I have been travelling the world since I was twenty years old. My travels have taken me to Europe, Eastern Europe, America, the Gulf, Africa, India, Indonesia, Singapore, Russia, and other places that “I no longer remember” in the words of Ibn Al-Rumi. I was able to be a journalist in all of these countries, taking my pen with me without it questioning me and without it receiving censure from me. A man is his profession and his profession is his identity. Of all those nations, the fates willed it for me to be a citizen of Britain and the motherland.
I was a journalist everywhere, a second-class citizen in Britain and an eternal citizen in Lebanon. It is only when I write about Lebanese affairs that the feelings of a citizen overtake that of a journalist. I’m not neutral with regards to Lebanese affairs as I am with regards to British affairs.
When I used to visit Paris in the sixties and seventies, the first thing that I would do the day after I arrived was to go to the Arab newspaper kiosk and buy a copy of An-Nahar. In 1972, I met my colleague Bassam Freiha in London and he noticed that I was agitated. He asked me what I was looking for and I replied that I was looking for a Lebanese restaurant. He shouted at me and asked me whether I had come all the way from Beirut to look for a Lebanese restaurant in a city renowned for its international restaurants. I always remember the Argentinian Jorge Luis Borges’ saying “Wherever I sleep, I dream that I’m in Buenos Aires”.
Perhaps you may have noticed that I avoid writing a lot about Lebanon in this newspaper because it is for all Arabs all over the world. I only return to Lebanese issues when they become a universally Arab issue. In this new phase for life in Lebanon, I write as a citizen and with simple feelings unrelated to analyses and forecasts. I write with hope that Lebanon once again becomes a harmonious and conciliatory country where literature and the arts thrive and that is a haven for the oppressed and persecuted.
Lebanon accommodates everyone, the best of ideas and commitments to human reconciliation. I hope that Lebanon will return to its former self with the election of President Michel Aoun. Lebanese people are hastening to express their wishes for the country. As for me, I hope that Lebanon will be a safe, happy, fair country with a clear conscience.