Posted by: G-AZZI | March 31, 2011

Secularism and rights

From the moment the “iskat el nizam” movement (movement to topple the confessional system in Lebanon) surfaced, I was skeptical about the positive impact such a movement could have on the Lebanese society and on freedoms in general, especially taking into consideration the current popular mindset. I was also concerned about the potential danger it could represent to freedoms and diversity in Lebanon if it did not have a clear secular agenda.

However, I decided to give the movement a chance instead of unjustly putting it down. Many people expressed the same concerns as mine.

The recent discussions on the movement’s Facebook pages proved that not everyone supporting the toppling of the political system is in fact secular. And what is even more frightening is that many are conservative, homophobic, sexist and racist fanatics who saw the movement as an opportunity to take over the parliament.

I personally believe that a healthy change of the political system comes gradually, as natural consequences from a secular society (unless we gather an important number of supporters to overthrow all the politicians of Lebanon, which is unlikely at this point). A change of the system in a society in which sectarianism is still strong and thriving can have seriously damaging consequences.

Our fights for private freedoms like LGBT rights, women’s rights and other such matters are not threatened by the political system (al ta’ifieh al siyesiyeh). As a matter of fact, the discourse that every community should be represented in the parliament without the rule of any majority is a positive one. The only issue is that it should not be merely limited to religious communities.

What actually threatens our rights is religious fundamentalism coupled with the interference of religious leaders in the political and lawmaking process, which is not a right that was granted to them by the Lebanese political system. The only way to change that is to make our voice, as secular people, heard by our politicians.

The only reason the current corrupted leaders are in power is because they play on the fear that different communities have from each other. Just changing the political system will not eradicate this fear, so the move is bound to have some obvious shortcomings at this period in time. Thus, a secular country with secular laws (civil marriage among others), is the only long-term process to change the mentalities in Lebanon, enough for them not to feel that they need to vote for the respective leader that will supposedly “protect” them depending on which religious sect they belong to.

We need to raise awareness about secularism and shift the political discourse towards our daily concerns, concerns that the Maronites in Nabaa have in common with the Shiites in the Southern Suburb, etc…

The secular pride expected on 15th of May 2011, is definitely a better choice for me, hoping that we won’t be limited to yearly march but to move towards a bigger action plan.



  1. The real fear is to let an Islam dominated government become the new secular state.
    The reason why Lebanon has always been the most progressive Arabic country in the middle east is because of its Large Christian population which has always looked to the west.
    True Secular allows for everyone from every walk of life and religion be free to be who they are. What we do not want is a intolerant secular state.

    • I don’t think that Islam is the only problem, yes the diversity of Lebanon created some balance. But The church of Lebanon was responsible as well of censoring many movies, books, music and TV programs … the interference of any religious authority in any lawmaking process is dangerous.

  2. Christianity is not perfect i do agree.. but in today’s modern world ,it would never allow for hanging if teenage boys like in Iran for suspicion of being gay..
    There are many Large Christian religions such as the Anglican church that allow openly gay clergy and welcome gay people as normal to society.
    Lebanon not having an Islam dominated Government allowed for Diversity to flourish more progressively than any other Arab country as in general Christian people more are open to advancement of society and freedoms.

  3. but in short.. i do agree that if we can truly and justly keep religion completely of out politics and allow for universal individual freedoms- it would be in everyone’s best interest.
    But Lebanon being in a very complex region of the world has a lot going against it to allow this to happen…although it is ideal.

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