A magazine in Lebanon has come under fire for describing iconic singer Fairuz as a supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and a “lover of money”.
Government ministers, media personalities and music fans condemned the Al Shiraa magazine after it published this week an article online under the headline: “What you do not know about the Lebanese Ambassador to the stars: Fairuz, an enemy of the people, a lover of money and whisky and an Assad conspirator”.
Fairuz, 80, has long been seen as a unifying voice in a country that continues to witness political upheaval, even after the end of a 15-year civil war, and whose communities are still largely segregated.
The Al Shiraa article sparked anger among many Lebanese social media users, including prominent personalities, with some calling for legal action against the magazine.
The Lebanese pop star Elissa posted the following tweet:
Fairuz is more than a simple icon… She is an identity, a culture, a nation, and if someone dares to insult her, he is insulting us all…
— Elissa (@elissakh) December 12, 2015
“Fairuz is a nation that is only resided by pure people,” Rabia Zayat, a prominent Lebanese anchor, said.
فيروز وطن لا يسكنه سوى الأنقياء #فيروز _وطني
— Rabia Zayyat (@rabiazayyat) December 12, 2015
Another Twitter user said: “The Lebanese government should sue Al Shiraa magazine. It’s a slander against Lebanon.”
Ramzi Jreij, the Lebanese communication minister, said that the article “was not an insult against Fairuz only, but an insult against Lebanon”.
“Fairuz for the past half a century occupied the throne of music in Lebanon and is loved by the Lebanese and millions of Arabs,” Jreij said.
“I prefer not to respond to the allegations related to Fairuz in honour of her.”
Meanwhile Rony Araiji, the minister of culture, said that people had the right to criticise music, but “insulting Fairuz in this manner is unacceptable and is an attack on our dreams, memories and our cultural heritage”.
Araiji maintained that Fairuz herself can decide if she wants measures to be taken against the allegations.
A number of Lebanese on social media called on the editor of Al Shiraa, Hasan Sabra, to apologise.
However, Sabra said he “was not regretful and will not apologise”, adding that the statements he made in the six-page article were based on a personal visit to her house.
While Fairuz has not given any interview or made any statement in years, she has been dragged into the thick of the country’s bitter political and sectarian divisions before.
Early last year, Fairuz’s son said in an interview that she loves the leader of Hezbollah, causing uproar among opponents of the Shia armed group which is fighting alongside Assad in Syria.
Responding to the recent allegations made by the magazine, the daughter of Fairuz, Rima al-Rahbani, said in a statement published on her Facebook page that the attempts to “politicise Fairuz are doomed to failure”.