Sunday, January 20, 2013

Fr Georges Massouh on Growing Sectarianism in Lebanon

Arabic original here.

Sectarianism, not Citizenship, is the Common Denominator

Talk of "national unity" will not be valid as long as there is no "citizen" in the full sense of the word. The "citizen" is absent in Lebanon in favor of the sectarian group that imposes affiliation regardless of his will or his national choices. Talk of "national unity" that brings the Lebanese together is nothing but a mirage and pipe-dreams. The actual state of things points to the growth of sectarian units that do away with what remains of "national unity".

On the basis of a careful reading of religious and political discourse, we can say that for most Lebanese, sectarian identity has priority over national identity and belonging to Lebanon, "the final nation" according to the constitution. These words do not apply to one group more than another or to one sect more than another. Talk of belonging to the nation is just a cover that conceals sectarian discourse in order to mobilize and exploit whatever possible, be it at the ballot box, in armed struggle, or assigning "prerogatives" in the state.

Agreement between politicians on a sectarian basis does not build a united national society. Rather, the basis of the individual citizen who knows his rights and fulfills his responsibilities toward other citizens is the only thing that can create national unity. What we are living in our country today is a sort of balance of fear based on sects and their interests and the desires of those who control them and who strive for their slice of that cheese known as money and authority.

There is no doubt that sectarian polarization is becoming sharper in Lebanon. Sectarianism is spreading and citizenship is atrophying. Every political issue or plan for a new law turns now invites a sectarian debate and the mobilization of each sect's capabilities in order to gain a position that strengthens the clout of its members. This situation with the proposed plans for a "just" electoral law, as everyone with a plan claims.

The fact that the supporters and detractors of any proposed electoral law all equally start from a sectarian mindset after clothing it in talk of the nation is cause for cynicism. If we take, for example, the unorthodox proposal known as "the Orthodox plan", we find that both its supporters and its opponents invoke nationhood and coexistence, while both sides are only seeking their own sectarian interests and whatever seats they can gain, by adopting either this plan or that. Another cause for cynicism is that again and again they say that they are the opens who are secular and non-sectarian but because of the sectarian state of things they make sectarian choices and engage in the sectarian game, as they claim, until it ends.

The Lebanese are inventive at putting out slogans devoid of meaning. "Lebanon is the nation of coexistence," while there has not been a decade in at least the past two hundred years that did not witness internal strife on a sectarian basis! "Lebanon is the nation," when no citizen is equal to another in terms of rights and responsibilities in the country of cedars. "Lebanon is the message," but what message are they talking about? "Lebanon is the pioneer in human rights," but in Lebanon a person's rights and dignity are disregarded. "Democracy," from which nothing is taken other than the mechanism for polling and counting votes. "Freedom," yes, the freedom of corruption, bearing arms, and dependency on outside powers...

When will the awaited "Lebanese Spring" draw the curtain on this tragicomedy? Or shall we forever live in this sectarian autumn?


Anonymous said...

Mamnounak Abouna

The Anti-Gnostic said...

People make nations and endow them with their character; they are not just lines on a map. Lebanon was a coherent nation when the borders were drawn around Christians as the market-dominant majority. Then the Christians stopped having children and started emigrating. Apparently now the Lebanese are finding that diversity with Muslims only worked when Christians had the numbers to enforce their secular ethos. The same principle is at work in Syria, as the ruling Alawite-Christian alliance collapses in the face of far superior Sunni numbers.

On the other hand, one would think the majority of Muslims are sufficiently vested in the non-violent status quo. Political squabbles are an easy burden compared to the alternative. I wasn't aware the political conflicts were escalating but obviously Fr. Georges knows something I don't.