Rafiq al-Harrii

I’m extremely disgusted and horrified by the assassination of Rafiq al-Harrii in Beirut this morning. I just called my very good Lebanese friend Amal and she is shattered. This could herald a civil-war style conflict in Lebanon. It really is bad news.

My thoughts go with all the Lebanese people right now. May God give them strength, patience and tolerance in these very difficult times. And above all may the Almighty protect their beautiful country.

I’m so sick of this whole region. Mere words cannot convey my frustration. It is endless chaos.

By Natasha Tynes

I’m a Jordanian-American journalist, writer, and media development professional based in Washington, DC.


  1. Beirut Blast

    The scenes out of Beirut are heart-breaking. It was just over one year ago that, for the first time, I walked those same sidewalks with my new bride as we were toured about by my brother and sister-in-law. Both the wife and I just love Lebanon. It is s…

  2. Rafik Al-Hariri Killed in Bomb Attack

    In what has been described as the biggest blast since the dark days of the Lebanese civil war… Former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri has been killed in an apparent large-scale bomb attack on his motorcade in Beirut, a bodyguard…

  3. Well, this is the latest from Aljazeera:

    Aljazeera’s office in Beirut received a phone call from a person claiming to be speaking on behalf of a group called al-Nasir and Jihad Group in al-Sham countries [Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine].
    The caller said the group has “announced carrying out the fair penalty against the infidel agent Rafiq al-Hariri”, adding that it was a “martyrdom operation” whose details would be announced later.
    “We have never heard about this group before,” Aljazeera’s correspondent said. “The person is not a native-Arabic speaker. He was speaking Arabic with a foreign accent.”

  4. I have gone through the whole spectrum of emotions this morning, and my disgust with Arabs and Muslims is endless today.
    There are no justifications for what happened, no God can approve/reward anyone for such acts, this was Murder – pure and simple.
    I don’t think I’ll be coming back to the Arab world to live for a while, I can’t stand the thought of having to deal with closed minds and closed spirits right now.
    I cried for the first time in a very long time today, not just over Mr. Hariri (Peace be upon him), but for our backwardation and stagnation, I was a proud Arab once, today I find myself leaning towards George W. Bush. Among my many ramblings and shouts today was a thought that depressed me; You can’t fight a moral war against immoral people.
    My humanism/pacifism has reached its ends and I no longer have faith in the humanity of all of us. I just have anger. They have pushed and pushed and made me my worst enemy.
    Sorry I ranted, I needed to vent.

  5. Ameen,
    I do not blame you. Vent your anger and frustration.
    What another tragic day in the middle east. What a shame on the forehead of humanity. Animals kill out of hunger, but we,humans! out of hatred, jealosy, anger, selfeshness…you name it. Untill when we will get up and hear tragic news? Until when will the hatred go away, if it will ever go away.

  6. My shock, condolences and prayers are with you all, especially Ameen. There is no doubt that evil is within the hearts of all people, and people are not worthy of faith. Evil will never go away until hearts are submitted to the revealed will of their Creator.
    But don’t give up hope, Ameen. It is hearts like yours that are willing to break over evil deeds that the world needs to regroup and find another way. Anger is a right emotional response to this horror. All humans are capable of this, expect it of Arabs are as well. It must feel for you like another nail in the coffin of the worldwide reputation of Arab people. I love your Arabness.
    Perhaps Arab humility is a greater virtue than Arab pride. Not humiliation, but the inner strength that comes from acknowledging inherent human weakness, yet with confidence in the inherent strength to confront depravity with love. The way Jesus Christ did. He may have been a Jew, but also a resident of Palestine and thus my Arab hero as well as Saviour from the evil I know could explode in my heart.
    Sorry to be so overtly religious from my faith, it is an incomplete attempt to try to affirm the morality you display in your “rant and vent”. I’ll pray for you today.

  7. Come on you guys, I cant believe what you are saying. Yes this is a sad day and may lead to something more traggic, but you can never give up hope. As an Arab, I am offended by some of the comments being made, because as you make those comments, there are Arabs who are doing great things in the world. Please you guys, dont loose hope.

