Posted by: G-AZZI | May 11, 2011

Why secularism ?

The most common definition of secularism would be “the separation of religion and the state.” Under this limited definition, many will argue that technically Lebanon is a secular country since most of our penal code is a civil code and not a religious one, therefore article 534 (for example) which condemns “unnatural sex” (and therefore homosexuality) has nothing to do with religion.

However, secularism as a philosophy and a political movement goes far beyond this limited definition. Secularism means a progressive loss of the influence of religion on society, allowing the latter to go through the individualization of beliefs, the liberation of mores and the respect of private life. A secular state is a state that stays neutral towards all its citizens, and where every single citizen has equal rights regardless of their beliefs and their belonging to specific communities.

Under this definition, totalitarian regimes like those that applied Stalinism and Nazism cannot be considered secular, and that comparison which is made by some activists is irrelevant to the debate concerning Lebanon’s situation today.

Lebanon is not a secular country; no one can deny the influence that religious institutions have in Lebanon over lawmakers, censorship and media. Many NGOs working on women’s rights in rural areas have received direct threats from religious leaders.

Many pro-gay rights politicians and journalists that we approached during the past 6 years had the same reaction: “Badkon rjeil el din y’oumo alaina?!” (“Do you want religious leaders to rise against us?!”) Fears like these would have no place in a secular country.

Secularism alone does not guarantee women’s rights or gay rights, but it establishes the healthy context for us to open the debate without fearing for private freedoms, LGBT rights, women rights, censorship etc….

Unlike the previous initiative to “topple the sectarian movement” whose different representatives did not have a common agreement on the principles of secularism, the “Laique Pride,” taking place this Sunday in Beirut, is the right place for us to push for a healthy government that will ascertain that no community will have the supremacy over another.

I urge every believer in equality, whether they believe in God or not, to join the secular march this Sunday in order for us all to claim our space as equal citizens in the Lebanese society.


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