Thursday, September 22, 2011

An Interesting Take on the Orthodox in Lebanese Politics

This article is by Philippe Skaff, president of the Lebanese Green Party. It is within the context of recent demands by Orthodox leaders for greater representation Lebanese government and administration. For example, this. The Arabic original, published in an-Nahar, can be found here.

Not Us Orthodox Too!

Although I am among those who use three fingers to make the sign of the cross over their face, I allow myself to begin with this frank title, first of all because I still believe in Arabism, second because I still believe in Lebanon, and third because I am convinced that sectarian representation turns the principles of democracy into an unexemplary farce… I did not believe it when communiqués were issued by Orthodox dignitaries under the banner “We are not sectarian but we want sectarian representation.” The story of the three-finger group is close to the oft-told story of a tall, good-looking young man who anxiously asked a fortune teller, “I am alone in this world even though I am wealthy and cultured. Read for me the coffee-grounds about my love life.”

The fortune teller looked at what was left of the coffee and said, “I see a beautiful girl… You will fall in love with her.”

He asked her, “Will we get married?”

“Of course!” came the reply.

“Will we have a long life together?”

“Unfortunately, no. You will get divorced, because she’s very bad-natured.”

“And I will remain alone?!”

“Of course not! You will fall in love with and marry a woman even more beautiful than the first.”

“And will we remain together?”

“No, because this one will have an even worse nature than the one before her… You will divorce her too.”

“And I will not marry again after that?”

“No, no… You will get married to a third woman.”


“You will not divorce her because you will have gotten used to bad-natured, uncouth women.”

It appears that in Lebanon the history of the Orthodox has reached this third stage. They have passed through two divorces, the first with the Rome of the West because their Eastern Christianity refused to allow the West to conquer the East. So they helped Saladdin to liberate Jerusalem in 1187 and fought in his army against the Crusaders. However, this unorthodox marriage faltered with the fall of Constantinople. Their second divorce was with the oppressive Turks, and so the Orthodox revived Arabism during the time of the Nahda , for which they were the undisputable pioneers. Their third marriage was to intellectual and political secularism and the call to build up Lebanon within the framework of an Arab nationalism that ties together language, land, history, and a common destiny. Today there can be no divorce because they have gotten used to the evils of religious and sectarian prejudice that surround them. Why are they desperate and miserable, those who were the first to believe that deviation in religion leads to division and to a decline of the people and that it is the weapon of the mobs who when they revolt become ferocious beasts…. My fear is that the sole remaining intellect in Middle East will become ignorant!

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