  8. Guys don’t be such loosers, if there is one reason why the Arab world has so many problems its probably because all the educated Arabs who should be fixing and running our countries just run away abroad to lead boring suburban lives, so instead the Arab world is left with ignorant powerthirsty fools to get us into this situation.
    The Hariri assisination is disgusting and horrible itself, and because of the reprecussions that might follow, but the issue is complicated like everything in Lebanese politics, so self-lashing is pointless and pityfull at this time.

  9. Wendy, I love your positive thoughts, but religion seems to me to be the farthest thing from the world’s salvation.
    Linda, name one.
    1) ‘brain drain’ as it’s commonly referred to was an 80s and 90s phenomenon. The new generation – my generation – is all going back, they see hope amidst the darkness, and possibilities amongst the wreckage. I’ve spoken to so many people who are going back, most shockingly Ivy League grads who received exorbitant offers from American companies and still went ‘home’.
    2) Education, it seems, is not our salvation. I have met two Jordanian students here, one doing a PhD and the other doing an MSc. Their comments were “Shoo Ya3ni” (What’s the big deal) and “Akeed Il Yahood 3emlooha,” (The Jews were responsible) respectively.
    3) Self-lashing is pointless and pitiful, but it is necessary in order to exorcise such elements from our society. If we merely took this incident as a force majeure, we wouldn’t start the healing/reform.
    Less pissed today, but still angry.

  10. Hmmm, lets see. So I take it you guys really do think there are no Arabs doing great, important or positive things in the world Ameen and Jareer?
    King Hussein
    Kazem El-Saher
    Edward Said
    James Zogby
    Mary Rose Akar
    Ferial Masry
    Jibran Khalil Jibran
    King Abdullah
    The entire staff at Al Jazeera
    Queen Noor
    Murray Abraham
    Elias James Corey
    Nizaar Qabani
    Tony Shalhoub
    You know I can go on forever. The very fact you guys that you are so sad by this tragic event shows that al-Hariri was and important person to the Arab people and did many great things.
    I am not saying that was is taking place is okay, or lets just forget about it. But to forget everything else and think that our culture and people are worthless is not something I will sit back and listen to. In no way am I saying our governments are great. If anything, that is where our problems are. It is people like the above mentioned, and people like you Ameen you can help in bringing positive social change within our culture and countries. I know you are angry and just venting, but this is how I feel about one part of my culture. As an Arab American, I embarrassed of who my president is, yet I will never denounce my American nationality and culture because I am very proud of it. With everything comes the good, the bad and the ugly. Either you sit back and act as if you wont care and give up on it all, or you do something about it.

  11. Can you list one thing great they did next to their name? Like: “brought democracy to their people”, “Invented something that makes sense- not just few sexy poems, or songs”.

  12. Jareer,
    Your comments make me so sad. Really they do. Today, there are not great leaders who have brought democracy to the Arab world. As I said earlier, many of our problems deal with our leaders. But there are normal people like you and I that are trying to make a difference, and I think they should at least be recognized or given some form of credit. The fact that you are even asking me this type of question makes me wonder. So, if we have not created democracy then we are worthless? Is that what you are saying because I hope not? But, okay, here are just a few examples of people who did make a difference or are trying to make one.
    King Hussein: in a Kingdom he was able to create some democratic reforms in the 9os by lifting the band on political parties in ’91. And of course you know that Jordanians love him and his family because they do not exploit the Jordanian people like other Kings do to their people. I don’t have to write an entire report about him.
    Kazem El-Saher: Brought awareness to the west about Iraqis and what they are dealing with on a daily basis though his media tour around the U.S. and singing “We want Peace” with Lenny Kravits which can be heard on Rockthevote.org. Not sure if you can still hear it though since that was before the war started.
    Mary Rose Akar: Served in all three legislative branches in U.S. government and now is president of the American-Arab Anti-discrimination committee, an organization that has done a great deal to help Arab Americans with their civil rights.
    Ferial Masry: The first Saudi and Muslim woman to run for political office in the U.S. Although she lost, she plans on running again. She ran for a small local political office yet made news around the entire world. Is working hard for social change in Saudi Arabia, trying to help in bringing rights for women there. You can read the story I wrote about her here for Al Jazeera: http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/201B6FEE-65C4-4B21-AAFA-6E644B504FFF.htm
    Ahmed Zewail: Co-Winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1999
    Jibran Khalil Jibran: We know what he wrote had a big impact on America since Kennedy decided to use what he said in his speech, without giving him credit.
    King Abdullah
    The entire staff at Al Jazeera: helping in creating an example of good journalism.
    Elias James Corey: Co-Winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1990.

