Culture Minister Gaby Layoun

Here’s an excerpt from my op-ed appearing in today’s Daily Star:

Dear Prime Minister Najib Mikati, Culture Minister Gaby Layoun, Tourism Minister Fadi Abboud President Michel Sleiman and Kettaneh Group,

If you don’t mind me asking, where were you yesterday when the home of Amin Maalouf one of our nation’s greatest writers was being bulldozed?

Prime Minister Mikati: when Maalouf was inducted into the 40-member Academie Francaise last year, you said his writing was “a source of national pride.” How then did you approve the demolition? Your culture minister, Gaby Layoun, reportedly signed off on it. What message does that send to our authors, intellectuals and artists? That we appreciate them, but might sell their homes if the price is right? 

Dear Minister Layoun, last year you also sang the praises of Maalouf’s work attending his induction ceremony, calling it “a great pride to raise high the name of Lebanon and change the conflict and war image that has stained our country.”  

But doesn’t the violence of the post-war bulldozers, which have probably claimed as many if not more historic Beirut buildings, also stain our country? Everyday in Beirut, we are tearing down the stories of our past in pursuit of the almighty dollar bill.

What if school students were assigned to read Maalouf’s books? They could visit the place where their words were conceived, sit in the garden where the author daydreamed, breathe in the neighborhood that informed his imagination? What if the words jumped off the page, and the students could be inspired themselves?

Minister Layoun, how can we nurture our culture if we do not celebrate our culture producers? If you were culture minister back in 1940s, would you have approved the demolition of the Khalil Gibran home as well?

Continue reading my column at The Daily Star here.

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