“Only Christians can save Lebanon”: A Quick Response

I’m quite sure not even a Maronite Patriarch could have pulled off such a gem. Technically, they do have a right to, given that the “glory of Lebanon has been bestowed upon him” (“مجد لبنان أعطي له”). Then again, some Christians could have come up with this too, because as some of them have told me (half serious, half jokingly): Christians (read Maronites) created Lebanon, they have the right to destroy it, and if we extrapolate, they could be the only ones to save it as well…

In any case, here is the article that is today’s talk of the town in Lebanon, an article so unbelievable that it looks like an April Fool’s joke. An article so devoid of any historical, sociological, and political substance that, as one commentator noted, needed a disclaimer that is almost as long as the article itself. It is difficult to find a place to start to comment and hard not to comment at all.

But let me be clear. My response aims to be “professional and not personal,” as the author herself hoped her critics would keep the level of debate. My response also emanates from a blog, and it is also a “blog post and therefore it is an opinion,” just as the author notes as if in defense of her thoughts. Yet having an opinion and publishing it in the public sphere isn’t a license to be immune from criticism, to be irresponsible nor inaccurate. We have listened to you, Ms. Elali, now kindly, listen to us…

I am not quite sure anybody, at this point, believes Lebanon is an independent republic. The Lebanese are not “bullshitted” very easily, even if they pretend to be so. But let’s not get into those small little details. The fact of the matter is that, even though you consider yourself as belonging to the “select few” who truly believe in a secular Lebanon, you are playing right into the hands of those that benefit from disseminating this very same poison: that the Lebanese “fear one another,” that they “cannot coexist with each other,” or that the “majority of Lebanese people secretly wish that the other party would suffer and die.” The history of Lebanon is the biggest example that this is historically false. Yes, sectarianism has grown stronger in the past years, and many do identify with their sects and often do not respect the opinion of others, but framing this as some innate physical trait of “the majority of Lebanese,” or even worse as a “Muslim” trait, is quite…well, let’s just say, preposterous. I invite you to have a conversation with a group of “Christian” Lebanese. You’ll find that they can be similar to their fellow “Muslims,” many of them don’t have “independent thoughts or positions,” and…no no, I will not get dragged into such a debate.

Ms. Elali, it saddens me that we are even having such a debate. That at this point in time, after all this country has gone through, the young generation, the future of this country, is still buying into the beliefs that have torn this country apart, beliefs from which the same political class that “rules” us has benefited from for generations to keep itself in power. It is sad that people still believe that it is religion that keeps us apart in Lebanon, and not how certain factions, ALL factions, use this same religion to keep people apart. It is also, to say the least, racist, to view the majority of “Muslims” as puppets, that have no word, and that are played by foreign countries against one another. Life, and geopolitics, is slightly more complex than that. And believe me, I do not want any “Christian” or “Muslim” working hard to give me the secular and civil state that I dream of. I want a Lebanese – who happens to be Shia, Maronite, Sunni, Catholic, Orthodox, Druze or Buddhist on his/her identification papers – to help me get to that state.

Lebanon doesn’t belong to any church nor mosque. It belongs to the Lebanese. They certainly tried to destroy it, in the names of religion and many other things. But if we are worth a single inch of our 10,452 km2, it should be the Lebanese that try to save it too. There are many of those around, believe me, and they’d be happy to meet you and discuss this issue further.

You noted your happiness that your post “has generated such a debate, especially when many things were left unsaid.” Well, I guess we truly hit the jackpot here. Eye on the East has been, since 2011, “following Lebanon & the Arab World so that nothing is left unsaid.

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7 Responses to “Only Christians can save Lebanon”: A Quick Response

  1. Wael Kechli says:

    It is always a charge for our beliefs to read your blog presidente respect!

  2. Souha Tarraf says:

    Thanks for this quick and clear response to N. El Ali. It’s so unbelievable and above all, so sad, and just now with these sad ‘events’ of our everyday life (bombing after bombing). I’ve commented directly several times (as Libanderives), and after i was too much to follow every word and i stopped. So, thank you for this adjustment.

