Sunday, September 25, 2005

May Shidyaq
: survived an assassination attempt in Lebanon. I met May two years ago. An-Nahar's columnist `Ali Hamadi urged her to interview me on the LBC-TV's Naharkum Sa`id program. Hamadi knew my views of LBC and I told him that I would not appear with some of their other newscasters. But I very much respected the skills and talents of Shidyaq. I appeared on that show, and found her to be extremely competent with excellent command of Arabic, English, and French, and she studied some German when she spent time in Switzerland one time. Shidyaq was one of the few LBC-TV's broadcasters who had such an advanced command of Arabic. Her politics is as far right-wing as you can get: clearly sympathetic to the Lebanese Forces militia (the Lebanese Forces' magazine, An-Najwah-Al-Masirah, today called her "comrade"), and she makes no attempt at hiding her partisan and sectarian Christian sympathies. In the first interview with her, I thought that she assumed that I must be easy to categorize politically. So after I made my criticisms of Rafiq Hariri known, and of right-wing politics in Lebanon, she asked me about Syrian policy. And when I made it clear that I am not a fan, she was surprised. In the commercial break, she asked me: "What are you?" For a second, I did not understand, and then she made it clearer: "What sect are you?" A year later, when I was in Lebanon, she invited me again, but this time, she was carrying a stack of my articles in Arabic on Lebanese affairs, and was visibly shaken. She introduced me on the air by saying that many Lebanese don't agree with my views on Lebanon. But I must admit this: despite my political disagreements with her, and despite my distaste for the editorial policy of LBC-TV, I could not but enjoy being interviewed with this most competent of journalists. She is very tough but very good at what she does. She has such a sharp mind, and such a strong personality. She is witty and has a sense of humor, which shows on the air. I have mocked Lebanese tendency to rank everything, and I have been caught recently ranking, so I will not say that she is the most talented and most competent journalist on Middle East TV. I also was impressed with her preparedness. I noted once to her how prepared she appears on the air. Modestly, she immediately said that she has some help, but I can always tell that the preparation is her work and effort mostly. I also found her to be nice and kind to the staff and workers at the station. Last time she interviewed me, we talked about her perfume: she was impressed that I was able to identify it as Estee Lauder's Knowing. She told me that she and her sister are the only ones who use it in Lebanon. She said that she gets it from Europe. She also told me that she is not as far extreme as Jubran Tuwayni. But last time I was in Lebanon (last summer), she did not call me. I assumed that my views on the Hummus Revolution went too far as far as she is concerned. I wish her full recovery.