Monday, July 26, 2021

On the Nawwar Al-Sahili case: the Lebanons of to have and have not.

Artwork by Tarek Chemaly

So marriage season is in full swing. A lovely bride got married in a very lavish wedding. So far so good.

Except the bride in question is the daughter of ex-MP Nawwar Al-Sahili who was representing the Hizbullah party, and who is known to abide by their strict interpretation of conservative social norms (including in his own companies women having to be veiled, absence of alcohol, lack of music....). In Islamic tradition the expenses of the wedding fall on the groom's family. In this case the groom was the grandson of Abdallah El Yafi a former prime minister of Lebanon, and he happens to be the brother of Sarah El Yafi who set the social media ablaze considering she is an activist and academic in her incredibly sharp and eloquent analysis of the situation in Lebanon on Western media.

Now the whole country went berserk about the wedding. To begin with, on the defending camp, there are those who say that the bride in question is his daughter from his ex who lives in London, and that she was brought up under very liberal values which show in her wedding dress which was a strapless affair and bits of video where is asking for "Tequila for Joe (Ashkar - the singer who entertained the wedding)". Plus, the idea that it was the groom's family who paid for the - truly luxurious - party, and whereby the bride's family is simply considered "guests" (as per the affirmation of ex-MP Sahili himself in a text exchange which was posted online). Granted, the father of the bride was wearing a bowtie which is frowned upon in the conservative interpretation of social clothing in the Hizbollah social community.

Now, on the attacking camp, there are those who say he should not have paid for such a very elaborate wedding (he did not), and that there is a clear double standard whereby he restricts alcohol, imposes veils and conservative dressing in his companies only to have his daughter openly consume champagne, ask for tequila, and otherwise be shown in a wedding dress which is Islamically incompatible. All this at a time when Lebanese people are dying from hunger (literally) and are being subjected to electricity and fuel cuts all while no longer affording basic items.

Interestingly, nowhere online did I find anyone objecting to the bride being Shiite and the groom being Sunnite, which I thought people would be upset about as is the usual norm in Lebanon, but I digress.

Well, truth be told, I do not mind the wedding, and I am in the mind of "if you've got it, flaunt it" - meaning these people (again, here I speak of the groom's family) seem to have money by the bucket load (though I honestly never thought Sarah El Yafi with all her supposedly "anti-establishment" inclinations comes from such a moneyed background) so why not celebrate a family wedding as they wish it. Al-Sahili apologized for the wedding actually and left the decision about his fate in the hands of the party. Sure, truth be told, socially, it is a bit of a faux pas when it comes to the sensitivity of the people drowning in poverty.

But then again, this is Lebanon: A land where the have and have nots cohabitate so closely that anything is bound to overlap.