Lebanon, My articles

Lebanon’s Confused Secularism

Hi folks. I’ve written a brief piece about tomorrow’s secularism march for The Guardian’s “Comment is Free” section. Feel free to comment either there or here.

Who, by the way, is going? Anyone? Can someone do me a solid and take some pictures?

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19 thoughts on “Lebanon’s Confused Secularism

  1. Wait, I am ‘confused’ … Are you wearing a tuxedo in that picture?!?

    I mean, it’s just the Guardian, save it for a glossy, non? … 🙂

    Posted by david | April 23, 2010, 1:36 pm
  2. Re tuxedo, you have a good eye. 🙂

    It’s the only picture of me where I don’t have baby spit-up on my shoulder or dark circles under my eyes.


    Posted by Qifa Nabki | April 23, 2010, 1:41 pm
  3. Nah, it’s better this way. Now your readers can assume you blog in top hat and tails (pajamas are so … 2005).

    Stay away for the white gloves, though. That’s just showy … 🙂

    Posted by david | April 23, 2010, 2:21 pm
  4. — Another U.S. official described the Arab press reports as “bullshit.” — (over at FP’s Cable)

    Ha-ha-ha. We have a winner!!!

    But what about the unicorns?!?

    Posted by david | April 23, 2010, 4:23 pm
  5. Several good points were brought in the article. Quit strait forward. I would add though that the general public is raised up memorizing slogans and not understanding them which makes Lebanon similar to many other countries when it comes to election day they vote for the ones they are told to vote. I wish I could suggest that before the call for secularism they start studying the people running for positions and hold them responsible for the positions they hold for years or their life time. Plus those churches and mosques will never accept to be put aside they are as active in small country like Lebanon as they are in the great USofA religion has created politics from the dawn of time. The religious figures appointed kings as GODs and Declared rulers as descendent of prophets…
    No mater how far ahead the west thinks they are some how religion or the lack of it effects their politics.
    Good article

    Posted by kt | April 24, 2010, 4:40 am
  6. Here’s what I added to the comment section of the Guardian article–after most of the comments started regurgigating memorized myhts about “Christians” and “Muslims.”

    Let us focus on the points raised in the article and not on the “beliefs” of various people masquerading as “truths” and used in taking political positions. Whenever “truth” is only related to belief and “justice” is only couched in unchanging and fixed positionalities no change and transformation is possible. I am not arguing for “progress” but for the possibility of social change: without secularism (understood as a space that equally distances itself from all “beliefs,” whether religious or ideological, and that provides a “free” space to dissent and to discuss) as the foundational ground for politics, social change and social transformation (as well as self-transformation) is not possible!
    How can the Lebanese people revisit their understanding of their own identity and their own meanings and values (whether political, personal, or even religious) through their own history, practices, needs, and not being led by the nose by feudal lords and blindly ordered to fulfill instrumental roles. There is no “Lebanon” without established institutional secularism. The only positive institutional or imaginary structure of Lebanon has been relying on the variety and differences in religions and orientations to allow a quasi-free and equal space of contestation. This needs to be implemented in Lebanon to allow for the transformation of the Lebanese into autonomous citizens who can be religious in both the public sphere and the private sphere but cannot impose religious structures to the dominant political discourse.

    Posted by Parrhesia | April 24, 2010, 2:29 pm
  7. Will be there! Will see what I can do with pictures (bad previous experience with ISF, but that was during elections time…)

    Posted by mas | April 24, 2010, 3:47 pm
  8. Hopefully this movement will grow and become influential.

    It’s a baby step, but a valuable one.

    Posted by Ras Beirut | April 25, 2010, 10:36 am
  9. Parresia said:
    “secularism (understood as a space that equally distances itself from all “beliefs,” whether religious or ideological, ”

