epa07391014 Lebanese activists from civil society carry placards during a protest demanding the civil marriage law, in front the Interior Ministry in Beirut, Lebanon 23 February 2019. Recently, there has been an old debate about allowing civil marriage in Lebanon, coinciding with the announcement by the new interior minister Raya Al-Hassan of her support. Where the Muslims, Christians clerics are objected the civil marriage law in Lebanon. The Lebanese state recognizes any civil marriage outside its territory, but has not yet approved a mechanism allowing its citizens to marry on its territory. This arrangement does not convince many activists who advocate civil marriage and refuse to be forced, as now, to obey the laws of their sects. In the 1950s, this idea was first proposed, and since then it has been confronted with the same problem - the rejection of sectarian and religious authorities. Till now nobody of Lebanese officials to dared to raise the issue of the issue of civil marriage in the House of Representatives without the consent of the clerics. . Since most of the politicians in Lebanon are at the disposal of the clergy and do not anger them, because the cleric is able to move the street more than the political.  EPA/NABIL MOUNZER
Lebanese activists carry placards during a protest demanding civil marriage law in front the Interior Ministry in Beirut, Lebanon 23 February, 2019. EPA

Sectarian lines should not interfere with matters of the heart



She is less than a month into her tenure as Lebanon's Minister of Interior but already, Raya Al Hassan is making ripples. In a controversial interview with the Euronews TV network, Ms Al Hassan vowed to "open the door to a serious and deep dialogue with all religious and other authorities, and with the support of [Prime Minister Saad] Hariri, until civil marriage is recognised". The statement has fanned the flames of a debate raging since the 1950s over whether civil marriage should be allowed as an alternative option to religion-based marriage, which is currently the only means to get married in Lebanon. Many before Ms Al Hassan have tried and failed to challenge marital laws first enshrined when the French mandate overseeing Lebanon ended in 1943. Yet the country's deep sectarian divides have ensured that whenever the idea is debated, the result is always the same: the proposition is rebuffed by a plethora of politicians and clergy – Muslim and Christian alike – and ends up being abandoned as a lost cause.

The issue is so contentious that protesters have been taking to the streets of Beirut in the past few days calling for civil marriages to be recognised – a proposal which has been roundly rejected by Lebanon's highest Sunni authority, Dar Al Fatwa, and the Catholic Church, which called it "wrong", "confusing" and a contradiction of the sacrament of marriage. Meanwhile protesters argue that marriage should not be beholden to sectarianism.

There are currently 18 different religious sects in a country with no unified personal status laws. This situation renders non-religious and interfaith marriage impossible on Lebanese soil and condemns matters of the heart to follow the sectarian lines of the country, which are firmly embedded throughout the legal system and society itself. The option of having a civil rather than a religious marriage would not replace the current system; it would merely create an additional secular court, giving couples the freedom to choose. Allowing civil marriages would be a progressive move, encouraging more peaceful coexistence between sects as well as championing gender equality.

Yet religious and community leaders persist in blocking them at every turn. The issue today is not about permitting couples to marry secularly. They already do so. Lebanese couples can marry in a foreign country with secular marriage laws, such as neighbouring Cyprus, and return to Lebanon to be recognised as a married couple.

But even those who can afford to have a civil union abroad are not guaranteed legal protection when they return to Lebanon. Should things go awry and they find themselves heading for a divorce or custody battle, they might only be allowed to plead their case in religious courts, particularly if they are from the same religious background. In the case of interfaith marriages, matters become even more difficult as judges often do not fully comprehend the law of the country they married in, which should apply in theory but rarely does in practice.

What makes the situation even more absurd is that civil marriage is not actually illegal in Lebanon. A 1936 law dating back to the French mandate era permits couples with no religious denomination to wed in a civil union. This creates a scenario whereby Lebanese couples must resort to mandate-era legislation and become renegades on paper just to secure a secular marriage, by denouncing their religious affiliation. Khouloud Sukkarieh and Nidal Darwish decided to exploit that loophole. In 2012 the Muslim couple erased their religious orientation from their official documents and became the first couple to marry secularly in Lebanon. From 2013 to 2015, others followed suit, until Nohad El Machnouk – the interior minister at the time – decided that, unlike his predecessor, he would not recognise such marriages. That has left couples since in an administrative limbo that has yet to be resolved.

