Democracy and Sectarianism do not go together, Don’t Kid Yourself.

by Ghassan Karamcivil marriage a civil right

If two opposing sides are fighting each other with all what they have in order to control a major corporation then the uncertainty and the instability that their acts generate demoralizes most of the employees and the valuation in addition to the performance of the corporation in question plummets. A white knight comes to the rescue in the eleventh hour by getting the two parties to stop their feuding based on the principle of “equal shares” or “monasafah” as it is called in Arabic.

That was a very positive step to end the hemorrhage and save the patient from a certain death. Yet this solution could not be expected to last. At best it was a stop gap measure in an effort to allow the corporation to recuperate. You see one side to the conflict represents 60% of the capitalization while the other one represents only a 40% share that is continuing to decline. The funny thing about this settlement is that the side that represents only 40% of the capitalization continues to act as if it is the single most important element for the survival of the enterprise in question and claims that it is the only democratic group in this fight. Note the irony, those that represent only 40% of the capital insists on a board that offers them equal power to those that represent 60% and they threaten that if this is not done then that would be a gross violation of all democratic principles.

If a case similar to the above is ever presented to an MBA class anywhere in the world the solution would be simple and straight forward. All share holders should act in such a way as to enhance value for other shareholders and not only a specific group since that would be discriminatory. The solution would simply be to let those that are the most qualified to run the show. If that is true of a corporation then why not a country? Lebanon is the equivalent of the above hypothetical corporation that is struggling for survival and that is looking for a way out of this constant meaningless conflict between these two groups.

The Lebanese Christian parties, all of them, have been very disingenuous. They claim democratic principles but yet they insist that their coreligionists are more important than others. This is reminiscent of 1984 where all are equal but yet some are more equal than others. Why is it so difficult for the Lebanese Christian politicians and the Lebanese clergy, Bkirki in particular, to note the great contradiction between asking for “monasafah” and yet calling that democratic. Whether it is the Patriarch, Gemayel , Geagea or any of the others they must know that what they are calling for is not fair, it is arrogant, it is divisive and it is based on the principle that Christians are more important than others.

Do the Christian leaders have a reason to fear their potential partners? Base on the extremist language that gets all the headlines, maybe they do. Yet the answer to their fears is not to try and perpetuate a backward system but to instead seek a real and a meaningful solution whereby all stakeholders would compete on a level playing field that does not take religious affiliation into consideration. Lebanon has a golden opportunity to face head on what it has been avoiding for over twenty years. Give the various religious communities a Senate but have the Chamber of Deputies run on only merit. Let us show faith that no Lebanese will favour policies that would benefit only her coreligionists but will instead support that which is good for the commonwealth. It is time that all Lebanese come together to eliminate fear and suspicion and to act for the good of the country. There is still time to do this and there is no need for a phase in. Let us go ahead and allow any Lebanese citizen to run for a seat in the Chamber of deputies anywhere in the country and let us divide the state into 128 different districts. Taif mandates this, it is good for us and we must go ahead and do the right thing. Nothing short of this is worthwhile. If we fail to do this then we have no one to blame but ourselves.

And finally let us be reminded that equality of citizenship is sort of meaningless if potentially our best are not allowed to seek certain offices for no reason besides the fact that when they were born they were registered as belonging to this sect or that. What if one decides to reject all sects? Does she then lose her citizenship? I should hope not. That is why there are two hugely important litmus tests about whether we are mature enough to reject sectarianism: civil marriage and citizenship to the children of a Lebanese mother. Let us not pretend that we are what we are not. No democracy can exist without civil marriage and no democracy can exist without total gender equality. If we cannot deal with these relatively easy issues then why should we expect a solution to what has been the bane of Lebanon since its inception: political sectarianism. Mr. Mikati has even refused to consider looking into the possibility of adopting a civil marriage law. How disappointing and how hypocritical. Should we really expect Mr. Mikati to be able to handle the thorny issue of eliminating in one swoop, once and for all, political sectarianism? Of course not.

  • Patience2

    Agreed.

    • ghassan Karam

      Patience2,
      You are a person after my own heart :-)

  • Patience2

    Agreed.

