Growing up, one of the TV shows that I looked forward to watching weekly was S.L. Chi, on Murr TV, the Lebanese MTV. My cousins in Lebanon got me into it, and to this day I find myself looking up some episodes on YouTube. For those of you who remember the show and wish to take a trip back down memory lane, here’s one of my favorite clips!
I must say back then I thought MTV was one of the greatest channels on TV. My love for the channel has since then, faded away, due to the comments and actions of one show that has led to shocking consequences.
Joe Maalouf, the host of a program called Enta Horr that airs on MTV, covered a controversial story on porn cinemas in Lebanon. During the show he made allegations that Lebanese authorities were protecting “perverts” in these cinemas. He also described the cinemas as “safe havens of debauchery.” Maalouf’s intentions appear to have been an attempt to point out flaws in society as they relate to the implementation of laws, and fighting bribery and corruption within government agencies. He mentions that several porn cinemas were raided around Beirut and Lebanon in the past year, and have been shut down by authorities due to the content of the films they were showing. Most of these re-opened a few months later, clearly pointing to a failure on the part of authorities to monitor the cinemas and appropriately handle the situation.
Unfortunately, the report, and Maalouf’s execution of the report did a lot more harm than was probably intended. He could have conveyed his disapproval of open and public porn cinemas, and the failure of authorities to do their job without insulting members of the LGBT community. Regrettably, some of Maalouf’s comments were definitely tinted with homophobia, and the video that accompanied the report filmed men attending the cinema without their consent, thereby invading their privacy and essentially outing some of them in front of the entire country.
A few weeks after the airing of this episode, a sting operation took place at a porn cinema in Tripoli that led to the arrest of 36 men in attendance at the time. According to several news articles, most of the men are still being held at the Hbeish Police Station in Beirut, where doctors are conducting “anal probes” to pinpoint those among them who are gay, and using discredited and oppressive methods to do so. What is most horrendous is that these methods are strictly denounced as “acts of torture” by the Human Rights Watch.
Moving to the US has allowed me to see the great and normal life that gay individuals enjoy here. Their rights are preserved and protected. At the very least, they are entitled to, and receive, the same level of respect everyone else does. This is exactly how things should be. Maalouf’s piece on unlawful porn cinemas in Lebanon was an example of horrible investigative journalism, and the underlying homophobic views presented were unnecessary, and a slap in the face to LGBT community members forced to remain closeted. Methods being used by Lebanese authorities to interrogate those arrested are unacceptable, and should not be tolerated. I cannot believe the Lebanese government would allow such forms of interrogation. Finally, I have to say that Arab society as a whole is not morally-equipped to handle these issues, and still has an extremely long way to go before it can rid itself of the mentality that equates homosexuality to disease.
I stand by LBC, Helem (the LGBT advocacy charity in Lebanon), and the LGBT community in Lebanon and around the world, in opposing the grave violation of human rights that has occurred at the Hbeish Police station.
I’ll be sure to keep you guys updated on this story.