It is crucial that religious leaders and politicians stop ignoring the reality of those who resort to such desperate measures to find their way around outdated laws. Activists have pointed out that civil marriage could address some of the shortcomings of the current court system when it comes to women’s rights, particularly with regards to divorce settlements and child custody. For too long, Lebanon has viewed itself along sectarian lines; separating them from the institution of marriage is the first step to ending those divisions. As Ms Sukkarieh puts it: "Once civil marriage is legalised, this means that the first column of sectarianism is broken."

Ms Al Hassan is not the first to try to champion the option of civil marriage but her predecessors have always capitulated under pressure. In fact, the issue could have been resolved 20 years ago. At the time, a bill in favour of optional civil marriage was proposed by then president Elias Hrawi and was approved by a majority of the ministerial cabinet. However, then prime minister Rafiq Hariri refused to refer it to parliament as he feared a backlash from conservatives. Religious courts are a lucrative source of revenue so it is perhaps little surprise their power over communities is guarded fiercely.

It is significant, therefore, that 15 years on from that stand-off, Mr Hariri’s son, the current prime minister, pinned his colours to the flag in favour of civil marriage. Lebanon’s foremost Sunni cleric, Mufti Mohammed Rashid Qabbani, came out strongly against it, declaring in 2013 that civil marriage was a threat to “the teachings of Islam and the foundations of Arab society”.

It has taken more than seven decades but calls for more avenues for couples to marry are gathering momentum. A 2013 survey by Information International found more than half of those questioned backed civil unions. Lebanon is ready for much-needed change and today’s politicians must not give way to pressure or self-interest. The chief demand among demonstrators gathering last weekend was for Ms Al Hassan to recognise the civil marriage certificates that her predecessor refused to sign. Much hope is pinned on her and in her first few weeks in office she has promised to be an advocate for change.

"Because I'm the first woman, I need to act as a role model," she told The National when she took up her post. Whether she will succeed in doing so, or fall foul of the sectarianism that got the better of her predecessors, remains to be seen, but allowing couples to step outside sectarian lines will surely have positive repercussions – at all levels of politics and society.

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: Xpanceo

Started: 2018

Founders: Roman Axelrod, Valentyn Volkov

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Smart contact lenses, augmented/virtual reality

Funding: $40 million

Investor: Opportunity Venture (Asia)

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Switch Foods
Started: 2022
Founder: Edward Hamod
Based: Abu Dhabi, UAE
Industry: Plant-based meat production
Number of employees: 34
Funding: $6.5 million
Funding round: Seed
Investors: Based in US and across Middle East

'Panga'

Directed by Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari

Starring Kangana Ranaut, Richa Chadha, Jassie Gill, Yagya Bhasin, Neena Gupta

Rating: 3.5/5

The specs

Engine: Single front-axle electric motor
Power: 218hp
Torque: 330Nm
Transmission: Single-speed automatic
Max touring range: 402km (claimed)
Price: From Dh215,000 (estimate)
On sale: September

Specs

Power train: 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 and synchronous electric motor
Max power: 800hp
Max torque: 950Nm
Transmission: Eight-speed auto
Battery: 25.7kWh lithium-ion
0-100km/h: 3.4sec
0-200km/h: 11.4sec
Top speed: 312km/h
Max electric-only range: 60km (claimed)
On sale: Q3
Price: From Dh1.2m (estimate)

RIDE ON

Director: Larry Yang

Stars: Jackie Chan, Liu Haocun, Kevin Guo

Rating: 2/5

Race card

1.45pm: Maiden Dh75,000 1,200m.

2.15pm: Maiden Dh75,000 1,200m.

2.45pm: Handicap Dh95,000 1,200m.

3.15pm: Handicap Dh120,000 1,400m.

3.45pm: Handicap Dh80,000 1,400m.

4.15pm: Handicap Dh90,000 1,800m.

4.45pm: Handicap Dh80,000 1,950m.