  13. oh yeah, i forgot one more little thing that Arabs contributed to the world. its not that big od a deal really. what was it again? oh yeah, numbers! (now thats how you use the ! mark)

  14. Ameen, I agree “religion” won’t solve anything. But the person of Jesus Christ, and His transforming power in the individual (and thus cultures), can. But His kind of power rarely shows in the world arena…more in a quiet influence of heart resolve. He comes as a Bridegroom, what more beautiful picture of hope, passion, trust and love.
    I’m still with the mourners… this is a huge tragedy, all the more sad when the momentum is increasing for positive change in other pockets of the region. Hope is the most precious commodity in the Arab world today, IMHO.
    I don’t see self-criticism as self=lashing, but a healthy introspection that needs to happen at an individual level to be a catalyst for change at a national one. The Gandis and MLKs of the Arab world need a foundation on which to emerge to cut through the mire of corruption, wasta and bakshish. I do think King A and Queen R are creating that level for others to build on. There are great Arab men and women quietly doing their job and making a difference. I am doing my part in Jordan and am “proud” with humility to be able to facilitate change at a heart level in the lives of women which will then impact the next generation. If you like building, Jordan is the place to be…and I don’t mean cement buildings.
    For TOO long (sorry for shouting, Linda!)blame has been placed on the Jews and the West or the rich, or anyone; which then keeps real inner complusion to change from happening. But it is happening, and I am excited to see it. American suburbia IS boring compared to urban Amman!
    My prayer is that this tragedy will be a catalyst for real change in Lebanon, that this man’s death will be used in a way more powerful than his life could to make it happen.

  15. Jareer, Linda has won the debate, I think. We have some great people, but if you read the depressing Arab Human Rights Development Report (2002 or 2003), you will see that we are nowhere near our true potential, so in that regard Jareer, you win.
    BTW – If anyone wants the AHDR, don’t pay 20 bucks at the UN website, I have a cracked PDF version, I am not condoning piracy, merely promoting knowledge, so I will not send you the latest episode of 24 or Alias although I have them. 🙂
    Wendy, I am not a very religious person (understatement), but I do respect everyone’s right to express their own opinion. The problem that occurs with some people is that they cannot stand the idea of pluralism and that is scary. Thanks for the great service you are doing my country, we need more people like us (and by us, I mean humanists) around the world.

  16. Ameen, thanks i guess. but i am not in this to win a debate. i am just expressing my opinion. i have read the entire report you are talking about. its sad. and like i have said before, we do not have the greatest leaders. this is why it is up to people like us to contribute and try to make a difference.

  17. Linda:
    “oh yeah, i forgot one more little thing that Arabs contributed to the world. its not that big od a deal really. what was it again? oh yeah, numbers!”
    ‘Arabic numerals’ are just a set of symbols that represent numbers and were borrowed from Indians (and are correctly called arqam hindiyyah in Arabic). People have been using numbers from pre-historic times.
    “King Hussein: in a Kingdom he was able to create some democratic reforms in the 9os by lifting the band on political parties in ’91”
    Yeah, but who put the ban in place to begin with? I don’t know what’s really great about a despotic leader that ruled with an iron fist and lost a big chunk of his country in unnecessary wars.

  18. Arash,
    The iron fist that you are talking about was the only way left to handle the crisis that engulfed the region back then. Without the “iron fist” I doubt that Jordan would have survived the difficult situation back then and mainly during the 1970’s period.

  19. Arash,
    You should be impressed by these great contributions, not mock them.
    Can you show your liscence as a certified “referee” for the debate?
    By the way, I agree with you that religion does not save people, it is simply because religion is a set of “do’s and dont’s – ritual from here and ritual from there, but the life, peace and love that our Creator brings to those who believe and receive Him in their hearts is what makes the change in this world. 75% of the universe is water, but that water does not wash even one face or the hands of a person if he/ she does not chose to.
    I like your sincerity toward whom you think you belong to. But, you did not live enough, if ever in that part of the world to “experience” the reality. I am not being either pessimistic, nor optimistic, but some of those whom you mentioned are great because they lived out of their countries. The others are just celebrities except the ones you mentioned great like you and me and those who struggle on a daily basis to live and try to make a difference.
    You should call loosers those who carry out evil things like the assassins, and those who have similar agendas, not those who are disgusted and fed up with these kinds of brutal acts.

