Centered on Civil Liberties & Political Issues, Human Development & Socioeconomic Matters
“The more things change, the more they stay the same”
Though this cliché has been used millions of times, it has never been more fitting than the current situation in Lebanon. It seems that the Lebanese people have forgotten the crucial lessons they concluded from Lebanon’s civil war.
Every now and then, a hate crime is reported somewhere in the world. Typically, it is against innocent people, whose only mistake is that they belong to one religion or another.
Many cultures have claimed, over thousands of years, some unsubstantiated reasons for their prejudice and dislike of other people’s religion. Even in Western democracies, where many believe that they treat all individuals with equality and neutrality, the existence of prejudice or some sectarianism is undeniable.
Sectarianism and denominationalism differ from any form of bias and discrimination. It is deeply rooted in the psyche of many people. It is reasonable enough to say that sectarian notions are passed down from parents to children. Though there are parents who do not lecture their children to hate others religion; yet, there are some involuntary repulsion expressions to others that might have passed to their children at some time. Just a few simple words like; “I hate those stupid …” may not seem significant to an adult, but it might have a great effect on an impressionable child.
In Lebanon, a 17-year war is supposed to be the ultimate lesson, or at least a wake-up call, for Lebanese politicians to understand that denominationalism, sectarianism, and confessionalism must be firmly contained and then abolished so that peace and prosperity flourish. Nevertheless, you see many Lebanese politicians still doing the same fatal mistakes over again.
Dogmatism and intolerance are the primary base of any sectarian society. Nonetheless, the level of sectarianism among ordinary Lebanese is noticeably weak and tolerable. While, in contrary, the sectarian mode among most Lebanese politicians and bureaucrats is alarming and unacceptable.
This is mainly because Lebanese politicians are elected to their parliamentary positions largely by their confessional and sectarian community or appointed to government offices and ministries by the chieftain of their sect to represent and serve their boss and sect—not to serve the entire country as they often claim.
Bearing in mind that most chieftains and politicians are more self-serving than being protectionists of their sects rights, let alone their unseen economic benefits. Yet, once one became the permanent chief politician of his sects he widens the circle of benefits to include his siblings, relatives, bureaucrats, associations, and friends.
This ill practice, however, is because of the current Lebanese confessional political system restrictively allocates all key public offices to certain confessional and sectarian groups. While the other reason is a consequence of the current deficient sectarian electoral system, which politicians created to monopolize power—a confessional system which, in all probabilities, they will remodel just to stick with it.
In fact, the present era in Lebanon is characterized by a widespread belief that most government officials are sectarian, corrupt, incompetent and indifferent to citizens’ concerns.
Meanwhile, the wealthy elite within each sect evade the frustrations of dealing with an inept government by using their economic and political leverage, normally meaning connections and bribery.
Unfortunately, it is so because of the Lebanese ailing political system lacks transparency and real democracy. The first vital step is to have fair electoral law and regulations, confessional or not, in a context that could enable the Lebanese public to have a genuine representation of their choices without interferences.
During the wartime, Lebanon’s civil society was shaped by the state’s failure to deliver political stability, basic services, and social welfare. However, though it was justifiable then, yet the current government’s failure to deliver these essentials at peacetime and its accompanying negative effects on the majority of Lebanese citizens are unjustifiable and inexcusable. This situation is causing wide resentment among the Lebanese people, which might become very destructive.
Lebanese political society and its sectarian system are visibly warped to serve the interests of few sects, which detracts political cohesiveness and hence results in a feeble and corrupted political administration. The government usually defends its actions by invoking the risks to a national security concern posed by the Arab-Israeli conflict from which Lebanon’s high-sounding officials operate without effective supervision.
This corrupt sectarian politics, however, has undermined the concept of “real citizenship” and led to many political crises because of politicians’ negative response to major political and administrative reform.
Reform is stillborn in Lebanon. It is mentioned in government policy announcements and in government officials’ speeches. But, the Lebanese are eager to see reform and development happens in their country. They want to see democratic political practices which are based on national interests rather than confessional ones.
The government should pass a new non-confessional electoral law, to secure the independence of the judiciary, to reform its bureaucracy, and, most importantly, to develop a non-sectarian political and civil system for all Lebanese.
This will happen when Lebanese legislators and the government fulfill their declared commitment to political and administrative reform and do not block efforts toward non-confessional political development.
Author’s Note: This article was also published in “The Daily Star” newspaper