The National selections:

1.45pm: Galaxy Road – So Hi Speed

2.15pm: Majestic Thunder – Daltrey

2.45pm: Call To War – Taamol

3.15pm: Eqtiraan - Bochart

3.45pm: Kidd Malibu – Initial

4.15pm: Arroway – Arch Gold

4.35pm: Compliance - Muqaatil

SPECS

Engine: 1.5-litre 4-cylinder
Power: 101hp
Torque: 135Nm
Transmission: Six-speed auto
Price: From Dh79,900
On sale: Now

Company profile

Company name: Twig Solutions (with trade name Twig)
Started: 2021
Founders: Chafic Idriss, Karam El Dik and Rayan Antonios
Based: UAE
Sector: FinTech
Initial investment: bootstrapped (undisclosed)
Current number of staff: 13
Investment stage: pre-seed — closing the round as we speak
Investors: senior executives from the GCC financial services industry and global family offices

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Revibe
Started: 2022
Founders: Hamza Iraqui and Abdessamad Ben Zakour
Based: UAE
Industry: Refurbished electronics
Funds raised so far: $10m
Investors: Flat6Labs, Resonance and various others

Try out the test yourself

Q1 Suppose you had $100 in a savings account and the interest rate was 2 per cent per year. After five years, how much do you think you would have in the account if you left the money to grow?
a) More than $102
b) Exactly $102
c) Less than $102
d) Do not know
e) Refuse to answer

Q2 Imagine that the interest rate on your savings account was 1 per cent per year and inflation was 2 per cent per year. After one year, how much would you be able to buy with the money in this account?
a) More than today
b) Exactly the same as today
c) Less than today
d) Do not know
e) Refuse to answer

Q4 Do you think that the following statement is true or false? “Buying a single company stock usually provides a safer return than a stock mutual fund.”
a) True
b) False
d) Do not know
e) Refuse to answer

The “Big Three” financial literacy questions were created by Professors Annamaria Lusardi of the George Washington School of Business and Olivia Mitchell, of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. 

Answers: Q1 More than $102 (compound interest). Q2 Less than today (inflation). Q3 False (diversification).

BlacKkKlansman

Director: Spike Lee

Starring: John David Washington; Adam Driver 

Five stars

Director: Shady Ali
Cast: Boumi Fouad , Mohamed Tharout and Hisham Ismael
Rating: 3/5

Dhadak

Director: Shashank Khaitan

Starring: Janhvi Kapoor, Ishaan Khattar, Ashutosh Rana

Stars: 3

Sugary teas and iced coffees

The tax authority is yet to release a list of the taxed products, but it appears likely that sugary iced teas and cold coffees will be hit.

For instance, the non-fizzy drink AriZona Iced Tea contains 65 grams of sugar – about 16 teaspoons – per 680ml can. The average can costs about Dh6, which would rise to Dh9.

Cold coffee brands are likely to be hit too. Drinks such as Starbucks Bottled Mocha Frappuccino contain 31g of sugar in 270ml, while Nescafe Mocha in a can contains 15.6g of sugar in a 240ml can.

Bundesliga fixtures

Saturday, May 16 (kick-offs UAE time)

Borussia Dortmund v Schalke (4.30pm) 

RB Leipzig v Freiburg (4.30pm) 

Hoffenheim v Hertha Berlin (4.30pm) 

Fortuna Dusseldorf v Paderborn  (4.30pm) 

Augsburg v Wolfsburg (4.30pm) 

Eintracht Frankfurt v Borussia Monchengladbach (7.30pm)

Sunday, May 17

Cologne v Mainz (4.30pm),

Union Berlin v Bayern Munich (7pm)

Monday, May 18

Werder Bremen v Bayer Leverkusen (9.30pm)

We Weren’t Supposed to Survive But We Did

We weren’t supposed to survive but we did.      
We weren’t supposed to remember but we did.              
We weren’t supposed to write but we did.  
We weren’t supposed to fight but we did.              
We weren’t supposed to organise but we did.
We weren’t supposed to rap but we did.        
We weren’t supposed to find allies but we did.
We weren’t supposed to grow communities but we did.        
We weren’t supposed to return but WE ARE.
Amira Sakalla

'Skin'

Dir: Guy Nattiv

Starring: Jamie Bell, Danielle McDonald, Bill Camp, Vera Farmiga

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Profile box

Founders: Michele Ferrario, Nino Ulsamer and Freddy Lim
Started: established in 2016 and launched in July 2017
Based: Singapore, with offices in the UAE, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Thailand
Sector: FinTech, wealth management
Initial investment: $500,000 in seed round 1 in 2016; $2.2m in seed round 2 in 2017; $5m in series A round in 2018; $12m in series B round in 2019; $16m in series C round in 2020 and $25m in series D round in 2021
Current staff: more than 160 employees
Stage: series D 
Investors: EightRoads Ventures, Square Peg Capital, Sequoia Capital India

