Despite the violent civil war and armed sectarian conflict, Lebanon’s society has remained open to plurality, diversity, tolerance and individual freedom.
You won’t find a religious sect that has isolated itself in this small Mediterranean country. Everyone, without exception, exudes political, social and intellectual vitality that makes plurality a major feature of the country.
Shiite diversity of political views
It’s true that leaders of sects are still present and continue to use rhetoric to mobilize people against each other; however this exhortation is only used to serve certain vested interests, usually during elections or in times of disputes over economic matters. The aim is to achieve goals within the framework of “political quotas” which is actually the “golden” rule for administrative and financial corruption.
Shiites in Lebanon are part of this diversity and they cannot be dealt with as one deaf bloc that follows just one leader without questioning where he is taking the community and what kind of future plan he has for it.
Historically speaking, many Shiites have been active in leftist and nationalist struggle movements in the mid-20th century. The most prominent ideologues of leftist thought were Shiites like the late Hussein Mroueh and Mahdi Amal. Shiites are now also at the forefront of secular intellectuals and writers who believe in the importance of deconstructing extremist speeches – fields which intellectuals like Ali Harb have written about. Thanks to his views, Ali Harb — who is influenced by French philosophy — is considered as one of the most prominent Arab intellectuals with a deconstructionist approach.
The religious movement itself also included references and intellectuals who created cultural diversity that developed an atmosphere of discussion and debate, which was not common in traditional Shiite circles.
Sayyed Hani Fahs and Sayyed Mohammed Hassan al-Amin were two examples of the politically open religious figures who believed in the civil state and reconciled with “secularism” and who were not afraid of the “other” but believed in its significance for self-fulfillment.
There are many other Shiite models as well. Some are characterized by their deep intellect and political maturity and some are not as mature - however, all of them definitely contribute to diversity that enriches Lebanon and the society.
Today, Shiites in Lebanon are part of this entity. They present themselves as citizens and not as followers of a certain sect. They believe in the state as the reference and in the importance of working to remove sectarianism from political life and reduce the extent of sectarian tensions which are caused by conflicts among political parties.
An intolerable invective
This awareness that has been building must not be suppressed or pictured as a reflection of familial or personal interests or as if this elite is a bunch of mercenaries and egoists who sold themselves at the embassies’ auctions!
The term “the Shiite of the embassy” is nothing more than an invective that is so vile that it ill behooves those who use it against those who disagree with them. It’s a phrase that’s used as a weapon to execute rivals and distort their political history.
Opportunists are present in every movement, sect and group but projecting anyone who disagrees with Hezbollah and the Amal Movement as traitors and agents of Washington and people who receive bribes and stab their people in the back is an obvious lie.
This civil vitality in Lebanese Shiite circles must be strengthened and dealt with in a mature way to establish a public opinion that does not have sectarian biases and so individuals can present themselves as Lebanese citizens while overcoming the narrow identities of any religion or sect.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Hassan AlMustafa is Saudi journalist with interest in Middle East and Gulf politics. His writing focuses on social media, Arab youth affairs and Middle Eastern societal matters. His twitter handle is @halmustafa.