Orthodox Gathering Electoral Proposal= Electoral Apartheid + Electoral Ghettoes

by Ghassan Karam 

Any and all electoral systems that are based on the archaic, discriminatory and undemocratic formula of monasafah (equal shares for Christians and Moslems) are to be rejected on both democratic as well as moral grounds. It is time for Lebanon to decide once and for all whether it wishes to be a modern democracy that rejects classifying its citizens on sectarian grounds or whether it wishes to pursue the tragic apartheid model.

The only logical grounds for the Orthodox gathering electoral system proposal is lack of trust that a Moslem Lebanese can be as motivated to do what is right for Lebanon as a Christian one. That is not only laughable but is outright immoral besides being anachronistic. To judge the ability of a person to serve her community and her country based on her religious belief ought to never be considered. What a shame that during 2012 the Lebanese ruling class is still mired in such divisive meaningless tactics. Oh how I wish that we could heed the admonishing of one of our great poets, Khalil Gibran, when he said “Pity a nation divided into fragments, each fragment deeming itself a nation”.

This country has been plagued by nothing but problems ever since its inception economic, social political but none more destructive and more corrosive than that of sectarianism. But despite that what remedies do we suggest adopting to ease our estrangement from each other and national discord but more of the same. What makes things worse is the fact that the old unfair status quo in addition to the proposed even more undemocratic one have originated in a religious church that proclaims peace and justice to be its hallmarks. It is painful to say this in a society that claims to be guided by the spiritual and by a sense of wholeness but both of the major Christian churches of Lebanon have been nothing short of a huge disappointment. Both churches appear to have purposely forgotten the teaching of Jesus, their savior, that they should “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” as it was related in Mathew.

How, in the name of God, can a man of the cloth proclaim his followers to be more deserving than those that were born into a different faith or belief? How can we speak of God’s love to all but yet act as if one is more important than the other not because of the individuals’ action or behaviour but simply based on the accident of birth. If the Patriarch is to be believed that the church has no political ambitions then why is it that he calls for political meetings, takes political sides and issues political statements on a daily basis? If some peop00le want to believe in religious mythology then that is their own business but to proceed and dictate civil rights and the weight of the vote on the grounds of their sectarian affiliation is catastrophic.

A modern state does not discriminate between its inhabitants, all citizens are entitled to the same protection , enjoy the same intrinsic rights and have an equal opportunity to seek any office, start any business and support whoever they want. The separation of the church from the state implies that the state has no right to segregate citizens into electoral ghettos in order to please misguided and misinformed religious leaders.  A just society is one that does not differentiate between its citizens based on the colour of their skin, race, gender, sexual preferences or religious affiliations. It is paradoxical that many agree that most of the above criteria are bogus yet they go out of their way to rationalize differences based on how they pray ,for whom they pray or whether they pray.

Ever since its modern formation, Lebanon has been struggling to find avoid the label of dysfunctionality as a state. Lebanon has failed to promote citizenship and allegiance to the idea of the state. One reason for such failure has been our propensity to feel comfortable in developing an overwhelming religious identity, an affiliation that favours separateness to community. If we are to prosper and escape this curse of systemic disposition to separate instead of unite then we have to reject totally and immediately any electoral system that amplifies the wrong and shuns the good in all of us. The Orthodox Gathering electoral proposal, might be well intentioned, but is actually a step backward from the already unjust current system. This rotten electoral system in Lebanon will not be meaningfully changed by the elected elite since it is simply against their interest to have us elect individuals based on their qualifications and their ideas. May we elect an Armenian woman for President, a Sunni for the Speaker of the Chamber, a Bahai PM and a parliament composed of men and women whose religious affiliation if known is not important.

And finally let me ask this very important question: who decides whether I am a Druze, a Shia, an Alawite… who decided for me which electoral booth to enter. This is the epitome of dictatorship.

  • Persistent

    Well said Mr. Karam and it makes perfect sense in theory.

