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Saad Hariri and ‘Sophie’s World’

Mashari Althaydi

Published: Updated:

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri participated in the first episode of a television show in which children ask whatever questions pop up in their minds. Hariri answered questions, which reminded us of the simple origins of matters much more than the questions of “presumptuous” journalists do.

The program, which airs on the Lebanese MTV channel, is called The Bell Has Rung. It’s the Lebanese version of a foreign show in which students aged between 10 and 12 meet with public figures and ask them questions.

The conversation with the students, both male and female, was longer than an hour. They asked all sorts of questions including personal questions about the premier’s Iraqi mother, step-mother, his late brother Hussam, whom he was closest to, and about his late father Rafiq whose death continues to influence the Lebanese scene although it’s been more than 10 years since he was assassinated by those who accused him of treason.

Are there politicians in Lebanon brave enough to confront children’s unplanned questions, other than Saad Hariri who did not fully give up the politician’s trait of answering questions without revealing too much?

Mashari Althaydi

They also asked him about his relation with Saudi Arabia (Hariri has Saudi nationality) and with Lebanon where he’s originally from and how he entered the world of politics after his father was killed.

One of the most interesting questions was by a student named Leya Qassab who is around 10 years old. “Do you have a minute to explain to us the difference between Sunnis and Shiites?” she asked the prime minister.

Hariri tried to answer this “basic” question and said: “There is no difference between Sunnis and Shiites.” He wrote on the board in an attempt to explain this to them and concluded: “To me.. it’s a political dispute.”

The most difficult question

Truth be told, the most difficult questions are those of children because the latter have not been “tamed” yet within the social framework. Therefore, they can ask and inquire all they want.

Family magazines always include tips on how mothers should deal with children’s embarrassing questions. From a philosophical perspective, children’s questions constitute a special field of research. A real philosopher is he who maintains the child’s continuous astonishment.

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy says: “The philosophy of childhood has recently come to be recognized as an area of inquiry analogous to the philosophy of science, the philosophy of history, the philosophy of religion, and the many other ‘philosophy of’ subjects that are already considered legitimate areas of philosophical study.”

The book Sophie’s World by Norwegian author Jostein Gaarder, which was translated into several languages, is about a child protagonist exploring philosophy thanks to her continuous amazement with the universe and man. Amazement is the first childhood trait.

Are there politicians in Lebanon who are brave enough to confront children’s unplanned questions, other than Saad Hariri who did not fully give up the politician’s trait of answering questions without revealing too much?

This article is also available in Arabic.

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Saudi journalist Mashari Althaydi presents Al Arabiya News Channel’s “views on the news” daily show “Maraya.” He has previously held the position of a managing senior editor for Saudi Arabia & Gulf region at pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat. Althaydi has published several papers on political Islam and social history of Saudi Arabia. He appears as a guest on several radio and television programs to discuss the ideologies of extremist groups and terrorists. He tweets under @MAlthaydy.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.