Lebanon: No to sectarianism!


An event has been completely ignored by European media, this Sunday, May 15, 2011. In Beirut, in the wake of protests in the Arab world, a young and progressive crowd rushed in the streets of Beirut to join the second edition of the Lebanese Laique Pride. This citizens’ movement launched in 2010 aims to raise awareness about the archaic political system of Lebanon and its sectarian excesses and claims the gradual establishment of a secular Lebanon where all citizens would be equal regardless of their religion or gender. This year, organizers chose to focus their claims on the need for adoption of a Civil Code, as well as the necessary vote of a legislation protecting women from domestic violence, initiated by NGO Kafa but made difficult by the religious taboo that weighs on the subject.

This march looks like a curiosity in a country ruled by a narrow confessional system, originally supposed to ensure the harmonious coexistence of the 18 religious communities living on its soil. But precisely, this system, instead of promoting understanding between different communities, has, in fact, exacerbated the tensions. Power sharing at all levels of society on a confessional basis is regarded as an entitlement and not as an opportunity for all to participate. The pervasiveness of religious reference in the public sphere invites every citizen to define oneself in religious terms at the expense of the sense of national belonging and citizenship with a deadly effect for social cohesion.

Demonstrators then expressed on Sunday their weariness about the absurdity of local public life, completely plagued by sectarianism, while refusing to admit their impotence. Moreover, one of the organizers said about it that « the legitimacy of the state and its representatives must come from the people, not religions. »

The humorous but biting slogans, the festive atmosphere close to the flower power spirit and the pacifist philosophy seem to express a genuine desire for benevolent coexistence from participants. Only downside: the lack of leadership of the organizers, the refusal to structure the movement and the difficulty of mobilizing citizens outside of political and religious circles, have caused an obvious slowing down of the dynamics of the movement which, for its second edition, only gathers already less than a thousand demonstrators. At this pace, the path to secularization of Lebanon might be still very long.


Iman Bahri