    We have been chasing our tails for a long time on this subject, I think to get there in simple terms, the mindset has to be changed because it has failed us again and again, for a starter we need to begin by educating ourselves that we have nothing to fear of each others and we can coexist as humans, learn to trust one another and stop living in segregated communities, mingle more often to understand our differences and be supportive, focus on what we have in common as opposed to our differences, pick up each others when we are down, preach love, peace and tolerance, respect and treat each others equally, avoid labeling when we do not agree with other views, wane ourselves from total dependency on the outside world and be brave in making an independent decisions that suit our national interests without looking for the “nod of approval” from the outside world (like an unsure child looking up at his/her mom’s face for the slightest hint before making his/her decision on what to do next), and most importantly, we need to believe in ourselves and our abilities that we can get it done and we can succeed. Without going into names, I know for a fact, we Lebanese when given opportunities, we strive and keep reaching higher, the evidence is infront of us, we have so many successful people of Lebanese descent around the world who have immigrated to other countries seeking a better life.  

    Once again the solution may lay in resolving the famous riddle “what came first the chicken or the egg”…. making new laws or rebuilding the fabric of our society first.

    • Ghassan Karam

       Persistent,
                      Thank you for taking the time to write. I am under no illusion that Lebanon will stop being sectarian in the very short run but it is problematic when most realize that a modern state must move away from sectarianism for many reasons, discrimination and inferior outcomes being two of them but yet we seem to be discussing seriously the prospect of adopting an even more backward electoral law. That would be a tragedy.
                       BTW, I like your handle. If you are in Lebanon stay warm :-)

  • Persistent

    Well said Mr. Karam and it makes perfect sense in theory.

    We have been chasing our tails for a long time on this subject, I think to get there in reality, the mindset has to be changed because it has failed us again and again, for a starter we need to begin by educating ourselves that we have nothing to fear of each others and we can coexist as humans, learn to trust one another and stop living in segregated communities, mingle more often to understand our differences and be supportive, preach love, peace and tolerance, respect and treat each others equally, avoid labeling when we do not agree with other views, wane ourselves from total dependency on the outside world and be brave in making an independent decisions that suit our national interests without looking for the “nod of approval” from the outside world (like an unsure child looking up at his/her mom’s face for the slightest hint before making his/her decision on what to do next), and most importantly, we need to believe in ourselves and our abilities that we can get it done and we can succeed. Without going into names, I know for a fact, we Lebanese when given opportunities, we strive and keep reaching higher, the evidence is infront of us, we have so many successful people of Lebanese descent around the world who have immigrated to other countries seeking a better life.  

    Once again the solution may lay in resolving the famous riddle “what came first the chicken or the egg”…. 

    • http://profiles.google.com/karam.ghassan Ghassan Karam

       Persistent,
                      Thank you for taking the time to write. I am under no illusion that Lebanon will stop being sectarian in the very short run but it is problematic when most realize that a modern state must move away from sectarianism for many reasons, discrimination and inferior outcomes being two of them but yet we seem to be discussing seriously the prospect of adopting an even more backward electoral law. That would be a tragedy.
                       BTW, I like your handle. If you are in Lebanon stay warm :-)

  • Prophettttt

    Very well said,Ghassan. I Agree with every word you said,and I would have been more  outraged at this new proposal.
    We reject,and oppose the proposed law,and sectarianism ,but then?A very small percentage of the Lebanese population  reject sectarianism  out of principle,while the majority reject it because it suits their own “hidden” sectarian agenda. We reject and fight sectarianism at a time sectarianism,and religious fever is on steroid(maybe on chemical weapons soon),but what then? What do we do? Every step taken forward is followed by three steps backward. Is anyone listening to these logical calls? I guess I’m frustrated,and  am almost giving up,at least in our life time, for any change.
    We ought to find out a way to create a national identity that can unite us ,and move us away from the illusion of security provided by the sect or faith. This is not security,but rather insecurity.The only security is a solid national identity. That needs leadership ,which we do not have. All of our “leaderships” are products of the same laws you and I are opposing,and We can’t expect these people to do away with the laws that made them leaders,and are guaranteed to pass on the torch of leadership to their children. Ma hadda biktaa risquo be idoo.

