The Middle East Tribune

Centered on Civil Liberties & Political Issues, Human Development & Socioeconomic Matters

Sectarianism Versus Real Citizenship


“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


11 comments on “Sectarianism Versus Real Citizenship

  1. bemacomber
    August 29, 2013

    When the uneducated or the ego-driven derive their faux power via sectarianism it defeats the goals of liberty and justice for all those equal under the law. The US Constitution separated the church from the state to avoid supporting sects. The active far right within the GOP is a perfect example of repression of the truth to satisfy doctrines believed by a sect swallowed by corporate business as usual. Unfortunately, my fellow Americans are at a juncture in history saturated in citizenry apathy compounded by a prejudice any Arab is a bad Arab. This myth is being sold with little effort yet is the greatest lie of this century. Unless people find common ground based on willingness to understand without supporting the unacceptable there will be no positive forward movement in America, the Middle East, or any other geo-political entity on Earth. We, humanity, must put aside our differences and uncover bridges and pathways to move our species toward union and peace. If we do not, as an observer of nature, I can assure you, this planet will fling Homo sapiens aside and move onto another form. A bi-ped with big brains who does not work to destroy the very habitat we need to continue life and a far more advanced human-prone species who understands the heart is the ruler, not the ego or the motivation of fear. This new form of humanoid maybe just over the horizon. Or, you and I, dear sir, maybe the prototypes of same.


    • Mohammad S. Moussalli
      August 29, 2013

      I’m thankful and almost speechless to comment on your brilliant view. I just prefer to quote your great phrase :”We, humanity, must put aside our differences and uncover bridges and pathways to move our species toward union and peace.”
      Thank you indeed


  2. Dr.Yasmine Jawad
    July 27, 2013

    Iraq is not much different in this regard. it is even worse. sectarian politician are fighting each other with their own militias at all level. Almost a thousand die this months in mosques, sport clubs, markets, streets, and cafes. There is no end to it so long those politicians hold tp power in the name of democracy and political process.


  3. Lucy Rizo
    January 21, 2013

    i love straight forward talk like this. Thank you.
    And Truth is hard to hear. For the Gentleman that commented on the Westerners, its always best to stay focused on what the responsibility is of the country ( in this case) that has been sectarian to a fault as their history…… before you blame others. Something has happened to taking responsibility for ones own behavior. Its epidemic.


  4. Phil Cantrill
    September 8, 2012

    Sadly, the ability of “Middle Eastern” countries to resolve sectarian differences is not helped by Western nations who, for at least the last 200 years, have adopted policies aimed at highlighting those differences to keep nations weak and easily exploited. I wonder if any real change is possible until Western sabre-rattling and exploitation ends. But that won’t happen until the Middle East presents a united front to the expropriators. How can the circle be broken?


    • M. Moussalli
      September 8, 2012

      A very strong factual point Phil. I believe that the first step to break this circle is help these manipulated people to consider the importance of being culturally educated and humanistically enlightened is the key for a better future, and that being academically and scientifically eduacated alone is not enough to have good human life.


  5. Deena Stryker
    June 21, 2012

    According to a recentoy published book in French, “Syriana’ by Bahar Kimyongur, sectarianism has also been rife in Syria and neighboring Turkey, a fact overlooked by the mainstream media when reporting on the conflict in Syria.


    • M. Moussalli
      June 21, 2012

      This is true. Actually, sectarian practices could be found far and near in the Middle East. I believe it’s hindering the real development of the region.
      Thank you Deena


  6. Pingback: Andres (haucheng) | Pearltrees

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Follow The Middle East Tribune on

Mohammad S. Moussalli

Copyright Notice

© 2018 Mohammad S. Moussalli; ----------------------- Sharing, reblogging, excerpts and republication of this material, or part thereof, are permissible PROVIDED that it's clearly attributed to the author with reference to the original publication.
%d bloggers like this: