanon would have a massive problem with that, i guess you don't really get this place after all.

Anonymous said...

Dear Riemer,

I am quite new to your blog but still would like to add a comment to what I think is an unthoughtful post on your part.

First of all, there are many good arguments in favor of Fairouz performing "Sah Al Nom" in Damascus (and u have in a previous post stated some of them) and there are many good arguments against it.

However, and irrespective of where one stands on this question, your implicit portrayal (more of a caricature) of critics as paranoid (Syrians following Lebanese artists all over the world), rascist (we are smarter) and dumb (let's burn down all Syrian-owned apartments in Lebanon) anti-Syrians can not be accepted and as a resident of Lebanon you should know better than that.

This is not about a general boycott of all things Syrian. It's the context and symbolism of Fairouz's planned performance that has provoked the comments we are discussing.


Fairouz is a national symbol of Lebanon, an artist who managed to stay above the divisions that tore Lebanon apart in the 1970ies and 1980ies. Fairouz is maybe the only living Lebanese who is more than a national symbol of Lebanon. Allow me to go as far as stating that she has in a unique way contributed to what Lebanese identity actually means today.

Her performing in Damascus during the current bloody phase of Lebanese transition from a Syrian-occupied state to a hopefully independent, sovereign and free state therefore carries a message that other artists' performances at the same event in Damascus simply do not, at least not to the same extent.

Fairouz as a symbol of and contributor to Lebanese identity performing at an official festival in the capital of a state that does not recognize Lebanese identity sounds ironic at first. At a closer look, her choice of performance might actually be interpreted as an artistic contribution to the Damascus spring that we in the March 14th camp have been longing for.

a visitor said...

Hi Riemer,
I guess as you can see from the other comments, its not the idea of a performer perfroming in Syria, it's the idea of Fairuz performing in that specific event and hence seemingly endorsing a side. Things are too sensetive right now for someone of her level of importance in Lebanon to do something like this.

I wish she wouldn't, I'd rather she remained a national symbol for all, above all the dirty politics.

Blacksmith Jade said...

Hey Riemer,

My personal take on this is that it isn't about punishing regular Syrians but about Fairouz reinforcing the notion that everything is hunky-dory and that it is not the autocratic Syrian regime that is going against the moral norm, but the Lebanese people's struggle against that regime.

Umm Kais said...

Hi Riemer,

You mentioned Julia Boutros. I haven't boycotted her per se, but I definitely lost a taste for her music after that horrific video that accompanied her singing a Hassan Nasrallah speech. She can go sing in Damascus all she likes after that fiasco. It's of my opinion that Fairuz should not (for a Syrian gov't sponsored event)--but I'm not Lebanese so in the end, my opinion doesn't count for much, does it?

JoseyWales said...

Opinions will differ,

However Fairuz is NOT just any artist, just like the patriarch is NOT just any Lebanese.

And this concert, this year, at this time is NOT just any convert.

Like the Olympics to the Chicoms or the Nazis, this event will be used to claim political and ideological points.

Samer Darwiche said...

Gents,

First allow me to thank Riemer for keeping the Lebanese expatriate community updated about his views from Lebanon. I was saddened by the anonymous comment calling Riemer an ignorant. If anybody expresses an opinion different from ours we call them ignorant? What happened to our sense of respect of others?

Having no nationalistic nor religious fiber (Being a fanatic atheist born to Shiite parents) I have trouble understanding why you guys are complaining about Fairuz's choice. Why should Fairuz not be free to decide for herself what she wants to do?

I can only make one suggestion to Fairuz to calm all the hysteria about her choices and confuse you guys more. Fairuz please perform a concert in Tel Aviv before your trip to Syria!

Shouldn't we be honoured that Syrians or even Israelis want to listen Fairuz?

In any case I enjoy music from all around the world, including that of Israel and Syria. Why shouldn’t Syrians and Israelis be allowed to do the same?

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EV said...

The issue is quite simple and does not need extensive psychoanalysis:

1- syria is doing great deal of harm to Lebanon and is driving us through the mud.

2- The only way we can reciprocate the feeling to syria, is by not sharing our national symbol of pride.

3- Anyway, Fairuz will lip sing. Her voice is shot

Sami Sabbagh said...

Fayrouz performing in Damascus is akin a French artist performing in Nazi Germany during World War II. This has nothing to do about politics. It has everything to do about decency. I hope she no longer sings “I love you Lebanon, unless she has no shame. She has lost the heart and soul of Lebanon forever. The damage is irreversible.

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