    • Ghassan Karam

       Prophettttt
                      I understand your frustration and feel your pain. I do not enjoy repeating myself but this might be the umpteenth time when I felt compelled to revisit the subject of sectarianism.
                      There is no rational ground for the type of thinking that is involved in sectarianism. How can we possibly eliminate a very highly qualified individual from a particular post just because he was born into the wrong faith than that post requires? That is sheer madness. But , as you well know, the epitome of this madness are the religious leaders who are constantly stoking it. They might be experts in saving souls but why should they always find a way to “protect” the interests of their fellow congregants? Are they suggesting that it would be acceptable,say, to pass a law that would benefit the Maronites but not the whole country? If that is the case then that law should not be passed because the only legitimate way to judge is to measure the impact of a policy on society at large and not only a privileged group within the whole.
                     I refuse to think that Minister Safadi, forexample, would advocate a policy only because it is good for Sunnis. I am sure that he would be guided by what is good for the country. If that is so and if the same can be said of Mikati, Sharbal,and all the others then why do we fear insist on sectarianism? It is a policy that is not needed if the great majority would develop an identity that stresses citizenship.

      • Prophettttt

         Again, You’re right  on every point.It’s frustrating  to see everyone running in a circle looking for a corner.
        Allow me to share this stress reduction kit with you. A little humor won’t hurt anyone.

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/QUHCMQH262LEGPZCMEGORVMP2I Preview

           “everyone running in a circle looking for a corner:”

          LOL

      • AfRyT

        I am going to respond to You that Maronism is what created Lebanon, Maronism is what gave name to Lebanon, Maronism is part of the local Cultural History of Lebanon, Maronism itself is what has preserved Lebanon of losing its essence as Phoenician Lebanese, Maronism should be respected the same way You would respect a HOST, It was the other sects who came to Lebanon since the Year 642 to defeat Christianity, This sects of foes who became Lebanese Citizens should have respect for Our Culture, Beliefs and Traditions, It wasn’t Christian Maronites who crossed the desert to invade, kill and apply the three rules of Islam:
        1. Covert to Islam and live.
        2. Keep Your Religion and pay hight tribute.
        3. Keep Fighting.
        This are the three rules of Islam.

        And YES I think that Maronism as it is and so criticized by You and for others is what keeps Lebanon afloat, We can not be a “Modern Democratic Country” simply because History proves My point, The majority of voters in a Democratic process inside Lebanon, will leave the control to a Muslim population who in turn will claim victory over what was called by Islam “Lebanon The Pocket of Defeat” And You Yourself Contradict Your own words. You are using a Christian Apostle “Matthew” To make Your point, So tell Me Ghassan, ¿Why You have to use the words of Jesus to defeat Christianity? Don’t You think that You are just a little desperate to achieve Your goals? Yes give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s”

        Give Islam to Mecca and Lebanon To GOD, as it is for Maronism who in turn is part of the local culture, the others are not part of the local Original culture or Traditions.

        And Think again, It wasn’t Us who crossed the desert to invade, At least Stop trying to disposess from Us Maronites Our Faith and Social Systems of Government.

        • Peter

          beautiful response ,thankyou from australia

  • Prophettttt

    Very well said,Ghassan. I Agree with every word you said,and I would have been more  outraged at this new proposal.
    We reject,and oppose the proposed law. A very small percentage of the Lebanese population  reject sectarianism  out of principle,while others reject it because it suits their own hidden sectarian agenda. We reject and fight sectarianism at a time sectarianism,an religious fever is on steroid(maybe on chemical weapons too),but what then? What do we do? Every step taken forward is followed by three steps backward. Is anyone listening to these logical calls? I guess I’m frustrated,and almost giving up,at least in our life time.