  20. Maybe Natasha. But, things weren’t bound to happen that way. Hussein had already ruled the country for almost 20 years then. I’d say by that time he had done enough to be considered responsible for the state of affairs.

  21. Linda,
    I’ve finally found a couple of minutes to log on to Natasha’s blog. With all due respected I am so sick of you decreeing to us here in the Middle East that we should be ‘positive’ and that you are ‘offended’ by some of the comments. Have you even even lived here??? Do you know anything about this region other than some pop Arab singers and hammus?? Have you even left your safe little secure world? Don’t you dare tell us you’re offended-you are not watching your world possibly go up in flames.
    To the rest of the readers, sorry for venting.

  22. Jareer, you are quite the contrarian, and so it is only fitting that we have a moderator (c’est moi).
    Arash, King Hussein practiced RealPolitik (in lieu of Nasser’s pan arabism), he merely reacted to regional forces around him in a way that enabled Jordan to survive and not be run over by the Palestinian Fighters or the Syrian Army. So the situation wasn’t entirely his own making.
    Linda, I wasn’t aware of your background, but what Amal is saying is true, you can’t comprehend the true gravity of our dire circumstances until you experience living in Arab world. I am a generally positive person, but you can’t be happy because you’re skating when you feel the ice beneath you breaking. (I feel that should be a lyric somewhere).

  23. Amal,
    Your comment is so rude. Plain and simple. Maybe you should start from the beginning of the comments and how this discussion started, okay. So let’s take a look.
    Ameen talked about how he is upset and frustrated with the Arab world. I am too. I mention this on my own blogg, thank you very much. Natasha said “proud Arab” is an oxy moron. The discussion started putting down Arabs in general, and I am sorry, but if someone started saying the same things about Blacks, or Hispanics, I would still be offended. To generalize an entire race as if they were worthless and never did anything of importance is not only pathetic, but downright scary and sad.
    I am the first person to stand up and condemn many of the Arab leaders in the Middle East and how things there need to change soon, for the better of the future. I am in no way supporting them just because I say, hey you guys have some faith, there are still good Arabs.
    Now Amal, I have never even stepped foot in the Middle East for the simple reason that I am still 21 and have never had the time to go there, because I have constantly been in school. This semester, when I graduate and earn my Masters degree, I will be coming out to Jordan for the summer. Now, does this mean I am not allowed to say, hey, have hope you guys? I am sorry if my comments make you sick, but see, where I was born and raised, am used to something called freedom of speech. So I will say your comments offend me and will always say have hope, because I have a positive out look on life.
    And if you don’t like where you are living Amal, then move. No one is forcing you to stay where you are. I did not want to get personal, but hey, you are the one who got personal first.
    As for my knowledge of the Middle East, I have learned a great deal and still want to learn more because my parents raised me in a way of getting to know my culture and the history of my culture. Is there anything wrong with being a proud Arab American? I don’t think so.
    Then you state: “Have you even left your safe little secure world? Don’t you dare tell us you’re offended-you are not watching your world possibly go up in flames.”
    First of all, you have the right to tell me what not to do. But, like I said, I am used to freedom of speech so I don’t think your command will work.
    Then you ask if I have ever left my “safe little secure world”. Hmmm, let’s just see how safe it is. I live in the San Fernando Valley. My parents are very protective so I really don’t go any where. I don’t blame them because look at what we deal with:
    Since the start of 2005 to Feb. 12, there have been 59 homicides, 101 rapes, 1528 robberies, 2026 Aggravated Assaults, 657 shots fired, 251 shooting victims, and out of the 101 rapes that occurred, only 24 suspects have been arrested.
    Happy New Year!
    Okay my point is Amal I will always have hope and tell people to be strong, no matter what their situation is, because that is what I am used to. That is the philosophy I was raised on. I will never stop giving my opinion.
    If my opinion sickens you, when you see the comment is by me, just don’t read it. No one is forcing you to.
    But I still do hope the best for you and hope that you can live long to see the Middle East become a peaceful place.