  3. Thank you for putting into beautiful logical, balanced words what many of us (myself included) were too enraged to say. and kudos to the wonderful blog. i cant believe i hadn’t heard of it…

  4. Nadine Elali says:

    Nadine’s blog
    http://nadineelali.blogspot.com/

    Well, now that the dust has settled, I feel it is time to clarify and substantiate some of the claims and the points I raised in the blog, “Only Christians Can Save Lebanon.”

    The blog was to address something I feel strongly about; sectarianism.

    I am grateful for the discussion and the debate that have been raised as a consequence – although I’m quite sure some readers did not get beyond the headline and missed the points I was trying to raise.

    The country is divided. But I am not the one responsible for such divisions.

    I used terminology which may have perhaps made me appear to some as being racist and bias; however, it was only to draw your attention to the severe sectarian reality we Lebanese are facing today.

    The opinions that I expressed are but a mere reflection of those of many that I’ve been encountering on a daily basis during my experience as a journalist in the field and in my day to day contact with the various communities and their leaders.

    When I said that the Lebanese “fear one another,” that they “cannot coexist with each other,” or that the “majority of Lebanese people secretly wish that the other party would suffer and die,” I was not passing a judgment. The majority of Lebanese dear readers are not you and I, not our close circles, and not our friends and families. The majority of Lebanese people exist outside our comfort zones, in areas of no proximity to where you and I live and unfortunately they do express this view. Pay a visit to Tripoli, Saida, Akkar, Hermel, Baalbek, and Arsal and pay closer attention to what the people are saying.

    I understand your fears and that you would rather hear somewhat hopeful statements encouraging unity among sects, sadly however, such calls will go unnoticed if that reality is not addressed.

    I do not believe that religion keeps us apart. I do believe however, that by allowing it to act as the key social identity of citizens is the source of today’s segregation. Identity cards continue to assert one’s sect; laws continue to allow religion to govern one’s personal matters, and parliamentary representation and cabinet appointments are still based on sectarian quotas. The majority of Lebanese continue to “identify with their sect first and foremost,” even if they wished otherwise.

    Our political system, and the sectarian arrangements that accompany it, not only make religion the basis for any form of identity but also the basis for any form of access to education and social and public services. With the absence of a civil state which provides equal opportunities for all, the majority of the Lebanese depend on their community leaders to provide for them. In return for the services citizens pay back with their utmost faithfulness and allegiance. Hence, they become void of any personal “independent thought or position.”

    And given Lebanon’s limited resources and the instability surrounding it in the region, these identities become a source of political and economic competition and worse yet, the source of all conflict. Community leaders reach out to external actors/countries to provide them with financial and political support so as to champion their cause, and in return they too owe it to these external forces to be loyal to them and to act in their best interest.

    Many of you were provoked by me saying “Sunnis, Shiites, and Druze have no word of their own” and “never had.” It is not an insult. These groups today are tied to and guided by regional Muslim powers that call the shots for them. Why else do we not have a government today?

    Sunni leaders owe much of their political and financial support to Sunni countries mainly Saudi Arabia and Qatar, Alawites owe it to Syria, and the Shiite owes much of their funding and political support to Iran. As these foreign countries compete over regional hegemony, their local allies, the Muslims, are being played against one another.

    By keeping the “Christians” out of the picture, I was not suggesting that they were never part of a proxy war throughout history; it was certainly the case during the Lebanese civil war. But currently, they stand independent of the biggest competing forces in the Middle East. Today, as interre¬ligious insecurity between the Muslim communities’ peaks, I am calling on their allies – the Christian community – to step up and mediate a solution instead of fueling the divisions and further deepening the schism. My suggestion in the blog was a secular civil state but if people could come up with a better suggestion, let’s do it.

    I also agree with those who suggested that it is only through a national effort that we can save Lebanon. I was addressing people in a sectarian fashion because that is what they identify with. If people did identify with being Lebanese we wouldn’t be facing our current situation.

    Unfortunately, my attempt of engaging readers in a civilized debate fell short when commentators expressed their hate and condemnation. Many of those who were angered by my “apparent sectarianism,” were very sectarian in their insults. It also proved to me that many refuse to acknowledge this reality hence making it impossible to achieve the Utopian secular state we all dream of.

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