    • http://profiles.google.com/karam.ghassan Ghassan Karam

       Prophettttt
                      I understand your frustration and feel your pain. I do not enjoy repeating myself but this might be the umpteenth time when I felt compelled to revisit the subject of sectarianism.
                      There is no rational ground for the type of thinking that is involved in sectarianism. How can we possibly eliminate a very highly qualified individual from a particular post just because he was born into the wrong faith than that post requires? That is sheer madness. But , as you well know, the epitome of this madness are the religious leaders who are constantly stoking it. They might be experts in saving souls but why should they always find a way to “protect” the interests of their fellow congregants? Are they suggesting that it would be acceptable,say, to pass a law that would benefit the Maronites but not the whole country? If that is the case then that law should not be passed because the only legitimate way to judge is to measure the impact of a policy on society at large and not only a privileged group within the whole.
                     I refuse to think that Minister Safadi, forexample, would advocate a policy only because it is good for Sunnis. I am sure that he would be guided by what is good for the country. If that is so and if the same can be said of Mikati, Sharbal,and all the others then why do we fear insist on sectarianism? It is a policy that is not needed if the great majority would develop an identity that stresses citizenship.

      • Prophettttt

         Again, You’re right  on every point.It’s frustrating  to see everyone running in a circle looking for a corner.
        Allow me to share this stress reduction kit with you. A little humor won’t hurt anyone.

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/QUHCMQH262LEGPZCMEGORVMP2I Preview

           “everyone running in a circle looking for a corner:”

          LOL

      • AfRyT

        I am going to respond to You that Maronism is what created Lebanon, Maronism is what gave name to Lebanon, Maronism is part of the local Cultural History of Lebanon, Maronism itself is what has preserved Lebanon of losing its essence as Phoenician Lebanese, Maronism should be respected the same way You would respect a HOST, It was the other sects who came to Lebanon since the Year 642 to defeat Christianity, This sects of foes who became Lebanese Citizens should have respect for Our Culture, Beliefs and Traditions, It wasn’t Christian Maronites who crossed the desert to invade, kill and apply the three rules of Islam:
        1. Covert to Islam and live.
        2. Keep Your Religion and pay hight tribute.
        3. Keep Fighting.
        This are the three rules of Islam.

        And YES I think that Maronism as it is and so criticized by You and for others is what keeps Lebanon afloat, We can not be a “Modern Democratic Country” simply because History proves My point, The majority of voters in a Democratic process inside Lebanon, will leave the control to a Muslim population who in turn will claim victory over what was called by Islam “Lebanon The Pocket of Defeat” And You Yourself Contradict Your own words. You are using a Christian Apostle “Matthew” To make Your point, So tell Me Ghassan, ¿Why You have to use the words of Jesus to defeat Christianity? Don’t You think that You are just a little desperate to achieve Your goals? Yes give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s”

        Give Islam to Mecca and Lebanon To GOD, as it is for Maronism who in turn is part of the local culture, the others are not part of the local Original culture or Traditions.

        And Think again, It wasn’t Us who crossed the desert to invade, At least Stop trying to disposess from Us Maronites Our Faith and Social Systems of Government.

        • Peter

          beautiful response ,thankyou from australia

  • Ghassan Karam

    Preview,
               I have not heard this one before. I like it :-)

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/QUHCMQH262LEGPZCMEGORVMP2I Preview

       Thanks Ghassan but i can’t take credit for it. It was Prophetttttttttttttt who said it.

  • http://profiles.google.com/karam.ghassan Ghassan Karam

    Preview,
               I have not heard this one before. I like it :-)

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/QUHCMQH262LEGPZCMEGORVMP2I Preview

       Thanks Ghassan but i can’t take credit for it. It was Prophetttttttttttttt who said it.

  • nagy_michael2

    Ghassan I totally agree with you but I think we’re too scared to split the system for there are no trust between each sect let alone the separate sects. so its safe to have someone vote for the same religion/same area to fee safe and confined. But I agree we definitely need to get rid of this system alltogether. Its up to the new generation to change it but unfortunately we do not trust each other and at the same too many regional influences that decides and determines our fate. I mean just a small election in Khoura last summer brought havoc on the northern area. Even hariri and saudi and iranians were pooring money lol. So having a vote of bigger interest would been even worse. The gov’t needs to set its priority and help the people with the immediate needs right now. Water, electicity, food and help the poor. Unfortunately we got the refugees problem to deal with and most ministers care about their own interest and people close to them. Otherwise you’re out like a dog lol..

