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Lebanon: Sectarianism and Peace Groups

The fears of sectarian strife may be the reason why a good number of bloggers wrote about sectarianism this week. However, as one may expect, bloggers do not agree on how to define or confront this issue. While some see that it is blown out of proportion, or that ignoring it may bring calamity, others think that it is a blessing and a Lebanese exceptionality. Nevertheless, many anti–sectarian youth peace groups have popped–up in Beirut in an attempt to save Lebanon from the seemingly inevitable future of a civil war or violence such as those occurring in neighboring countries in the region. Lebanese blogs touched upon these topics, and others like building or restoring bridges (literally), best photo awards, jokes and dissent in the March 14 coalition. Here is a sample of posts that I have collected:

How much do the various Lebanese groups or sects know about each other? Very little, it seems. This, according to Abu Ali is the root of hatred and even war:

A dear friend of mine told me recently: “I wish the Shi’a would start acting as true Lebanese, so that we can get on with our lives and build our nation”. I asked her what she knew about the Shi’a and about the South, and she innocently responded with a list of prejudiced stereotypes, which included a Shi’a penchant for self-flagellation. Our conversation confirmed to me again how little the Lebanese know about each other. This is not to be brushed aside lightly: ignorance breeds the fear and mistrust necessary to fuel sectarian hatred and civil wars. […]
In a country in which the political system is exclusively sectarian, we grow up to be ignorant (and therefore suspicious) of each other.
[I prepared] a “short” document on the Shi’a and on Jabal Amel, the mountain of the Shi’a of South Lebanon….


Sectarian and other forms of identification always takes precedant over the Lebanese identity according to Walid Moukarzil, and this, he declares, is the source of our troubles:

The trouble with the Lebanon is that there are no Lebanese in the Lebanon. The day the Lebanese arrive in Lebanon the trouble will end.

As for Sophia, sectarianism is just a cover up used to subdue and terrorize moderate and progressive voices in the Middle East:

sectarianism is never the cause of what is happening in Lebanon, in Iraq, and even in Gaza. It is only a mean to achieve something else, it is a mean to terrorise people in their own communities by silencing the voices of moderation and reason so the incompetence, corruption and the theft of our rulers go unnoticed. Every time an extremist slogan is shouted, there are ten moderate voices unheard.

Bech discusses the irony of anti–sectarian individuals who support sectarian leaders and the hypocrisy and/or inadequacy of some of the new groups which fight sectarianism:

Funny how Lebanese don't lack creativity to come up with solidarity movements, petitions to sign, political stands, etc. that glorifies their independence of affiliation. The “non-aligned” movement is the most interesting of all, because in reality, it slides inadvertently towards one side (the government, 14th of March).

Sietske in Beirut lists and defines some of the new peace groups that have recently declared their presence Beirut:

What I find much more fascinating though, is the number of Lebanese movements that are showing their discontent with the current political players. They are popping up like mushrooms. Are the Lebanese finally politicizing? A short line-up:…

The March 14 block (pro–government/anti–Syrian) may be facing dissent as MFL points out to Rafi Madayan who declares his break up with them and accused them of exploiting the martyrs of March 14 as well as destroying the dreams of the Lebanese youth.

Lebanese has an article about the efforts and financial aid provided by the USA as well as Iran to rebuild some of the ninety bridges destroyed or damaged by Israel during its offensive last summer.

On the lighter side, here is a joke about politicians, thieves and programmers from Ahmad:

One politician, One thief & One Programmer died & went straight to hell.
Politician said “I miss my country. I want to call my country and see how everybody is doing there.” She called and talked for about 5 minutes, then she asked “Well, devil how much do I need to pay for the call????
The devil says “Five million dollars”.
The Politician wrote him a cheque and went to sit back on her chair.
Thief was so jealous, he starts screaming, “My turn! I wanna call the my group members, I want to see how everybody is doing there too” He called and talked for about 2 minutes, then he asked “Well, devil how much do I need to pay for the call????
The devil says “Ten million dollars”.
With a smug look on his face, he made a cheque and went to sit back on his chair.
Programmer was even more jealous & starts screaming, “I want to call my IT friends too”, He called other IT person and he talked for twenty hours about various technologies and Project Managers, he talked & talked & talked, then he asked “Well, devil how much do I need to pay for the call????
The devil says “Twenty dollars”.
Programmer is stunned & says “Twenty dollars??? Only ??”
Devil says “Calling hell to hell is local”

Finally, finkployd posts some of the photos the won in the 2006 World Press Photo Contest especially those pictures that were taken during and after the Israeli July–August bombing of Lebanon.

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