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Lebanon Isn't Backwards

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by , 26th August 2012 at 07:53 PM (231 Views)
I am getting tired of people's misconceptions about my birth country of Lebanon. They really bother me. People think it's a backward country where people act like it's still the Middle Ages. I can't take their complaints.

Let me clear up some myths:

First off, most Lebanese people dress normally. It's pretty much the norm among men to wear Western clothing. Some of the Muslim women wear headscarves, although it's less frequent than in other Arab countries. My maternal grandmother and her sister wear headscarves, but most of my other female relatives don't.

Still, Lebanon isn't as liberal as America/England/Australia fashion-wise. My family is somewhat liberal with fashion, but they don't show as much skin as Australians - you'd notice it mostly with the women. My mother and grandmothers all wear pants, but they never wear shorts. My grandmothers don't even wear short sleeves. My dad wears shorts sometimes, but not as much as my brother and I do. My grandpa didn't wear them until he moved to Australia, and even now he only wears them when it's really hot. And none of the women in my family wear two-pieces in public.

Lebanon is not a desert. It is somewhat arid, but it is not a desert. The country has a sizable mountain range that extends into Syria. These mountains are full of trees, and it snows at the highest parts. People can farm there and do a lot of agriculture. There aren't really any Bedouins. Actually, Bedouins are only a small part of the Arab population.

Lebanese people are quite varied. We have plenty of different religious affiliations. We can't just be divided into Christian and Muslim - there's Maronite, Eastern Orthodox, Druze, Shia Muslim (which I am), and Sunni Muslim. And we aren't that different. A lot of Lebanese Christians are no more liberal than their Muslim counterparts. Some are even viciously anti-Israel. The civil war that took place in Lebanon was quite complicated with this. But we usually get along - sometimes interfaith marriages take place. Lebanese people also look different from each other - we have a variety of hair and eye colors, as well as different skin tones. You can even find blond, blue-eyed people in Lebanon (one Lebanese family who attends the mosque I go to is entirely blond), as well as in some other Arab countries. People also have a variety of hairstyles and clothing styles.

People should stop thinking that Arabs are all prudes with Victorian-era morals. Actually, we're a lot more open than we used to be. People can now date before they marry, and a lot of people arrange their own marriages. My parents got to pick their spouses. My grandparents had arranged marriages, though. But arranged marriages, when practiced properly, aren't like "marry this person or die!" like the media portrays it. I realise that extra-marital sex is taboo, but it is in a lot of non-Muslim countries - even some that are European (like Italy, which is famous for being quite conservative). And most Lebanese men (actually, most Arab men as a whole) have only one wife. Polygamy is quite outdated there. Still, the fact that Lebanese are not too tolerant of homosexuality might turn people off to the country. Then again, most people won't ask you about your sexuality. Women are treated pretty well in Lebanon. They work outside the home, go to college, and take an active part in daily life. Sadly, they are underrepresented in politics.

Lebanon has modern technology too. We have Western movies, TV, and games. Sure some of it can be expensive to many people, but people enjoy it. There is some censorship but it isn't nearly as bad as Iran, Saudi Arabia, or even Malaysia or Pakistan.

Hezbollah isn't as popular there as the media wants you to believe. A lot of us don't like those terrorists, realising that it's people like them who make our country look bad. They're no different than al-Qaeda or Hamas.

A lot of these myths come from people who hate Lebanese immigrants. I can't even count how many times I've heard vicious anti-Lebanese comments, thinking our home country is a shithole that breeds criminals (boy do criminals of Lebanese descent get a lot of coverage in Australia - especially ones that are Muslim). If they actually got to know the people, they would be pleasantly surprised.
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