Posted by: sean | November 22, 2006

Lebanese views and sectarianism

The BBC has an article on Lebanese views on the assassination. They quote three different Lebanese, identifying them this way:

AMANI KALAAGI, LAWYER, SUNNI MUSLIM
TONI MAALOUF, TV EXECUTIVE, CATHOLIC
GEORGE BITAR, BUSINESSMAN, HEZBOLLAH SUPPORTER

First of all, I find it strange that they don’t mention the religion of the Hezbollah supporter after mentioning the religion of the first two people. Judging from his first name, he’s Christian, and it would be interesting to know if they neglected to put his religion because they didn’t want to write that there are Christian supporters of Hezbollah (quite a few, now that General Michel Aoun is Hezbollah’s opposition ally).

I’m also torn between thinking that the religious denominations of the people writing are relevant and thinking that this is exactly the sort of sectarian labeling that Lebanon does not need right now. It makes me think of an anti-sectarian campaign done by 05 Amam, an inter-confessional organization, whose advertisements poking fun at sectarian divide can be seen around town lately:

But finally to the content of what the Lebanese people are saying in the BBC article. The Hezbollah supporter thinks that the government is the group most likely to have the most to gain from the situation:

Who will benefit from this? The other side, of course, the 14 March grouping.

Tomorrow we [Hezbollah] were going to go on a peaceful demonstration against the government. But now we cannot, because it is too soon after this death.

So the 14 March group benefits from the reaction to the death.

I am not defending the people who did this.

If it was the Syrians, they would have killed someone more important. And they are not so stupid to kill him 24 hours before our people were due to go on a demonstration.

This is sad. Nobody knows tonight what will happen. The future is grey, uncertain.

Hezbollah wants calm, it just wants justice.

And the Sunni lawyer seems to think that Syria is obviously guilty, without saying so explicitly. He then despairs of the anti-Muslim sectarian comments he’s overheard at a lawyer’s conference.

To my mind, the most alarming comments are made by the Catholic television executive (it would be interesting to know for which station he works):

But the assassinations take place in Christian areas. The security is not effective enough in our areas; maybe we need our own security.

In the Hezbollah areas, they take care of their own security; and that works well for them.

I think we need a much stronger intelligence service and stronger security forces, which are independent of politics. We should all just stop talking about politics, maybe then we can all prosper.

So while on the one hand, he’s calling for an end to sectarianism and stresses that he wants peace, his comment that “maybe we need our own security” seems dangerously close to a call for rebuilding a Christian militia. This would be a disaster for Lebanon; one armed militia is already too much, the last thing we need here is a replay of the 70s and 80s when religious sects were armed to kill.

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