Response to Outlook Controversy by AUB Architecture Alumni
To Outlook Newspaper’s editors,
I was astonished and appalled by the article, “Please me at any price”, by Mohammad Sibai, that you published in the last issue of Outlook. It was an extremely saddening thing to know that an article so heavy in homophobic clichés was published in the Outlook Newspaper.
AUB was always a place of exception in Lebanon, where tolerance, openness and freedom are
enjoyed like nowhere else in the country. The Architecture and Design Department is the place where we shaped ourselves intellectually and professionally. But also the human environment where we were able to develop much of our personalities, to expand socially. This was especially important for those who could have found this particularly difficult and who had the chance to find in AUB the place where they could feel at ease with themselves. It is indeed at AUB that some were able to accept their homosexuality and to feel for the first time that they did not necessarily need to hide it. There never was any sort of problem, tension, rejection or aggression against those who were known to be gay in the department. On the contrary, this particularity of some students was always taken as a purely personal thing, that could be talked about, mentioned and known of quite naturally. This was possible simply because the warmth and closeness between students allowed everyone to go beyond the stereotypes they might have previously had. Something that was sustained by an atmosphere of creativity, intellect and critical thought.
It pains me to know that AUB’s official newspaper has become the tribune for homophobic statements to be freely expressed, published and spread to the entire AUB community. I will not even talk about the false-facts, arrogance and skewed logic that Sibai has expressed. Anyone has the right to express all the fallacies that please them, this is what freedom of speech is about. However any sort of freedom stops where the freedom of the others starts. To insult, ridicule, stigmatize a significant portion of a population is not called freedom. It is even illegal in most developed countries, including the country that is AUB’s reference, the USA. And you cannot say either that every writer in outlook is free of his own opinion, which you cannot alter or refuse to publish. I am sure you would not have agreed to publish an article in which one of your writers would have treated in the same way members of a certain religion or political party. You would not and rightfully so, because it would have caused anger and sadness, but also outrage and strong reactions. By allowing such an article, you allowed the stigmatization of AUB’s homosexuals, because it is safe to do so, because they tend to remain silent, they are not used to react strongly in Lebanon, where they are officially illegal and vulnerable to popular and police harassment. Instead of being the expression of the tolerance and openness of AUB’s student body, instead of encouraging those in the closet to feel accepted, instead of being one of those few free medias in the country, you chose to do like so many other cheap medias who openly express scorn and hatred of homosexuals.
How do you think gay people in AUB felt upon reading such an “article”? You have no idea how much sadness I felt in those among my friends who happen to be homosexuals. In that article, they are said to be “not human”, or barely… They are reduced to ridiculous sex hungry beings, even though some are among the most brilliant and creative people I know, who never ceased excelling in their
studies and personal achievement. They are said to be abominations and mentally sick, even though they can also be particularly balanced, liberated and light people. The article also systematically associates them to diseases and to the hazards of AIDS, as if they were walking biological weapons. Seriously, how could you allow this? By publishing an article, you might not necessarily agree with it, but you give it legitimacy and credibility. How could you take the risk of hurting so many people among us? Some people risk their image, their relationships, their freedom, even their life by fighting publicly those horrible ideas. How could you so lightly promote them?
I wanted to express my indignation, in my name and in the name of many of my friends who felt personally hurt but who didn’t want to react, out of fearful discretion. Or because they are used to be offended and take this “article” as just one more offense among the many they face elsewhere in Lebanon. Even though they never thought it would come from AUB, which was seen as a place where they could be at peace. In order not to make this hope permanently false, I call upon you to react in your next issue of Outlook. To disavow the ideas expressed in Sibai’s article. And to give the same tribune to activists who should be entirely free to contest Sibai’s statements and to support homosexuals’ rights.
An AUB Architecture alumni, class of 2011