Lebanese erupt in anger on social media over foreign minister’s Davos participation

Bassil is set to speak in a panel session called “The Return of Arab Unrest” . (File photo: Reuters)
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Updated 21 January 2020

Lebanese erupt in anger on social media over foreign minister’s Davos participation

  • The Lebanese reacted to Gebran Bassil's attending the WEF
  • "Today he is turning a blind eye to the devastating violence against civilians we're witnessing,” a student told Arab News

DAVOS: Lebanese have erupted in anger after the country’s caretaker foreign minister was announced as a participant at the World Economic Forum conference in Davos.

Activists have started an online petition called “No to Gebran Bassil at WEF”

“It's a shame that the international community fails to see Gebran Bassil amongst the pool of failed politicians who have lead to the crisis Lebanon witnesses today,” Chermine Haidar, a Lebanese student at SOAS University in London, told Arab News.

“He has for years incited sectarian violence in Lebanon, and today he is turning a blind eye to the devastating violence against civilians we're witnessing,” she added.

Bassil, who has been one of the protesters’ main targets, is set to speak in a panel session called “The Return of Arab Unrest” along with Hussain Sajwani, chairman of Dubai-based developer Damac Properties, Rached Ghannouchi, speaker of the Tunisian assembly and the Dutch trade minister Sigrid Kaag.

 

 

The panel, moderated by CNBC anchor Hadley Gamble, will discuss the rise of popular protests across the Middle East and how they can “be translated into a practical roadmap for positive change,” according to the session description.

“What positive change will Gebran Bassil be talking about?” asked George Azzi on Twitter.

“How to ignore protesters and oppress them? 

“There is a revolution against him in Beirut and he is invited to speak about a ‘practical roadmap to avoid past pitfalls?’ This panel is shameful!” 


Another Lebanese expat, Catherine Warde, also reacted with disbelief at Bassil’s appearance.

“How can someone who is so hated by their own people go and speak at the World Economic Forum when the people that they should be representing are being shot and tear gassed because of orders they gave out?” she said.

The Lebanese protests erupted at the weekend into the worst violence since the demonstrations began in October. Hundreds of people were injured during clashes with riot police and the army.

The online petition, which has reached more than 5,000 signatures, says: “We the People urge the World Economic Forum to rethink Mr Bassil’s invite and listen to the People of Lebanon, listen to their voice, the voice of truth, the voice of justice.”

“He should not be present at a prestigious international forum such as Davos in our name. He should not be given a legitimate platform to cement his power and to speak on behalf of a nation that has rejected him and accuses him of flagrant corruption.”

One Lebanese twitter user, Rula El-Halabi, tweeted a poll that asked Lebanese citizens whether they agree with Bassil representing Lebanon at the forum.

Some 76 percent out of the 17,551 who responded voted “No.”

Another user, business executive Dr. Walid Mahmoud, Said: “Having Gebran Bassil as a speaker at the WEF in Davos does not honor the Lebanese people who have been uprising against the existing political system that led the country to its worst economic crisis ever and which Bassil represents as one of its most condemned figures!” (

A few, however, have defended the caretaker foreign minister on social media.

One user, Hyam Saliba, tweeted: “As a Lebanese citizen, I would like to say that Gebran Bassil is the most honorable politician in Lebanon and he truly represents me.

“He is one of a kind man that can change the world to make it a better place.


UN hosts Muslim World League conference on protecting youth from extremism

Updated 39 min 29 sec ago

UN hosts Muslim World League conference on protecting youth from extremism

  • MPs, parliament speakers, UN ambassadors, an elite of religious and ideological leaders in attendance

GENEVA: Muslim World League (MWL) Secretary-General Dr. Mohammed bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa launched the initiatives of “youth protection from extremist and violent ideas and implementation mechanisms” during an international conference organized at the UN headquarters in Geneva.

MPs, parliament speakers, UN ambassadors, an elite of religious and ideological leaders and academics specialized in the topics of conference were in attendance.

Al-Issa said the initiatives aim at protecting the youth from violent and extremist ideologies or those inciting violence, and shed light on the responsibility of educational institutions in this context.

This would be achieved, he said, through the establishment of school curricula with “interactive activities” that focus on discussing the differences, diversity and pluralism in our world. 

They also aim to reaffirm that religious, ethnic and ideological clashes are a danger to world peace.

Al-Issa stressed the need to filter speeches targeting the youth from all that incites conflicts, hatred, racism and enmity, with the principle of human equality and understanding and respecting natural differences and diversity as an important foundation for countries and societies’ peace and harmony. 

He also noted the importance of spreading tolerance and rejecting the disadvantages of hate, racism and marginalization.

He said: “It is important to ban the exportation or importation of fatwas and religious ideas, for the religious awareness is flexible, and takes into consideration the changes of fatwas and religious sermons in line with the time, place and circumstances,” adding that extremism is not acceptable in any circumstance.

Egypt’s Minister of Endowments Dr. Mohammed Mokhtar Jomaa stressed during the conference that terrorism has become more dangerous than today’s diseases, as it has become easier to spread than any virus.  

“Individuals, countries and organizations must all work together on a purely humanitarian ground, for there is no development, prosperity, advancement or economy without security, and no security with terrorism and no terrorism eradication without protecting the youth from extremism,” he said.