Owning a weapon is like owning a Quran

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Al-Akhbar Management

“Owning a weapon is like owning a Quran,” is a glorious quote on a huge fan-made billboard on the sidewalk of one of Beirut’s Muslim neighborhoods. Behind it was a picture of a religious leader, fundamentally the owner of the quoted wisdom. Children played in front of it with a colorful, muddy ball throwing it left and right unknowingly emulating the game their quoted leader and his colleagues play with their futures.

It was an area I wasn’t familiar with: something that would make me an instant target for casual, inspective and violent gazes that are considered perfectly legitimate for the neighborhood aboriginals. I wasn’t a brother, a fellow national, a comrade in humanity, nothing. I was an alien in my own city, an imposter being showed the way out. I drove out through the children, their parents and friends of their parents, all of which were comfortable that I was of no direct threat anymore.

It’s generally tough for any child to grown up in Lebanon, for many reasonable threats. I wasn’t one of them. Actually, I was substantially afraid for these kids’ well being from their parents and friends of their parents as they faded into my rear-view mirror at that particular time under that particular billboard that fed them destructive nonsense. I come from the exact opposite end of the line. My parents raised me according to the lie that people are essentially good. There were no posters advocating goodness on the street to remind me of their philosophy, but nevertheless I do still struggle with that concept of what to expect from society until now. People just aren’t predominantly good. Point being, as parents mold their children’s future perceptions of the world, it’s a tough ride for these kids to break the mold and rewire.

We can’t just say things that either sound correct, nice, ideal or intentionally influential because it is going to sink in. The kids I drove by are being raised that violence is not only okay, but also a religious duty. One of these kids’ fathers is most likely the man that made the sidewalk billboard. I imagine that kid has one or two pictures posing next to this massacre of a billboard in public displays within their household. If he had brothers and sisters, they would definitely have the same pose. Other children in the neighborhood will have the opportunity to pose next to this billboard to satisfy their parents’ quest for destructive pride and joy. Many more pictures shot in this street will have this quote in their backgrounds unintentionally. Some people will not even notice it’s there.

But it is. It is very there. Not just in that neighborhood, but this idolatry of destructive ideas, false prophets and makeshift leaders is what this country feeds on. We are invited to subscribe into our own ends by reinforcing the glory of anger and hate. Does that cleric really believe that weapons are divine tools of worship? On what grounds? Does he know the weight of his own words? Did he anticipate their immortalization in a residential neighborhood? If so, then he’s a murderer. If not, then he is not responsible enough to lead.

What is this decadence of a world we live in where a fellow citizen is more of a threat than a war preacher? What kind of country are we building? Everyone seems to retract to the illusion that we have gotten over our violent past, but we have not. More than two decades after our civil war has ended, I was not only scared among strangers of my own kind, but I saw in these children the blind warriors of tomorrow.

Soon, we will murder our brothers in battles lead by vicious businessmen in different costumes. Owning a weapon is much easier than owning a Quran. You don’t need to read a weapon or understand it. You will not have the opportunity to negate and debate it. A weapon will never be a stepping-stone to a higher state of being. A book is almost always that. Unlike a book, you will never be able to use a weapon. You can only abuse it, as simply as I am abusing the reinstatement of the obvious. I do, though, with a noble intention, because in one or more streets in Beirut, the obvious doesn’t seem that obvious.

Raafat Majzoub is an architect, author and artist living in Beirut

Comments

A very nice reflection on the sad reality of this stupid nation.

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