The Transfiguration

Director: Michael O’Shea

Starring: Eric Ruffin, Chloe Levine

Three stars

Herc's Adventures

Developer: Big Ape Productions
Publisher: LucasArts
Console: PlayStation 1 & 5, Sega Saturn
Rating: 4/5

Mercer, the investment consulting arm of US services company Marsh & McLennan, expects its wealth division to at least double its assets under management (AUM) in the Middle East as wealth in the region continues to grow despite economic headwinds, a company official said.

Mercer Wealth, which globally has $160 billion in AUM, plans to boost its AUM in the region to $2-$3bn in the next 2-3 years from the present $1bn, said Yasir AbuShaban, a Dubai-based principal with Mercer Wealth.

Within the next two to three years, we are looking at reaching $2 to $3 billion as a conservative estimate and we do see an opportunity to do so,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Mercer does not directly make investments, but allocates clients’ money they have discretion to, to professional asset managers. They also provide advice to clients.

“We have buying power. We can negotiate on their (client’s) behalf with asset managers to provide them lower fees than they otherwise would have to get on their own,” he added.

Mercer Wealth’s clients include sovereign wealth funds, family offices, and insurance companies among others.

From its office in Dubai, Mercer also looks after Africa, India and Turkey, where they also see opportunity for growth.

Wealth creation in Middle East and Africa (MEA) grew 8.5 per cent to $8.1 trillion last year from $7.5tn in 2015, higher than last year’s global average of 6 per cent and the second-highest growth in a region after Asia-Pacific which grew 9.9 per cent, according to consultancy Boston Consulting Group (BCG). In the region, where wealth grew just 1.9 per cent in 2015 compared with 2014, a pickup in oil prices has helped in wealth generation.

BCG is forecasting MEA wealth will rise to $12tn by 2021, growing at an annual average of 8 per cent.

Drivers of wealth generation in the region will be split evenly between new wealth creation and growth of performance of existing assets, according to BCG.

Another general trend in the region is clients’ looking for a comprehensive approach to investing, according to Mr AbuShaban.

“Institutional investors or some of the families are seeing a slowdown in the available capital they have to invest and in that sense they are looking at optimizing the way they manage their portfolios and making sure they are not investing haphazardly and different parts of their investment are working together,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Some clients also have a higher appetite for risk, given the low interest-rate environment that does not provide enough yield for some institutional investors. These clients are keen to invest in illiquid assets, such as private equity and infrastructure.

“What we have seen is a desire for higher returns in what has been a low-return environment specifically in various fixed income or bonds,” he said.

“In this environment, we have seen a de facto increase in the risk that clients are taking in things like illiquid investments, private equity investments, infrastructure and private debt, those kind of investments were higher illiquidity results in incrementally higher returns.”

The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, one of the largest sovereign wealth funds, said in its 2016 report that has gradually increased its exposure in direct private equity and private credit transactions, mainly in Asian markets and especially in China and India. The authority’s private equity department focused on structured equities owing to “their defensive characteristics.”

Famous left-handers

- Marie Curie

- Jimi Hendrix

- Leonardo Di Vinci

- David Bowie

- Paul McCartney

- Albert Einstein

- Jack the Ripper

- Barack Obama

- Helen Keller

- Joan of Arc

Sweet Tooth

Creator: Jim Mickle
Starring: Christian Convery, Nonso Anozie, Adeel Akhtar, Stefania LaVie Owen
Rating: 2.5/5

ROUTE TO TITLE

Round 1: Beat Leolia Jeanjean 6-1, 6-2
Round 2: Beat Naomi Osaka 7-6, 1-6, 7-5
Round 3: Beat Marie Bouzkova 6-4, 6-2
Round 4: Beat Anastasia Potapova 6-0, 6-0
Quarter-final: Beat Marketa Vondrousova 6-0, 6-2
Semi-final: Beat Coco Gauff 6-2, 6-4
Final: Beat Jasmine Paolini 6-2, 6-2

Tomb Raider I–III Remastered

Developer: Aspyr
Publisher: Aspyr
Console: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4&5, PC and Xbox series X/S
Rating: 3/5

