Instrumentalizing Religion; the Lebanese Need for a Change


By Abedallah Kuraydli

When the Lebanese took to the streets on the 17th of October igniting the start of a long-lasting war against the current political system, most Lebanese people felt a unity that has been absent for at least 30 years. The majority of revolutionaries interviewed on television and social media platforms concentrated on the unity of their people who surprisingly have been divided not only on their very un-proportionate economic classes but also on their sectarian beliefs.

“For the first time in a really long time, we are uniting as Lebanese, we are not identifying as Maronites or Sunnis or Shi’as or Druze or whatever it is anymore, we are now identifying as Lebanese…” said one protestor when discussing how this revolution is a beacon of hope for the country. That alone is a living proof of the embodiment of religion within the [Lebanese] society, but the question remains, when did it start? Or rather, how?

After the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1918 (or in 1920 when the title of “Sultan” was abandoned) the League of Nations met and placed Lebanon under the mandate of France thus starting the French Mandate in Lebanon in 1923.

During the French Mandate in Lebanon, the French government declared the creation of “Greater Lebanon” which includes the territories of modern-day Lebanon. Greater Lebanon not only increased the territorial size of Lebanon but also diversified the religious backgrounds of its people. After that, France created the ‘National Pact’ (الميثاق الوطني) which witnessed the first official integration of religion into the Lebanese politics and governmental formation. The infamous ‘National Pact’ stated that for every 6 Christian members of parliament 5 Muslim members giving the ratio of 6:5 for the Christian population of the Country, it also dictated the sectarian division of power to appoint only the Maronite Christians (the majority at that time) to the role of President of the Republic, Sunni Muslims to the role of Prime Minister of the Republic, and Shi’a Muslims to the role of Speaker of the House.

Fast forward to November 1943 when the French left the country and modern-day Lebanon became an independent sovereign state, with Bashara Al-Khoury as its first President (Maronite Christian), Lebanon witnessed a period of flourishment and economic development up until 1975 when the Lebanese Civil War broke out and all religious groups in the country started fighting each other. The fighting got very intense, the opposing sides [literally] drew a line across the middle of Beirut and divided it into West Beirut (for the Muslims) and East Beirut (for the Christians), then in the late 1980s, Saudi Arabia gathered the warlords of the civil war in the city of Ta’if and created the Ta’if agreement which emphasized the importance of applying the National Pact within the state and thus putting an end to the Lebanese Civil War in 1990.

As Lebanon started entering into its post-civil war phase, the political parties that formed the country started to become highly characterized by their sects, for example, Hezbollah and the Amal Movement became two parties characterized as the Shi’a parties, the Future movement became known as the Sunni party, the Free Patriotic Movement (Anounist party) became a Maronite Christian party, etc.

Unfortunately for the Lebanese however, the Ta’if agreement did not bring peace to their hearts as this agreement has placed the warlords in all high political positions of the country, in such one of the warlords present at that time that created mass murders and many massacres the Lebanese people are still traumatized by, is the infamous Michele Aoun, the current president of Lebanon. As it has also instated Speaker Nabih Berri as the Speaker of the House, whom to this day still occupies that title (27 years in total), and so on.

It’ that the Lebanese have never had the chance to identify with their ethnic nationality as a whole and now with the October 17 Revolution, people are seeing a beacon of hope to what they will identify with and form a first time ever united front internationally. Nevertheless, this beacon of hope is simply not enough, now that Lebanon lives in a post-catastrophe period [the 4th of August explosions], the people have decided that they will take down the entire political class and elites be it by peace or by violence.

With people taking back to the streets revendicating louder than before, on Monday, August 10th, Prime Minister Hassan Diab announced his resignation and the dissolution of the government to which now the Parliament and the President (both of which the people refuse to have any longer) are tasked with appointing new ministers and a prime minister that would be responsible to hold the possible early elections that the French President Emmanuel M. had strongly insisted for his one-day trip to Lebanon after the explosion, but the question remains; since the same that happened with Saad Al-Hariri’s government happened with Diab’s government, will the current corrupt political elite class appoint another failing government?

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