  • nagy_michael2

    Ghassan I totally agree with you but I think we’re too scared to split the system for there are no trust between each sect let alone the separate sects. so its safe to have someone vote for the same religion/same area to fee safe and confined. But I agree we definitely need to get rid of this system alltogether. Its up to the new generation to change it but unfortunately we do not trust each other and at the same too many regional influences that decides and determines our fate. I mean just a small election in Khoura last summer brought havoc on the northern area. Even hariri and saudi and iranians were pooring money lol. So having a vote of bigger interest would been even worse. The gov’t needs to set its priority and help the people with the immediate needs right now. Water, electicity, food and help the poor. Unfortunately we got the refugees problem to deal with and most ministers care about their own interest and people close to them. Otherwise you’re out like a dog lol..

  • Ghassan Karam

     nagy_michael2,
                            I do understand that this will not be an easy thing. Had it been easy then we would not be talking about it.. My point is that Lebanon  i.e. the Lebanese citizens and not the political leaders must decide whether they want this experiment to succeed or not? If they decide that it is important to have Lebanon as a sovereign entity then we should act as such and the only way to do that is to act as Lebanese citizens irrespective of any of the other criteria. If you want my own personal opinion then I would suggest that Lebanon just passes a law that eliminates sectarianism in all fields. Originally it will be tough to implement but then we will get used to it. That is our salvation.

  • http://profiles.google.com/karam.ghassan Ghassan Karam

     nagy_michael2,
                            I do understand that this will not be an easy thing. Had it been easy then we would not be talking about it.. My point is that Lebanon  i.e. the Lebanese citizens and not the political leaders must decide whether they want this experiment to succeed or not? If they decide that it is important to have Lebanon as a sovereign entity then we should act as such and the only way to do that is to act as Lebanese citizens irrespective of any of the other criteria. If you want my own personal opinion then I would suggest that Lebanon just passes a law that eliminates sectarianism in all fields. Originally it will be tough to implement but then we will get used to it. That is our salvation.

  • Paul Matuk

    nice to hear political correctness has made it into the lebanese blogosphere. If I were a March 14 Christian, would I trust a HA follower to vote for my version of an independant and free “Lebanon”. Hell no. Why should I? We are not the people you want us to be yet Ghassan. I don’t know if we ever will be. Until then, the orthodox gathering is more than adequate.

    • Ghassan Karam

       Paul Matuk,
                        I would hope that what differentiates March 14 and March 8 is not any different than what differentiates  members of two political parties. They do not have to share the same ideology. Actually that is healthier that way. What you do not want is to specify that part of the qualifications for a job is to belong to a particular sect. BTW, I am so glad that a big chunk of March 14 are Sunnis Moslems and a big part ofMarch 8 are Christian Maronites. The Orthodox Gathering is a proposal that will deepen the mistrust and that will disenfranchise some. I believe that President Suleiman had it right when he called it unconstitutional. (That is strange coming from an unconstitutionally elected President:-))

      • Peter

        Ghassan why dont you respond to AfRyt

  • Paul Matuk

    nice to hear political correctness has made it into the lebanese blogosphere. If I were a March 14 Christian, would I trust a HA follower to vote for my version of an independant and free “Lebanon”. Hell no. Why should I? We are not the people you want us to be yet Ghassan. I don’t know if we ever will be. Until then, the orthodox gathering is more than adequate.

    • http://profiles.google.com/karam.ghassan Ghassan Karam

       Paul Matuk,
                        I would hope that what differentiates March 14 and March 8 is not any different than what differentiates  members of two political parties. They do not have to share the same ideology. Actually that is healthier that way. What you do not want is to specify that part of the qualifications for a job is to belong to a particular sect. BTW, I am so glad that a big chunk of March 14 are Sunnis Moslems and a big part ofMarch 8 are Christian Maronites. The Orthodox Gathering is a proposal that will deepen the mistrust and that will disenfranchise some. I believe that President Suleiman had it right when he called it unconstitutional. (That is strange coming from an unconstitutionally elected President:-))

      • Peter

        Ghassan why dont you respond to AfRyt

  • Fauzia45

    Ghassan ,I agree with you!I also agree with the idea that there has to be a change in the people,and the only way for this change to occur is by the right kind of education!Great men,intellectuals,great liberal thinkers should lead!They should lay the foundation of a modern democratic state with all of its institutions and laws!!The reason why states fail is that they are left in the hands of politicians and politics!The building of a state is too serious a matter to be left in their hands!They like religious leaders are after their interests and after power!Governments should be in the hands of great statesmen whose main concern is to serve their people s interest and welfare !