  24. Take it easy ladies.
    Now that the “Hammus” was attacked and mocked of, I feel offended. My only specialty, and almost my only remaining reason for pride . No one should undermine the Hummos, and its influence on others. First, it is not “Hammus”; it is “Hummos”. Although Americans might call it as such. I repeatedly make a dish of Hummos whenever there is a potluck. I am humbled to say that a lot of praises and popularity I gain from that dish. With my unique, ISO9000 certified recipe, the whole middle east is praised and thought of as a must-visit region. See, we can change the whole perception about the region by the Arabic cusine and food we proudly make. Just one last advice, call it “Mediterranean food”. By the way, this is not my profession, I am just an amateur. The thing that still amazes me though is that I was not successful yet to make a Hummos that has a taste matching 100% the one I am used to in Jordan. There is a mysterious flavour in that Hummos ( the cheated-maghshoosh- version).

  25. I, too, often wondered why the hummos they make in America tastes and looks nothing like the kind they make in the Middle East. Someone once told me that they use Clorox bleach in the Middle East to give hummos the texture, taste and color it has.

  26. Are you guys talking about the hummous they sell like at Costco or as well the kind they make in middle eastern restaraunts out here? the one from costco is not good at all;)

  27. Yes Linda.
    But the one I make is different. Ask those who tasted it (has no bleach in it- but they are all dead now). It is the ground garbanzo beans with taheeni and lemon and olive oil. I will not tell the rest of recipe. It is proprietary.

  28. “safe little secure world”. Hmmm, let’s just see how safe it is. I live in the San Fernando Valley. My parents are very protective so I really don’t go any where. I don’t blame them because look at what we deal with…”
    C’mon. The San Fernando Valley is a beautiful little bubble compared to most of the world. Memories of Nairobi are coming into my head. That place has crime!
    I live in LA. I have lived in the Middle East. Never been to a bar in LA and had the person next to me say “Gee, I wonder how the inside looks, I haven’t been here since it blew up”.
    And that is just security, doesn’t even touch on economics. If you think the Valley is a bad place, you really haven’t been much of anywhere.
    This is a fascinating conversation to follow. I won’t comment on the substance of most of these posts because it really isn’t my place, but it has been interesting.

  29. Amir
    If you haven’t eaten Hummos before, it is a real tragedy. But if you had, then this post is your place.

  30. Amir, please follow these conversations closely. I never compared where I live to the middle east, and i can never. please understand that, because i hate to repeat my self.
    i dont live in a bubble. there are still terrible things happening in my city, yet i still have a positive outlook on life. That is the whole point of what i am trying to say.
    i hope you can read all the comments and tell me what you understood out of them. all i know is i was telling everyone life goes on and you hope for the best. but if you guys just want to complain, and sit and do nothing, then fine, do that. no one is forcing you to do anything.

  31. Linda,
    I didn’t mean to come down on you too hard. But the Valley is a nice place. I go there a lot. I certainly am in no position to criticize people for commenting on the Middle East while living in the US, and I often get criticized by people in the ME during discussions since I have lived there only briefly, and unlike many of the people I wind up discussing things with, I have never served in the military over there.
    I think the above conversation above must be taken in the context that it is an internal conversation, and therefore with a grain of salt. Two Arabs complaining about Arabs is very different from two guys from Kansas complaining about them. It is more of a release in this instance. Plus this is all after what was a pretty traumatic event.
    I think you made some good points that people should stay positive and keep trying, but I think one would have to be pretty naive to think that the Arab world by most conventional measures is lagging way behind much of the rest of the world. Don’t get me wrong, individually, many Arabs are nice, smart, and personable, but collectively, the region (excluding Israel obviously) is a huge underperformer.
    Some reasons have been put forth – people leaving and getting educated and not returning for example. That is a good point, and one that causes a bad cycle as you need a good place to attract people back. Much of the world has that problem.
    Personally, I currently subscribe to thoughts about this similar to those put forth in Victor Hanson’s “Carnage and Culture”. That basically most non-western cultures have certain characteristics which make them less adept at certain aspects of progress. Hanson focuses on warfare, as he is a military historian, but much of it is tied to economics, as weak economic systems don’t encourage people to innovate or mass-produce and often have poor educational systems as well. I think the region has been slow to come off of a very poor economic system inherited from the Ottomans – one where banking was very weak, so there was not much incentive for major innovation or capital or ability to mass produce things. In addition, I think that scientific and historical study in much of the region is still not completely objective and divorced from religious/political philosophies. There appears to be a pack mentality in much of political discourse and the region is for some reason often very suspicious and wary of adopting change, including new technology (like bicycles in Saudi Arabia). Combine that with the fact that much of the region has been able to coast through these bad traits by exploiting the rest of the world’s need for oil, and not much change has occurred until very recently. The habit of blaming Israel for bad thing puzzled me a lot. The US I can understand, but I would think it would be embarassing to blame so much of one’s problems on a tiny nation of 5 million people with no national resources.
    Oh, and I have had Hummus. Many different kinds, with many different people.

