BEIRUT: The exodus of Christians from the jihadist-controlled city of Mosul has stirred controversy in Christian and Muslim communities alike in Lebanon, with social media having big role in the backlash.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), which has recently changed its name to Islamic State (IS), gave Christians in Iraq’s northern area an ultimatum over the weekend to submit to Islamic rule or leave, forcing hundreds of families to flee the ancient city, which has for centuries stood as a testament of coexistence.
Through mosques' loudspeakers, the radical Sunni group gave Christians in Mosul the choice to either convert to Islam, pay a religious tax or face death.
Residents say the militants, who declared a caliphate last month headed by Abu Bakr Baghdadi, spray-painted Christian houses with the letter "N" in Arabic, which stands for Nasrani, or Christian, to identify them.
The move and the ensuing migration of Christians have sparked outrage in Lebanon.
While religious figures and Christian politicians issue statements to voice their opposition and rage over events in Mosul, many Lebanese have opted to change their profile pictures on Facebook to a picture of a yellow “N” (in Arabic) with a black background.
One Facebook user wrote: “And I am proud,” after posting the gloomy picture.
"This is an Arabic letter which is being painted on Christians' homes in Mosul to identify them as Christians.”
“I wish u Muslim friends would stand up to this. We need them to show the world that this is not Islam. We need to remind them that SILENCE IS A SIGN OF ACCEPTANCE,” the picture read.
"Let’s all stand up the same way people stood up when race was an issue in our country.”
One of Lebanon's most popular bloggers, Karl Sharro, tweeted: “Let's be honest Christians and other minorities were always 2nd class citizens in most Arab countries, ISIS is merely formalizing that.”
Other blamed the West and Israel for the catastrophe.
“This did not come from nothing !!! I always say when the Israeli planes are flying over somewhere, a bloodier disaster is happening somewhere else. God bless,” one Lebanese wrote on Facebook.
Others described ISIS as "stupid bigots" who are committing “religious cleansing,” while some questioned Western silence.
Saad Kurdi, who Photoshopped the letter “N” in Arabic on top of his own picture, said Facebook was his only means to vent.
“It is the only way I can express myself. It’s because I am disappointed and frustrated by what’s happening with Christians in Mosul,” Kurdi, 26, told The Daily Star. “I can’t do anything physically to help them. But instead of slapping someone, I post a picture.”
“I am very pissed off at the situation, which should not be taken lightly,” he said.
Michel Elefteriades, a Lebanese music producer, shared the letter "M," which is the first letter of "none of your business" in Arabic.