Weaving together Lebanon’s sects for a strong state

When criticizing Lebanon, many Arabs view the country in terms of its sects

Diana Moukalled

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In addition to fighting and engaging in wars, we in Lebanon have been subjected to waves of verbal disputes and collective misunderstandings during which hatred and aversion reigns supreme.

This continues to occur between Christians and Muslims and also between sects, take for example the tension between Sunnis and Shiites.

Yes, we commemorated the 40th anniversary of the war earlier this month and this shows that the relationship between sects is essentially based on belligerency.

We have come to the realization that our sectarian nature is the source of both hatred and love both among our communities and toward non-Lebanese from Israel, to Syria to Iran, Turkey and Arab and Gulf countries.

Sectarian tension

When criticizing Lebanon, many Arabs view the country in terms of its sects. This is true; we are divided into sects and this is not said in admiration but as a confession. The problem is that many Arabs have, after 2011, realized what they denied - that most of them are also divided into sects. The relationship between many groups took a turn for the worse and descended into conflict.

Lebanon has never been dissociated from its surroundings and from the rest of the world. On the contrary, it’s been open to foreign influences, both positive and negative.

We, as groups and sects, were stronger than the state. Therefore, when the state weakened and divided, the country did not totally collapse. Despite all factors of destruction, the country stood its ground against total collapse while countries surrounding us, like in Iraq and Syria, have proven that the collapse of the state makes for the total collapse of the country.

Again, this is neither in praise of sects and groups nor is it a declaration of admiration. It is instead a call to recognize their existence in order to quell the explosions around us and reach a state of harmony rather than remaining divided into sects.

Such misunderstandings and disputes plagued Lebanon in much the same way they did in the past. This happens inside Lebanon as well as in the wider Arab world. For example, the Lebanese-Palestinian disagreement dates back to the days of the civil war while the Lebanese-Syrian disagreement has never actually come to an end. There’s currently disagreement in Lebanon regarding the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide by the Ottoman Empire’s army, a claim which Turkish leaders refute.

Sniping will get us nowhere

The list is long and the crisis in Yemen has added to it, with some commentators on either side spewing hatred, generalizations and contempt.

For example, a Lebanese commentator attacked nomadism and a Saudi author fired back saying Lebanon is a disease. These commentators’ fans on Twitter and Facebook propagated this vulgar language and played on regional contradictions in a bid to add fuel to fire. This rhetoric has been adopted by more than one media outlet and by several high profile figures.

As a Lebanese citizen who opposes Hezbollah and its regional and local roles and who opposes other plans which do not represent my country’s best interests, I feel that any insult targets all of Lebanon and any insult against Saudi Arabia targets all Saudis.

Therefore, we must all take a deep breath before making such statements as the cure to our ongoing problems will not be found in such nonsensical remarks.

This is not a call to bury our heads in the sand but a call to realize that indulging in such low rhetoric is not useful as it serves certain groups. Such rhetoric does not aim to contain and confront what’s happening but aims to exploit it.

It’s clear that those who engage in the rhetoric of insults suffer from a crisis but the same applies to those who stir praise as the latter can be just as trivial and hypocritical.

Who knows, maybe we will one day be able to properly address one another and thus overcome insults and hypocrisy.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on April 27, 2015.


Diana Moukalled is the Web Editor at the Lebanon-based Future Television and was the Production & Programming Manager with at the channel. Previously, she worked there as Editor in Chief, Producer and Presenter of “Bilayan al Mujaradah,” a documentary that covers hot zones in the Arab world and elsewhere, News and war correspondent and Local news correspondent. She currently writes a regular column in AlSharq AlAwsat. She also wrote for Al-Hayat Newspaper and Al-Wasat Magazine, besides producing news bulletins and documentaries for Reuters TV. She can be found on Twitter: @dianamoukalled.

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