  32. Amir,
    your arguement is well thought out, and to tell you the truth, I agree with 90 percent of it. I have stated many many times that the leaders of the Arab world are horrible people, exploiting their citizens, and only care about themself. When I used to have a column for my college paper a few semesters ago, this was my basic arguement about the politics of the Middle East, from an Arab American’s perspective.
    So, knowing this, do we just complain, stereotype the Arab people and say they are worthless? Well, we can do that if we do not care for change, or if deep down inside we just dont like Arabs. But, I am one and I am a human being and if there is something wrong with anything, you work hard to fix it. Pracitcally every nation has had its ups and downs throughout life. As time moves on, things change for the better, or for the worse.
    Imagine if women in the early 1900s just complained about America and their fellow Americans because they did not have the right to vote? If all they did was complain, then I probably would not have the same freeodms as my brother has today. Imagine if Blacks in America just complained and didnt do anything when it came to their rights? They would probably stil be slaves in this country. The women of America and the Blacks of America fought for their freedoms. When it got hard, and their lives were threatened, they didnt sit back and just complain. They kept on working hard for what they deserved.
    The only way the Middle East will modernize and see peace and prosperity thoughtout, is if the people of this region make their voices heard and do something about it. If all Arabs do is complain and put down their own race, and not do anything, then i guess they will see their home go up in flames.

  33. Linda darling, all you told us to do was be positive. You suggested no course of action. So I ask you, what if women in the early 1900s had said “Just be positive.” Would they have gotten anywhere? No. They congregated (spelling) and collectively said “This sucks” and then moved from there. Exactly what we are trying to do. If a man (you in this little analogy) walked in and said “Guys, just be positive!” They would have mocked him. Even if he was gay.
    And the 818 ain’t all that bad. Tucson was named the number one city for violent crime. I still go out. The analogy to crime is moot.
    Your parents don’t let you go out because you have crime, what would they do if there was a chance a trip to Pasadena included an explosion? Would they remain positive?

  34. Ameen,
    First off, do not call me darling. You are using it in a condescending way, and as a feminist, (yeah I am a feminist) it grosses me out.
    Second, part of creating social change is recognizing the bad from the good, and knowing that a better day will come, thus, this is why I said stay positive or don’t give up hope. When you stated this, “I don’t think I’ll be coming back to the Arab world to live for a while, I can’t stand the thought of having to deal with closed minds and closed spirits right now,” it made me sad, because it is people like you who can actually make a difference there. Okay, now that I got that point out of the way…
    When I mentioned some of the bad things happening where I live, I was in no way trying to compare that to those who are dealing with occupation and war. And the last I remembered, Qatar was not going through that (that is a hint for someone). I was just trying to prove to someone that I do not live in a little safe world. I have to watch out where ever I go, because you never know. Two of my friends were attacked and rapped close to my campus which is in the heart of the valley. I was freaked out about that. But I don’t hide and complain. I did something about that. I took the Rape Aggression Defense class for women, then I started to promote the program on campus by various marketing campaigns through my public relations internship, that increased the amount of women taking the class.
    Again, in no way am I comparing this to anything that goes on there in the Middle East, but someone decided to get personal with me, so I gave them personal.
    I have enjoyed this discussion very much, and at the end of it all, I think we all want the same thing: peace and prosperity for all in the Middle East.

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