    I don’t mean to nit pick but my only discomfort with your otherwise excellent statement is the above definition. I do not believe that it is enough for government to treat religions equally since in a democracy that is taken for granted. I will have to insist that government be totally separate from the house of worship if secularism is to flourish. Citizens and officials must never be judged on the bases of whether they pray , how they do that or to whom they pray.
    Obviously government must also allow all ideologies but governance must promote the overall ideology of the party in power, otherwise why bother to have elections. I do not expect a party of the extreme right to have the same goals as that of the extreme left not to speak of the greens who cannot be categorized by the left–right system.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | April 25, 2010, 10:58 am
  10. Parrsia,
    I neglected to add in the above post that no one should be under the illusion that secularism will make the Lebanese dysfunctional system whole. Secularism will only only make religious prefernces illegal. The rest is up to us.
    The fact that our problems are so well established and so entrenched can best be seen from the attitudes and remarks of the political leaders regarding the upcoming municipal elections. Jumblatt, Arslan, Geagea, Pharaon and others have publicly stated that the municipal elections and the lists are not being formed only based on the ideologies of the traditional feudal political lords of the manor but they have to take into consideration the power and standinge of “families” !!! Note that no one seems interested in having a vigorous competition based on the qualification of individuals or needs of the electorate. Hell the only thing that matters is the personal power of the Zaim followed by traditional power of “families” subservient to the Zaim, individual citizens be damned. This is a political system that cannot be salvaged. There is only one thing that can be done with it. Change it lock , stock and barrel.
    Short of that the stench from this system will be so overwhelming that it will make living with it an impossibility.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | April 25, 2010, 11:14 am
  11. I do agree with Ghassan that following a ‘Zaim’ is what characterizes the dominant trends in contemporary politics in Lebanon, but I cannot agree with his belief that “seuclarism” is only meant to abolish religious preference. “Secularism” should not only be an anti-discriminatory process but an institutional and cultural change that can effectively transform various processes associated with political inter-actions. Keeping a measure of “realism” is important: those Sunnis who want to adopt, or those Maronites who want to divorce, or the Muslim-Christian couples that want to marry should be able to do that in “public” institutions, but those who want to follow a religious tradition as well, should be able to do so. The standard “public” option would supplement and add on to the existing religious option. Simialrly, all parties will be required to have a political platform–not a religious one masquerading as a political platform–but this should allow for a “religiou” component in a way wheer politics supersedes it. For example, if Hizbollah, as a political party, is aiming at empowering the Shia minorities, it should be able to do so by calling for a change in the political process that would eqaully allow all “citizens,” including citizens who happen to be Shia’, to run for office and/or access public offices based on a non-discriminatory system that weighs in qualifications and expertise–and not “oidentity”. This, over a long period of tiem, would change the cultrue in such a way that “Zaims” would become irrelevant–although mechanisms need to be put in place to ensure that ethnicity or prominence/wealth are not advantageous for those running for political office. The reality of the situation may be that some regions will be religiosuly homogenous, aqnd it will take many years before local and general electionsfor political offices are not as religiously biased as they are today, but strutures and rules need to be put into place that will make such a transformation possible.

    Posted by Parrhesia | April 26, 2010, 1:13 am
  12. Look, there are many things that they are marching for that make sense and that actually have a chance of happening. However, they are also demanding things that will not happen for at least another 50 years. But lumping the things that can happen with those that can’t, they are ensuring that none of the issues are dealt with and passed as law!

    So, instead of just being totally idealistic, they can be a little bit more practical and focus on the issues that actually have a chance.

    In the Lebanese State, things are divided up according to sect, and that will probably never change. So I say focus on the other issues, and don’t waste everyone’s time.

    Posted by Lebo | April 26, 2010, 2:57 am
  13. This is very unexpected: Sfeir coming out to say he agrees 100% with Berri’s proposal for secularization.

    Posted by sean | April 27, 2010, 2:57 am
  14. I think he’s just senile.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | April 27, 2010, 10:09 am
  15. #13,

    Well Sfeir said IF Berri is for total abolishment of sectarianism…Then we are in agreement!

    Now is Berri for TOTAL abolishment of sectarianism which brings in tow the dismantling of HA’s Shia militia?

    Posted by danny | April 27, 2010, 11:10 am
  16. AIG,
    I am sure you saw this. Im just pointing it out to be sure. And it’s obvious that your vision of Israel as a racist state is doomed when even your zionist leader of parliament is against it:

    Add people likes of Avraham Burg and others, and i think it’s clear that you’re just gone to have to come to terms with sharing equal rights with palestinians.

    Posted by Joe M. | April 29, 2010, 2:37 pm
  17. Racist State NewZ

    i think it’s clear that you’re just gone to have to come to terms with sharing equal rights with palestinians.

    Joe M. –

    There already are equal rights for Palestinians in Israel. Your a little late.

    And anyway, how could you possibly agree with a Likudnik like Rivlin?

    Posted by Akbar Palace | April 29, 2010, 2:54 pm
  18. I don’t care who it is who speaks the truth, I will support the truth, not the person. In this case, yes, Rivlin is a monster, but a monster who is speaking the truth. And who recognizes that there will be one state.

    Posted by Joe M. | April 29, 2010, 5:13 pm
  19. ليش عام تتعذب وتوجع راسك ؟ ما في شي راح يتغير ، وما في فريق راضي كيف ما برمتا، كلو بيرجع للمساحة ، بلد صغير ودرجة التنوع عاليه جداً ، بالأخر في فريق بدو يرحل ، خصوصاً إذا بقي منقسم على حالو، هيدي حالة الدني .

    Posted by Abdo | May 1, 2010, 4:57 am

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