A specter is haunting Lebanon… the specter of secularism. And all the powers of previous Lebanon have entered a holly alliance to exorcise this specter, Hezbollah and Lebanese forces, Christians and Druze, right wing conservatives and left wing socialists, but why the persistent resistance of secularization so desperately needed in a country torn apart by religious conflicts and corruption?

   The issue of sectarianism in Lebanon is rooted in its history. There seems to be a constant tension between the religious sects which every now and then reaches threshold and begets an outbreak of violence. This reoccurring cycle begs the question of whether or not Lebanon is truly destined to be a country of minorities built on a delicate balance between each cult. I have been blessed (or perhaps cursed) by having lived in the society of each sect aside from my own starting from childhood and had therefore acquired a quasi-comprehensive understanding of the undermining dynamics that govern the seemingly static, at times antagonistic, relation between the cults.

   “Lebanon is a country that is too big to be underestimated, too small to be segregated” those were the words of Moussa Al Sader founder of the predominantly Shia party Harakat Amal (hope movement) at the start of the grotesque civil war (1975-1989) words that still bare testimony today with bells of unity and tolerance between religious leaders tolling at the gathering held on Saturday April eleven in memory of the Lebanese civil war. 

But in spite of the compassionate atmosphere the shadow of strife still lurks behind each haphazard college fight, each occasional security breach… a reminiscence of the capabilities of this dormant volcano to once again erupt. Several theories have been composed to explain the eccentric situation in Lebanon, it is true sectarian tension are well known to erode the middle east where a myriad of religious beliefs and ethnic minorities dwell, but what makes the situation in Lebanon unique is the meticulous distribution of the political cake between each player in what resembles the 17th century European guild system. The three largest cults in Lebanon, Christians (mainly maronites), Sunna, and Shia monopolize the largest three political positions accordingly the president of the republic, the prime minister, and the Speaker of the Parliament, with Christians and Muslims equally sharing seats at the parliament. Every public job in the country is governed either implicitly or explicitly by sectarian interests that seldom allow the qualified to reach his or her lawful position but instead breeds endless layers of bureaucratic red tape and corruption protected by the veil of fear. 

In a system of tit for tat any attempt to change and improve is stymied by the need to maintain the artificially erected balance to preserve peaceful coexistence, yet a closer look at what justifies this system proves erroneous and equally contradicting. The very norms and regulations passed on to dampen the sectarian sentiments are in truth the fuel that perpetuates the fire. Every action by the government that distributes rights according to religious standards prevents any possibility of unity and integration; it poses the other person, the “brother in ruling the country” as an extrinsic alienated being competing over the bounty with public jobs becomes a battle field for sectarian interests. In attempting to maintain this never existing balance, the result is erecting a wall that ostracizes each religion and reconstructs begot emotions of hegemony and tension between the citizens. When my education, my job, my very prospects of social progression all require the assistance of my cult leaders I am further estranged from the fellow citizens, symbiotic relationships die, and interdependence fades into oblivion.

In the twilight of 2014, it is becoming increasingly obvious that the “guild system” has failed and continues to fail in securing harmony and coexistence, the only plausible reason for it remaining, the only rational explanation for the vigorous rejection of secular reforms by the leaders is that this system, aside from perpetuating sectarianism, acts as a mechanism by which economic gain is distributed to the elite in charge of governing. It provides both the means to rob the country’s riches and the method of keeping the people silent by blaming the other “partner” of distorted conduct. They steal your bread, give you a tiny fraction of it, and then reprimand you for lack of gratitude….the audacity of some! 
 Fouad Jaber


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