Dear Lojine Kamel

Posted on May 8, 2012


Dear Lojine Kamel,

Sometimes, it is nearly impossible to stay calm. Sometimes, calm and understanding is met with continued bigotry, and that’s when it becomes nearly impossible to not burst.

I am going to try my best not to be patronizing in this letter. You are a student, and you’ve found yourself at the heart of a controversy that you might not have been prepared to deal with. That’s precisely why I, along with others, have reached out to you, explaining clearly how to right the horrible wrong that you have done.

You have chosen to ignore us. You have chosen to ignore the gay community, AUB students, AUB alumni, and AUB professors. You have decided that you know better than all of us, and that’s why I kind of don’t feel bad if this turns patronizing.

You have dismissed the insult you have committed to the gay community and the society at large by waving your freedom of speech flag. If only you had taken a quick walk to the library to check out the International Covenant on Civic and Political Rights (or just looked it up on Wikipedia), then you would have seen why your argument doesn’t stand.

Here it is:

“Article 19

1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.

2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.

3. The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:

(a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others;

(b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.”

There is a reason why paragraph 3 exists, and it is precisely to stop people like Mohamad Sibai from getting published. Before you position yourself as a bastion of freedom and democracy, open a textbook and learn the basics of it.

By reframing the issue into one about freedom of expression you have further insulted us. We fight on a daily basis to be able to express ourselves, knowing full well that our freedoms, whatever they are, should NEVER EVER overstep the freedoms of others. That’s Freedom 101.

By giving space for Sibai’s bigotry, you have stepped all over my freedoms, and you have overlooked your duty to protect a community that is already vulnerable. For heaven’s sake, you published an article where the man claims that if you legalize gay rights, then we will all be walking around with guys on leashes.

This has gone far enough. The only acceptable way to fix this mess is what I recommended from the very beginning in a private email to you. I have now listed the (updated) requests I demand here:

–       A public apology about the entire article, and the offensive editorial response to it,

–       A full retraction of the article and the response to it,

–       The publication of an article that corrects all of the lies and false information published in the Sibai piece,

–       Your immediate resignation,

–       The immediate firing of Mohamad Sibai,

–       A clear and realistic plan from the board on how to avoid something like this from being published ever again,

–       An apology from the Dean to all of the gay students of AUB, and their supporters.

Publishing Article 19 of the ICCPR wouldn’t be bad either.

If you have any decency or integrity left in you, then this is exactly what you should do.

I leave you with two lines by Ed Murrow in the movie “Good Night and Good Luck”, in hopes that you will learn what good journalism is.

“I’ve searched my conscience. I can’t for the life of me find any justification for this. And I simply cannot accept that there are, on every story, two equal and logical sides to an argument. Call it editorializing if you like.”

“The line between investigating and persecuting is a very fine one.”

Raja Farah

PS I am beginning to think you and I should sit for a coffee too, along with Sibai. That offer is still on the table. You may have stepped on my every right and insulted me in every way, but I still believe that a simple meeting could actually make you realize the great wrong you have done.