The specs

Engine: 2-litre 4-cylinder mild hybrid
Transmission: 7-speed S tronic
Power: 265hp / 195kW
Torque: 370Nm
Price: from Dh260,000
On sale: now

ABU DHABI'S KEY TOURISM GOALS: BY THE NUMBERS

By 2030, Abu Dhabi aims to achieve:

• 39.3 million visitors, nearly 64% up from 2023

• Dh90 billion contribution to GDP, about 84% more than Dh49 billion in 2023

• 178,000 new jobs, bringing the total to about 366,000

• 52,000 hotel rooms, up 53% from 34,000 in 2023

• 7.2 million international visitors, almost 90% higher compared to 2023's 3.8 million

• 3.9 international overnight hotel stays, 22% more from 3.2 nights in 2023

How to avoid getting scammed
  • Never click on links provided via app or SMS, even if they seem to come from authorised senders at first glance
  • Always double-check the authenticity of websites
  • Enable Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) for all your working and personal services
  • Only use official links published by the respective entity
  • Double-check the web addresses to reduce exposure to fake sites created with domain names containing spelling errors
Previous men's records
  • 2:01:39: Eliud Kipchoge (KEN) on 16/9/19 in Berlin
  • 2:02:57: Dennis Kimetto (KEN) on 28/09/2014 in Berlin
  • 2:03:23: Wilson Kipsang (KEN) on 29/09/2013 in Berlin
  • 2:03:38: Patrick Makau (KEN) on 25/09/2011 in Berlin
  • 2:03:59: Haile Gebreselassie (ETH) on 28/09/2008 in Berlin
  • 2:04:26: Haile Gebreselassie (ETH) on 30/09/2007 in Berlin
  • 2:04:55: Paul Tergat (KEN) on 28/09/2003 in Berlin
  • 2:05:38: Khalid Khannouchi (USA) 14/04/2002 in London
  • 2:05:42: Khalid Khannouchi (USA) 24/10/1999 in Chicago
  • 2:06:05: Ronaldo da Costa (BRA) 20/09/1998 in Berlin
Company profile

Name: Elggo
Started: August 2022
Founders: Luma Makari and Mirna Mneimneh
Based: Dubai, UAE
Sector: Education technology / health technology
Size: Four employees
Investment stage: Pre-seed

The specs

Engine: 3.8-litre, twin-turbo V8

Transmission: eight-speed automatic

Power: 582bhp

Torque: 730Nm

Price: Dh649,000

On sale: now 

TO ALL THE BOYS: ALWAYS AND FOREVER

Directed by: Michael Fimognari

Starring: Lana Condor and Noah Centineo

Two stars

Company Profile

Company name: Cargoz
Date started: January 2022
Founders: Premlal Pullisserry and Lijo Antony
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 30
Investment stage: Seed

SPEC SHEET: SAMSUNG GALAXY S23 ULTRA

Display: 6.8" edge quad-HD+ dynamic Amoled 2X, Infinity-O, 3088 x 1440, 500ppi, HDR10+, 120Hz

Processor: 4nm Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, 64-bit octa-core

Memory: 8/12GB RAM

Storage: 128/256/512GB/1TB (only 128GB has an 8GB RAM option)

Platform: Android 13

Main camera: quad 12MP ultra-wide f/2.2 + 200MP wide f/1.7 + 10MP telephoto f/4.9 + 10MP telephoto 2.4; 3x/10x optical zoom, Space Zoom up to 100x; auto HDR, expert RAW

Video: 8K@24/30fps, 4K@60fps, full-HD@60fps, HD@30fps, full-HD super slo-mo@960fps

Front camera: 12MP f/2.2

Battery: 5000mAh, fast wireless charging 2.0, Wireless PowerShare

Connectivity: 5G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.2, NFC

I/O: USB-C; built-in Galaxy S Pen

SIM: single nano / nano + eSIM / nano + nano + eSIM / nano + nano

Colours: cream, green, lavender, phantom black; online exclusives: graphite, lime, red, sky blue

Price: Dh4,949 for 256GB, Dh5,449 for 512GB, Dh6,449 for 1TB; 128GB unavailable in the UAE

The Roundup : No Way Out

Director: Lee Sang-yong
Stars: Don Lee, Lee Jun-hyuk, Munetaka Aoki
Rating: 3/5