Saturday, November 22, 2008

Commemorating 65 Years of Sectarianism – Lebanon Celebrates its Day of Independence

The Lebanese State commemorated its 65th year of independence on Saturday - November 22, 2008. As a citizen of Lebanon I regard November 22 as a day of celebration – in commemoration of independence from French colonialism. Yet I also regard it as being a day for mourning – mourning the sectarian nature of this tiny country.

The independent State of Lebanon was founded in 1943 on the basis of sectarianism and religious discrimination, and has been ruled on this prejudicial basis for the past sixty five years.

This discriminatory system of politics has been the root cause of two devastating civil wars (1958 & 1975-1990) and countless numbers of armed sectarian conflicts. The Lebanese State has always been ruled by a Maronite Christian president, a Sunni Muslim prime minister, and a Shi’I Muslim parliamentary president; parliament is also divided according to the same discriminatory scheme.

Until the signing of the Taif Agreement representation in parliament was skewed in favor of the Lebanese Christians – six Christian MPs for every five Muslim MPs. Since 1990 the 128 member legislative council has been divided on the sectarian basis of 50:50 – 64 seats for Christian MPs and 64 for Muslim MPs . Parliamentary representation is further subdivided according to different sects of Christianity and Islam - 34 seats reserved for Maronites, 14 for the Greek Orthodox, 8 for the Greek Catholics, 5 for the Armenian Orthodox, 1 for the Armenian Orthodox, 1 for Protestants, and 1 for other Christians; While 27 seats are reserved for Sunnis, 27 for the Shi’a, 8 for the Druze, and 2 for the Alawis. This parliament of sectarianism is responsible for choosing the state’s ministers - who are also chosen on a sectarian basis.

Lebanese politicians are chosen on the basis of their religious origins rather than the basis of their competence/incompetence. This sectarian system of politics is doomed to fail again and again; it can only lead to further divisions, animosities, and bloodshed amongst the Lebanese people.

The Taif Agreement stipulated that the abolition of Lebanon’s system of sectarian politics is a national priority; yet it did not provide a timetable for the phasing-out of this system.
It is high time that Lebanon finally free itself from sectarianism and faith-based divisions.

May Lebanon never forget the victims of its civil wars and its sectarian conflicts. May it always remember that (from 1975-1990) some 150,000 Lebanese were killed, another 100,000 wounded/maimed, and around 900,000 more were displaced.


I dream that the resilient people of Lebanon will celebrate their 66th year of independence free from all forms of sectarianism and discrimination – although this is highly unlikely to occur given the nature of Lebanon’s power-hungry politicians.

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