    • Ghassan Karam

       Fauzia,
                You are absolutely correct in pointing out that we do not have any “great men”/ leaders. Aoun, the Patriarch, Geagea, Gemayel … are talking every day about the right os the Christians when they should be talking about the rights of the Lebanese. No Lebanese should gain an advantage over another country person as a result of religious beliefs. this issue of marginalization will disappear immediately once we adopt a metric that does not include sectarian practices. It is not important whether the Finance minister, forexample, is a Sunni, a Shia, a Maronite or a non believer. What is important is that she believes in Lebanon and understands the principles of Finance and Economics.

      • Peter

        You have chosen not to refrence any muslim ideas or beliefs , r you biast ? if so why.

        • 5thDrawer

          No … logical.

  • Fauzia45

    Ghassan ,I agree with you!I also agree with the idea that there has to be a change in the people,and the only way for this change to occur is by the right kind of education!Great men,intellectuals,great liberal thinkers should lead!They should lay the foundation of a modern democratic state with all of its institutions and laws!!The reason why states fail is that they are left in the hands of politicians and politics!The building of a state is too serious a matter to be left in their hands!They like religious leaders are after their interests and after power!Governments should be in the hands of great statesmen whose main concern is to serve their people s interest and welfare !

    • http://profiles.google.com/karam.ghassan Ghassan Karam

       Fauzia,
                You are absolutely correct in pointing out that we do not have any “great men”/ leaders. Aoun, the Patriarch, Geagea, Gemayel … are talking every day about the right os the Christians when they should be talking about the rights of the Lebanese. No Lebanese should gain an advantage over another country person as a result of religious beliefs. this issue of marginalization will disappear immediately once we adopt a metric that does not include sectarian practices. It is not important whether the Finance minister, forexample, is a Sunni, a Shia, a Maronite or a non believer. What is important is that she believes in Lebanon and understands the principles of Finance and Economics.

      • Peter

        You have chosen not to refrence any muslim ideas or beliefs , r you biast ? if so why.

        • 5thDrawer

          No … logical.

  • Sebouh80

    Mr.Karam, May I ask what is the point of either of these so called Lebanese election laws since decisions are made by sectors of business community and related Zu’ama elites.

    In reality, the public are to be only “spectators of action”, not “participants”, as leading democratic theorists (in the case, Walter Lippmann) have explained. They are permitted to ratify the decisions of their betters and to lend their support to one or another of them, but not to interfere with matters like public policy that are not of their business.

    • Ghassan Karam

       Sebouh,
                  Whether different parties live up to their responsibilities or not is an essential issue but is not the central one in setting up electoral laws. One can only set up the laws in such a way as to ensure fair play. If the citizens do not approve of the way that they are being governed then they always have the option of electing somebody else.

  • Sebouh80

    Mr.Karam, May I ask what is the point of either of these so called Lebanese election laws since decisions are made by sectors of business community and related Zu’ama elites.

    In reality, the public are to be only “spectators of action”, not “participants”, as leading democratic theorists (in the case, Walter Lippmann) have explained. They are permitted to ratify the decisions of their betters and to lend their support to one or another of them, but not to interfere with matters like public policy that are not of their business.

    • http://profiles.google.com/karam.ghassan Ghassan Karam

       Sebouh,
                  Whether different parties live up to their responsibilities or not is an essential issue but is not the central one in setting up electoral laws. One can only set up the laws in such a way as to ensure fair play. If the citizens do not approve of the way that they are being governed then they always have the option of electing somebody else.