A son-in-law occupies a tense spot in the family. This has nothing to do with the harmony accompanying this addition to the family; rather, this tension predates his arrival and may lead to either harmony or trouble. In either case, it still is tension since the status of the son-in-law gives its holder robbery possibilities and results in caution and confusion he is permanently seeking to dissipate.
Things are more complicated in the political family. Politics cannot be legally inherited; it is not a land plot, the property of which is transmitted according to the inheritance laws. Hence, the caution the son-in-law enlists is multiplied, as stories and rumors abound about the status of the son-in-law in the political family. For instance, let us remember the controversial status of Saddam Hussein’s sons-in-law, Hussein and Saddam Kamel, whom Hussein’s son Oudai killed with his own hands. Their story contains a wealth of indications to the status of the son-in-law and the tension he causes in his capacity as a potential heir. The same holds true for Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. By that we mean the president’s brother-in-law Syrian Army Chief of Staff Asaf Chawkat and the unverified accounts, which are almost true, about his status in the family and the permanent misunderstanding in this respect between him and the president’s brother, between him and the president, and between sister and brother as a result.
In reality, these examples of sons-in-law (or brothers-in-law) moving from security and the military to politics are not the only sign of tension embodied by the status of the son-in-law in the public realms. In the times of the Arab Spring, we can move from the “security son-in-law” to the “son-in-law of the revolution”. This was the case with Tunisian Foreign Minister Rafik Abdel Salam, who is the son-in-law of Sheikh Rashed al-Ghannushi, the leader of the Nahda Movement that won the post-revolution elections. In Abdel Salam’s case, the son-in-law does not come from the security milieu; rather, he comes from a lineage of sheikhs that has taken to raising sons-in-law as voracious sons. Compensation efforts are also made, as the sheikh uses his position in the shape of efforts invested in the son-in-law. These efforts take him out of his real original status and depict him as a new, spoilt son, albeit one that is still imperfect.
We can move from the son-in-law of the revolution” to the “son-in-law of the state” as was the case with our former Foreign Minister Fares Boueiz, son-in-law of late President Elias Hraoui. We can also view the son-in-law as a temporary son, as was the case with our former Minister of the Interior Elias al-Murr when he was former President Emile Lahoud’s son-in-law. In this context, one can say that the son-in-law in conventional families with entrenched traditions is no more and no less than a son-in-law, and is not a potential heir. Have we ever heard, for instance, a son-in-law of the Khazen, Jumblatt, al-Assaad or Osseiran families compete with them on their family turf?
However, Lebanon has come up with a novelty with regard to sons-in-law. Indeed, we have moved from the “security son-in-law”, the “son-in-law of the revolution” and the “son-in-law of the state” to the “son-in-law of the Movement”. In this sense, Energy Minister Gebran Bassil is not only General Michel Aoun’s son-in-law; rather, he is the son-in-law of the whole Free Patriotic Movement. This is a novelty indeed, as the missions entrusted to the man transformed a semi-urban and semi-modern social movement into a family earmarked for serving the future of its son-in-law. The complaining, dissents and cracks Bassil left within the Aounist family is linked to the effects caused by the ambitious son-in-law who has come into the small family. In this sense, Bassil is the son-in-law of the Free Patriotic Movement rather than General Aoun’s.
Bassil’s latest statements about his refusing to shelter Syrian refugees are what drove me to try to look behind the petty politics, as the mistake here predates politics. I don’t know why I felt that, at this moment, he was a son-in-law at his apogee, not a minister.
This is not a satire of the son-in-law. In the end, we are all sons-in-law … and at this moment, we are all lumpish.
This article is a translation of the original, which appeared on the NOW Arabic site on Friday March 9, 2012