    • http://www.facebook.com/ghassan.karam Ghassan Karam

      Patience2,
      You are a person after my own heart :-)

  • Prophettttt

    Ghassan, You’re not kidding!The day scientists can find a way of mixing water and oil naturally,is the day Lebanese can find a way of mixing sectarianism and democracy. Trying to mix polar liquid with non-polar liquid will always give you same result,and every time you try; Non-polar liquid ALWAYS floats on top of polar liquid. Sectarianism will always tint democracy by floating on the surface,just like oil would float on top of water.Polar molecules are as attracted to each other as non-polar molecules attracted to each other,but polar will never be attracted to non-polar.

    Our intellectuals,and educators have a duty ,and a responsibility to start writing and talking about an important issue that has always been neglected or over looked;People can be secular and faithful at the same time,and secularism is not the enemy of moderate religion.Secularism is not necessarily atheism.

    • ghassan Karam

      Prophettttt
      Secularism is the best way to protect religious freedom of all sects. The government would not take into consideration any of ones personal beliefs or practices and each person would be totally free to believe in whatever they want to believe in. What is disturbing about all of this are the constant statements by politicians and Bkirki in particular that their support for the Orthodox gathering is not on sectarian grounds but is based on democratic principle especially the “munasafah”. Isn’t there a single courageous politician in Lebanon or a journalist for that matter to shout from the roof tops that the munasafah is NOT democratic and in particular when the two parties are of completely different size. Unfortunately, the Lebanese Christian are digging their own hole by fighting the elimination of sectarian allocation of seats in the Chamber.

  • Prophettttt

    Ghassan, You’re not kidding!The day scientists can find a way of mixing water and oil naturally,is the day Lebanese can find a way of mixing sectarianism and democracy. Trying to mix polar liquid with non-polar liquid will always give you same result every time you try; Non-polar liquid ALWAYS floats on top of polar liquid. Sectarianism will always tint democracy by floating on the surface,just like oil would float on top of water.Polar molecules are as attracted to each other as non-polar molecules attracted to each other.

    Our intellectuals,and educators have a duty start writing and talking about an important issue that is always neglected or over looked;People can be secular and faithful at the same time,and secularism is not the enemy of moderate religion.Secularism is not necessarily atheism.

    • http://www.facebook.com/ghassan.karam Ghassan Karam

      Prophettttt
      Secularism is the best way to protect religious freedom of all sects. The government would not take into consideration any of ones personal beliefs or practices and each person would be totally free to believe in whatever they want to believe in. What is disturbing about all of this are the constant statements by politicians and Bkirki in particular that their support for the Orthodox gathering is not on sectarian grounds but is based on democratic principle especially the “munasafah”. Isn’t there a single courageous politician in Lebanon or a journalist for that matter to shout from the roof tops that the munasafah is NOT democratic and in particular when the two parties are of completely different size. Unfortunately, the Lebanese Christian are digging their own hole by fighting the elimination of sectarian allocation of seats in the Chamber.

  • 5thDrawer

    Exactly.

  • 5thDrawer

    Exactly.

  • MeYosemite

    Ghassan
    Can we guess what the people actually want? Let consider or assume a referendum occur about civil marriage, what are the likely results? I think if there is true desire for democracy in Lebanon (people vote) there are ways to move things forward regardless of what makati or politicians think.
    I was hoping by now there will be an organization (likely outside Lebanon) or facebook pages that can keep track of what the people truly want. While I agree with your thinking, I wonder if we are just a minority. I doubt the actual taste of democracy has reached Lebanon for them to tell what it is. I left Lebanon for a simple reason that I couldn’t apply for a specific job because of my religion, something I couldn’t accept, all said that’s the way and I took the highway. A form of racism. In a way sectarianism equals racism.

    • Ghassan Karam

      MeYosemite,
      Unfortunately I happen to think that your point is very valid. I do subscribe to the view that those who ask for change and are “progressive” for the lack of a better term are very much of a minority. So why bother and talk about it? Well there is a theory in the social sciences that if an idea gets about 15% support then that is often enough to break through. The above means that in Lebanon those that are for civil marriage, political reform, responsible government … are not yet even 15%.

  • MeYosemite

    Ghassan
    Can we guess what the people actually want? Let consider or assume a referendum occur about civil marriage, what are the likely results? I think if there is true desire for democracy in Lebanon (people vote) there are ways to move things forward regardless of what makati or politicians think.
    I was hoping by now there will be an organization (likely outside Lebanon) or facebook pages that can keep track of what the people truly want. While I agree with your thinking, I wonder if we are just a minority. I doubt the actual taste of democracy has reached Lebanon for them to tell what it is. I left Lebanon for a simple reason that I couldn’t apply for a specific job because of my religion, something I couldn’t accept, all said that’s the way and I took the highway. A form of racism. In a way sectarianism equals racism.

