New York Times: Shiites are not cool?

photos: New York Times

Unfortunately, the paper of record is reinforcing sectarian and Orientalist stereotypes by publishing yet another superficial piece on the rich-kid Beirut party scene.

The most obnoxious line in the article rests on the completely baseless assumption that being cool in Beirut is largely a Christian affair:
“… Beirut’s art-and-party crowd — which consists mostly of French-educated Maronite Catholics but includes doses of Christian Orthodox, Sunni Muslims and Druse…”

Not only does the reporter blatantly marginalize Muslim Sunni and Druze contributions to the city’s beautiful people as mere “doses” but completely excludes Shiites from the so-called “creative class” of well-to-do kids that he romanticizes throughout the piece.

In fact, Shiites are only mentioned twice in the article and both references paint them as single-minded supporters of Hezbollah’s armed wing, a dimensionless characterization that has been perpetuated by the Western press for decades.

By contrast, references to Christian neighborhoods use the adjectives “charming” and “posh”.

The Times should know that Lebanon’s jet set does not discriminate based on religion. Those who have money can be found at all the country’s elite spots, whether they be Sunnis, Shiites, Druze or Christians. But that isn’t the point really. The most interesting creative and social-change inspiring stuff happening in Lebanon today has nothing to do with going to a rooftop nightclub. It’s a shame that editors at the Times and elsewhere continuously fail to see beyond the very Orientalist notion that posh parties equate modernity or newsworthiness.