Religious fervor and the future of Lebanon.
As a Lebanese myself, I would say the existence of over 18 different sects (Alawite, Armenian Catholic, Armenian Orthodox, Assyrian Church of the East, Chaldean Catholic, Copts, Druze, Greek Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Isma’ili, Jewish, Latin Catholic, Maronite, Protestant, Sunni, Shi’a, Syriac Catholic, Syriac Orthodox) in Lebanon has always been both a blessing and a curse.
A blessing because the liberal Lebanese value the diversity of sects and appreciate the cultural flavors it adds to the society. They see it as an opportunity to influence and be influenced by others on an intellectual, social, cultural and even educational level. They cherish this engagement and try to promote it whenever they talk about Lebanon. They accept it as a fundamental aspect of Lebanese society and very rarely (if ever) this diversity, negatively influences our choices of friends, life partners, lovers and other aspects of our daily lives.
The liberals consist of a small portion of the Lebanese, most of them are very well educated, some living abroad, others fighting hard to abolish sectarianism, to legalize civil marriage (as opposed to religious marriages), to promote and defend human rights etc… (among many other social and humanitarian causes).
On the other hand, this diversity is the Lebanese curse. The curse that’s been haunting this nation for ages. The curse that’s been the reason behind the civil war (waged between the years 1975 and 1990) and that Lebanon is still suffering from its consequences until this day. It’s worth to note that the current regional problems – specifically what’s happening in Syria – are badly influencing the situation is Lebanon and jeopardizing its stability. Quite honestly, things are getting much worse as I personally see the country on the verge of another civil war.
A curse because every sect in Lebanon is funded, supported and fulfills the agenda of another neighboring nation, very much like what was happening at the beginnings of the civil war. The main difference is that since the first civil war, the demographics in Lebanon have changed and the number of Muslims has grown exponentially compared to the number of Christians and Druze.
Hence, 2 major Islamic sects are the key players today in the current Skirmishes (The Sunni and the Shi’a). Sunnis mostly have a loyalty to Saudi Arabia, the Shi’a have a strong allegiance to both Syria and Iran.
Now to really understand the impact of Islam on the contemporary happenings, it’s important to briefly discuss a little bit of history and the recent events since the year 2005 (The year when the former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Al Hariri was assassinated followed by a series of other assassination for multiple government officials, social activists, politicians and even writers).
A glimpse of the history of Lebanon reveals that for a long period of time, Sunnis didn’t have a centralized leadership and were never an organized sect. Unlike the Shi’a who the majority followed, were protected and became part of Hezbollah (It’s worth to note that, there are groups of Shi’a who oppose Hezbollah but they are a relative minority). Following the happenings in 2005, the Sunnis were united under the umbrella of Tayyar Al Mustaqbal (The Future Movement) led by the son of Rafiq El Hariri, Saad El Hariri (appointed by the demand of the people). The movement was spontaneous and it came as a response to the brutal assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq El Hariri. The movement was not organized and it wasn’t militarized. The assassinations following the murder of Rafiq El Hariri led to the creation of The 14th of February Coalition, later known as the 14th of March and was opposed by the 8th of March Coalition.
The 2 Coalitions were formed by different parties in Lebanon from different religions and sects. Sunnis were a prominent player in one, and Shi’a were a prominent player in the other.
The 2 coalitions battled (democratically, or so it was portrayed) on who will take ownership of the government and the parliament to fulfill their goals. The 14th of March preached a democratic nation and the formation of a government that believed in the ultimate independence of Lebanon and the other opposed these goals and had specific agendas to fulfill.
Today, the war in Syria is at its peak. The violence is intolerable. The 3 combating parties are Islamic. Hezbollah is a strong ally of Syria and is currently fighting there to protect the Assad regime. The 14th of March coalition (or what’s left of it) is highly opposing this strategic decision as it impacts Lebanon in its entirety to fulfill the agenda of other nations while the 8th of March coalition is claiming that this involvement is to save Lebanon from the imminent threat of Islamic extremists fighting in Syria.
Hezbollah on the other hand – established in Lebanon between 1982- 1985 after the 1982 Israeli invasion – was until the year 2000 instrumental in freeing the south of Lebanon. However, since the beginning of the new millennium, Hezbollah has revealed its hunger for power/control and more importantly it’s prioritization of an external agenda over national interest.
The terrorist rebel group has in fact since then fervently refused to relinquish its arms or any type of natural subjugation to the Lebanese government. A stance that would have been marginally understood if those weapons were being used solely to defend Lebanon.
Further, the organization has made it clear multiple times that it’s army will also be used for internal control… with the most prominent example being a week long invasion of Beirut in May 2008 following a government decision to dismantle Hezbollah’s communications network… Hezbollah has also been recently wiretapping much of the country, especially Christian areas, attacking Christians, and fighting in support of Syria’s Assad.
The situation cannot be worse.
Islam preaches peace, justice, love and care for others. Human beings on the other hand, will never let go of their animalistic instincts. They used and abused the teachings of Islam to promote extremist ideologies under the pretense of building the Islamic nation where the rules of Islam will be applied to the letter.
The war in Syria is being fought by 3 parties, the Assad regime, the opposition (mainly formed by the dissident military forces) and the Islamic extremist rebels (coming for all the regions of the world i.e. Al Qaida and its followers). This war is being moved to Lebanon to be waged by Sunnis and Shi’a because this serves Syria’s purposes and will shift the international attention to Lebanon instead.
It is real disconcerting that wrong interpretations of Islam combined with extremism, stupidity and foolishness are making this country a victim of a global political game where the cold wars of others are fought on Lebanese soil as it always has been.
Liberals and intellectuals will immigrate and fulfill their destinies in other countries and will take with them a nostalgic vision and a dream of a Lebanon that will never be.
A country with no consolidated, written history will never learn from the mistakes of the past.
At the end of the day, I believe that disobedience – in the eyes of anyone who has read history – is human’s original virtue. It is through disobedience that progress has been made, through disobedience and through rebellion. After all, freedom never comes for free.
Will Lebanese one day wake up and realize that the only way to liberate the country is through rallying around President Michel Suleiman alongside his Military/ Intelligence Establishment and wage an outright war dismantling Hezbollah? Time will tell…
God bless Lebanon.
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