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

      MeYosemite,
      Unfortunately I happen to think that your point is very valid. I do subscribe to the view that those who ask for change and are “progressive” for the lack of a better term are very much of a minority. So why bother and talk about it? Well there is a theory in the social sciences that if an idea gets about 15% support then that is often enough to break through. The above means that in Lebanon those that are for civil marriage, political reform, responsible government … are not yet even 15%.

  • MekensehParty

    Sectarianism is the word the backward people of Lebanon use to hide the fact that they are not democratic. They always blame sectarianism for all their self made woes. If tomorrow a prophet is born in Lebanon spreading one religion that all embrace, don’t kid yourself into believing that freed from sectarianism they will turn into Thomas Jeffersons. The Lebanese people have a long way to go, and instead of pushing them to vote for representatives from different sects in elections that mean nothing (since all local decisions are STILL made outside the border) I think a better advice is to teach them how to stand in line (best of luck getting that simple civilized move into their heads before the 4th millenium).

  • MekensehParty

    Sectarianism is the word the backward people of Lebanon use to hide the fact that they are not democratic. They always blame sectarianism for all their self made woes. If tomorrow a prophet is born in Lebanon spreading one religion that all embrace, don’t kid yourself into believing that freed from sectarianism they will turn into Thomas Jeffersons. The Lebanese people have a long way to go, and instead of pushing them to vote for representatives from different sects in elections that mean nothing (since all local decisions are STILL made outside the border) I think a better advice is to teach them how to stand in line (best of luck getting that simple civilized move into their heads before the 4th millenium).

  • Prophettttt

    Where Ghassan Karam? It’s been almost a month since He contributed any of his work, or his comments to this forum. I hope all is well with him, and I also hope that He didn’t quit on us.

    • 5thDrawer

      I think and hope, Prophet, taking a holiday, or a mental break. Over time, one lays out a basic philosophy in various articles, on simple subjects made complex by stupidity, and eventually needs to take a breather because no-one seems to listen anyway except for a few in a blog-site who agree with the philosophy.
      One can become tired of crying into an ill wind. Maybe he’s writing another book.

  • Prophettttt

    Where Ghassan Karam? It’s been almost a month since He contributed any of his work, or his comments to this forum. I hope all is well with him, and I also hope that He didn’t quit on us.

    • 5thDrawer

      I think and hope, Prophet, taking a holiday, or a mental break. Over time, one lays out a basic philosophy in various articles, on simple subjects made complex by stupidity, and eventually needs to take a breather because no-one seems to listen anyway except for a few in a blog-site who agree with the philosophy.
      One can become tired of crying into an ill wind. Maybe he’s writing another book.

  • hariri assaoudi

    sectaranism is a natural animal trait which ipso facto involves human beings; it is present in every single country or even subcountry including those so called democratic; real democracy is present in only one place: the place where you “spend a penny” as the brits say; i wouldnt really worry much about the absence, temporary or not, of someone who, for the sake of appearing interesting, and to attract the curiosity of “niswen al forn” on this blog, painted Lebanon as a maffia state or narco-country even if that could be partially true….yet i have to refer those “niwen al forn” to the black boxes of the cia or mi5 or dst or other democratic secret services and ask them if they knew most of their budget comes from money forgery and laudering, drug dealing and prostitution; even though i am not a supporter of assad per sey, yet i admire his national stance and i quote:”i do not discuss internal syrian politics with foreigners” end of quote.The french say “ne pas laver le linge sale dehors”

  • hariri assaoudi

    sectaranism is a natural animal trait which ipso facto involves human beings; it is present in every single country or even subcountry including those so called democratic; real democracy is present in only one place: the place where you “spend a penny” as the brits say; i wouldnt really worry much about the absence, temporary or not, of someone who, for the sake of appearing interesting, and to attract the curiosity of “niswen al forn” on this blog, painted Lebanon as a maffia state or narco-country even if that could be partially true….yet i have to refer those “niwen al forn” to the black boxes of the cia or mi5 or dst or other democratic secret services and ask them if they knew most of their budget comes from money forgery and laudering, drug dealing and prostitution; even though i am not a supporter of assad per sey, yet i admire his national stance and i quote:”i do not discuss internal syrian politics with foreigners” end of quote.The french say “ne pas laver le linge sale dehors”