Lebanon, a Beacon of Tolerance?

The Daily Star has published very interesting poll results on Lebanese attitudes to religion and immigration. Many of the findings run counter to what is commonly accepted wisdom (Apparently Muslims are more likely to want to emigrate from Lebanon than Christians).

But here’s the paragraph that I found most interesting:

The research found that 76 percent of Lebanese said they strongly agreed that they “would not object to a person of a different religious faith moving [in] next door,” compared with 65 percent of Belgians, 57 percent of Britons and Germans, 53 percent of Italians and 23 percent of Israelis interviewed.

Very interesting food for thought..

Naturally, in what has become an infuriating habit, the Daily Star did not bother put a link to the original source of the polls.

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  • CopyCat

    I find that hard to believe with all the hoopla about selling land to Muslims in Christian areas (and vice versa?) I hope i’m wrong. The poll should have asked the Lebanese whether they mind marrying or allowing their kids to marry members of a different faith. I think therein lies the crux of the matter.

  • http://www.lifewithsubtitles.com Fadi

    I think that’s hogwash. Few people would openly admit that they are xenophobic/racist. The Lebanese are ready to sell beautiful concepts, but once it gets down to the crux of it, their actions often don’t agree with their words.

    • fatsamurai

      I agree with fadi, it’s just talking the talk

  • Bronxman

    I’m sure the responses depended on where the person being polled lived.

  • Shiwa7ad

    As with all political/religious polls in Lebanon, I am skeptical about this one also. To say the truth, unlike the previous one, I wouldn’t be surprised if this one turned out to be accurate. But it can’t be relied upon as solid data.
    Besides the question do not target the most common sectarian fears. Most people do not worry that someone of another sect lives near them. They should have asked whether, say, the person fears his/her community might be forced to exile by others, or whether he/she fears his/her community might be sidelined, or whether they fear their livelihood/living standards are at risk because of discriminatory policies that political parties claiming to represent other sects may implement if they reach power.

  • Samer Nasser

    Hi Mustapha, I follow you on Twitter and have been reading your excellent blog for a while. I’ve been “incognito” until now, but I figured this blog post offered me the opportunity to “break my silence” and be useful to you in a variety of ways.

    Firstly, please allow me a “teaching moment”. You commited a very common English error in your blog post (which is not replicated in either the Daily Star article or the original poll source from the Abu Dhabi Gallup Center) of confusing IMMIGRATION with EMIGRATION. The difference between the two is that if you are Lebanese and you move to, say, Australia, you are effectively EMIGRATING FROM Lebanon and IMMIGRATING TO Australia. In Lebanon, you’d be described as an EMIGRANT. In Australia, you’d be described as an IMMIGRANT. When Australia debates whether to let you in or not, it is debating its IMMIGRATION POLICY. When Lebanon debates whether it’s suffering from “brain drain”, it’s debating its EMIGRATION PROBLEM. Anyway, I hope I’ve made my point.

    Moving on, I share the general skepticism on this thread about the poll results. For one thing, the Daily Star reports the poll author as a “Dr. H. A. Hellyer”. Well, to provide some background information, I grew up in Abu Dhabi, and we all knew H. A. Hellyer as Hisham because he went to my school there, the International School of Choueifat Abu Dhabi. He’s now based in the UK, where from what I gather he does a lot of research on Muslim issues in Europe. He also has obvious publishing contacts in Abu Dhabi. I’ve read quite a few of his articles in the Abu Dhabi newspaper “The National”, and I’ve also read other articles in the same newspaper from another author, Peter Hellyer, who may or may not be related to him.

    In all honesty, I’m not particularly impressed with Hellyer’s work. For one thing, he comes across as biased, and seems to cherry-pick his data to always arrive at the foregone conclusions that Muslims are hunky-dory in “the West”, which is his primary academic concern. He’s married to this position, and therefore I think lacks the objectivity to question it more honestly and deeply, doesn’t invoke the necessary criticality (he comes across as a person who fears reprisals) and lapses on his rigour. More importantly, he doesn’t seem concerned with the “big picture” challenge of reconciling Muslim issues in Europe and the West with both Muslim and non-Muslim issues in the Islamic world itself. This of course is regrettable.

    The above point is made quite painfully obvious in this poll itself. I find it laughably fascinating that the Abu Dhabi Gallup Center would compare the religious tolerance levels of Lebanese with those of, say, Germans, Belgians and the truly awful Israelis, while neglecting the more important comparisons to tolerance levels of, for example, Syrians, Saudi Arabians and yes, Emiratis. I think everyone would agree that Lebanese have a lot more contact with Syrians, Saudis and Emiratis than with Germans, Belgians or Israelis, so why not make a more pertinent and meaningful, not to mention bold and brave, comparison?

    This to me is H. A. Hellyer’s biggest flaw! He will never make such a comparison, because he’s afraid of what he might uncover and what it might implicate! Perhaps if challenged he might invoke the time-worn defense that Lebanon is “different” from, say, Syria, Saudi Arabia or the UAE, and therefore must be held to “different” standards. Or he might argue that his only point in doing the “research” was to dispute the commonly held assertion in the West that Christians in Lebanon have it bad (am I the only one who detects the ulterior motive, ill-intent, downright frivolity, and intellectual bankruptcy of arguing that since Muslims in that tiny enclave called Lebanon have a greater desire to emigrate than Christians, that Christians must not have it so bad after all? Oh please …).

    Either way, this, to me, is infuriating and cowardly apologism for stubborn Arab, and yes Muslim, caprice, with very real and adverse consequences! It’s not research or punditry! It’s shilling, plain and simple. There’s nothing intellectual, progressive, hopeful, remedial or insightful about it. It’s a contrived and dubious rationale to a frustrating, dissonant and unreasonable dead end. :)

    Anyway, I’ve said enough and perhaps committed enough damage on this thread, so I’ll end here on a positive note. Keep up the great work! Though we’ve never met, you’ve enriched me with your tweets and blog posts, and for that I thank you, am truly grateful and sincerely wish you the best! :)

    • Mustapha

      Thanks Samer for a very informed comment. It’s a pity you don’t comment more often here. I fixed the use of emigrate as you suggested (what was I thinking?)..

      Would you mind if I published the second half of your comment as a separate guest post? It would be a shame for it to languish here..

      • Samer Nasser

        Hi Mustapha, sorry for the delayed reply, but I took some time to ponder your proposal that you publish part of my comment.

        Thanks for the kind feedback and the flattery of wanting to publish my words. My first impulse was to refrain, based on the insistence that my comment was not diligent, authoritative or polished enough to warrant a wider distribution. Also, it was perhaps too weak to inadvertently or officially serve as a complaint or dispute against H. A. Hellyer or the Abu Dhabi Gallup Center (to be honest, I don’t know much about either besides what I read in “The National”). Also, I must admit that I haven’t been to Lebanon in over 15 years, so I obviously don’t want to get too involved in anything that might betray my ignorance of what’s happening on-the-ground there.

        But then I thought that you know your blog and your readership best, and if you think some good can come out of publishing, then I should not be so serious and just get out of your way and let you do it.

        So yeah, go ahead and do what you think is best. I only demand that I keep the discretion to ask you to remove the published blog post should I decide that it’s not working out for me (ie. For example, I’ve noticed that some of your readers have a really nasty, albeit perhaps harmless, bite to them, which I hope you understand I have no interest in being at the receiving end of! :):):))

      • Mustapha

        It’s ok, I’ll spare you the uncomfortable spotlight :)