- Life Style
A group of irate residents from the Lebanese village of Kafr Maya murdered and lynched Mohamed Mosallam, an Egyptian man suspected of killing four Lebanese citizens. Both crimes produced angry reactions in Egypt and Lebanon and were fiercely condemned by Lebanese newspapers.
Lebanese dailies al-Akhbar, Safeer and al-Nahar all described the lynching as "barbaric" and a grave violation of the social contract establishing the state. Some of the criticisms in these newspapers were even harsher than those that appeared in the Egyptian press.
The lynching of the Egyptian was an indisputably barbaric crime, even though Lebanon has the lowest level of illiteracy in the Arab world. Furthermore, half of Lebanon's population consists of emigrants, and its citizens enjoy a standard of living relatively higher than that of their Egyptian counterparts.
Moreover, Lebanon is an open country, in which one seldom feels like a stranger, while its people are naturally intelligent and savvy, besides being clever traders. But it was Lebanese citizens that committed the heinous crime--which wasn't any different from crimes committed in Egyptian villages where poverty and illiteracy are rampant.
But even the revenge killings and terrorist crimes committed in these poor, illiterate Egyptian villages aren't as brutal as the one that just took place in Lebanon.
Crimes of retaliation, frequent in the Arab world, serve to undermine state legitimacy and the principles of the State of Law--which are indeed principles not yet well-established in Lebanon or in other Arab states. Even the legitimacy of the modern Egyptian state, established more than two centuries ago, has decayed considerably over time.
Therefore, we shouldn't generalize and hold all Lebanese responsible for the crime. Likewise, the entire Egyptian population cannot be criminalized if Mohamed Mosallam is proven to have been the killer of the four Lebanese victims.
While these are logical premises for analysis, though, they were ignored by even the most prominent writers. Alaa el-Ghatrifi, for one, wrote in Al-Masry Al-Youm last Monday that Lebanese citizens--whatever their political orientations--view Egypt with suspicion due to the latter's position on Israel/Palestine.
But el-Ghatrifi's analysis lacks accuracy, since the Lebanese, just like Egyptians, are divided on just how the Arab-Israeli conflict should be addressed. I hope to see a day come when we analyze phenomena and events as such.
An incident like this one should not be seen as an opportunity to judge entire nations and religions. We need to avoid forming general ethical judgments. We have to reject the stereotyping of Egyptians as submissive by nature; Algerians as violent; and the Lebanese as chauvinist or arrogant.
Such stereotypes no longer exist except in a handful of racist writings that feature blanket portrayals of Arabs as "backwards" and as "terrorists." We Arabs do the same to each other, often finding it all too easy to make generalizations and perpetuate these misconceptions.
Translated from the Arabic Edition.