Lebanon's Real Persecuted Minority

Whenever there is talk of persecuted minorities in this region, the talk is usually mostly about Christians. The idea is that a Muslim majority population doesn’t know how to live with Christian minorities without treating them like second class citizens.

This is a valid concern, but it is masking the plight of another minority that is equally persecuted and disenfranchised, one that is rarely talked about in the press and one whose concerns, fears and way of life are not acknowledged by the majority. Today’s passing of the Orthodox Gathering election law by the Lebanese joint committees in parliament puts their plight is stark view. I’m talking about seculars, atheists, agnostics and people who generally don’t like to be reduced to their religious beliefs in public life, and who are constantly being forced into a religious mould they don’t fit into and denied their rights for a civil identity.


I tweeted (both in Arabic and English), that forcing a sectarian division on secularists and atheists is like imposing Shariaa law on Christians. Both are ways to force upon you canons and identities that you do not identify with and strongly refuse.

People think that this is about politics, about March 8 versus March 14, about Muslims being upset about losing power and giving it to Christians. But it is not. The law’s defenders cannot imagine how deeply insulting they are being. Just imagine: You are complaining about sectarianism, and they dismiss your complains by effectively calling you sectarian or a “follower” of some political leader.

When they don’t accept your thinking, it is your very existence they’re denying. What is persecution if it is not a refusal of your deeply held values? What is discrimination if it’s not imposing on you how to vote and how to get married? It is time for Lebanon’s real persecuted minority to rise and let its voice be heard…

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  • http://twitter.com/omarionation Omar (@omarionation)

    Spot on, should have been said ages ago.
    Also what about religions not represented by the orthodoxy law? Buddhism, Taosim, Pastaferiansm and others?
    Scrap the sectarian system and introduce a senate of sects.

    • burger

      Hariri tried to do that… for some reason I was hopeful…

  • http://www.twitter.com/BeiruttoJupiter BeiruttoJupiter

    “A senate of sects.” Hmm. A bicameral legislature, with one chamber being representative of the people and the other being based on sectarian identities? That might help. It’s an intriguing idea, anyway.

  • Craig

    I sympathize with your views, but:

    I tweeted (both in Arabic and English), that forcing a sectarian division on secularists and atheists is like imposing Shariaa law on Christians.

    No, it’s not.

    Both are ways to force upon you canons and identities that you do not identify with and strongly refuse.

    And this is similar to the hundreds if not thousands of Egyptian Christian girls who have been kidnapped, forced to convert and marry their kidnapper, and who have been prevented by force from any contact with their family and friends, how, exactly? Do you really think it’s just the same? And that agnostics and atheists face worse persecution? Persecution doesn’t even get worse than that.

  • Not important

    What does Egyptian Christians’ plight have to do with any of this. The main reason minorities struggle in this part of the world is because they are identified by their sects and not their nationality, a view that can only be reinforced by such ridiculous laws. The real question is whether we are a united community or a disengaged group of competing sects. This law will ensure that the endless cycle of sectarian competition and violence continues for ever in Lebanon. It rids us forever of any hope of becoming a united people. I can no longer hope to be represented by a Lebanese representative but instead will forever have a sectarian leader who will only represent the interests of my sect even if they oppose those of the general community/ country. Lebanon is now officially a federation of sects and the drums of civil war will beat loudly again :(

  • romeo

    Very thoughtful, as usual Mustapha.

    As an atheist myself, I see Lebanon’s plight from an evolutionary perspective.

    One has to remember that even in the most liberal societies (e.g. Canada, Western Europe, etc.) Atheists have a hard time getting recognition.

    It is probably due to the behaviour of Atheists themselves.

    Atheists are usually reluctant to publicize their beliefs and to stand up to the bullying from religious zealots.

    For example, we are blamed for having no morals. Although most Atheists I know have better character and morals than most Fundies out there. Atheists seem to pick and choose the best values from every religion, instead of blindly following the dogmas of one single religion.

    Atheists also get tired from the irrational behaviour of believers.

    For example, Fundies seem to have endless energy to try to convince you that their god is the true god. Whereas as an Atheist, one knows that the onus of proof is on the Religious themselves.

    You cannot *disprove* the existence of something i.e. god. It’s the person making the assertion that god exists that needs to provide proof first.

    Two thousand years later, I am still waiting 😉

    And so on and so forth. It gets tiring, you see.

    But I have great hope for Lebanon’s youth, and the youth of the world.

    The communication channels have opened the floodgate of information. Fundies cannot hide under their robes anymore, and brainwash the masses.

    The problem in Lebanon is larger than the Atheists being repressed. Everyone in Lebanon is repressed, and scared. War and instability cause people to look for, and hang to more stable anchors.

    Religion provides that.

    So let’s strive towards stability first, open minds will soon blossom.

    • really?

      before i start writing, just want to draw your attention to me wanting a civil state with civil laws. however, a civil state does not lack morals and everything good. so no, my vision for a civil state is not like yours. but i invite you, to get down from that imaginary pedestal that you built for yourself and humble your ignorant mind and seek something good instead of this bullshit that you are posting.
      a- calling people who aren’t athiests “fundies” shows your non-existant depth of vision and thought.but everybody is entitled to their thoughts in the end. hiyi el ostwani zeta taba3kon anyway. on the other hand, maybe you should leave this country and go to other countries who give “athiests” the right to spread their filthy immoralities “by law” and help us in keeping this atheist disease away from our country who has suffered enough and introduce a civil society where people like you do not spread their disrespectful ignorant hatred to everything good.

      • Mustapha

        I don’t think your response to Romeo is fair.. He never said that those who disagreed with him were fundies.. He meant actual fundamentalists, and the use of “fundies” is probably because he thinks the word “fundamentalist” is too strong..

        From your “ostwani” comment, I assume that what you wrote is completely unrelated to romeo’s comment, but an expression of your own frustration of what you believe “atheists” are doing to your world as you know it…

      • really?

        To Mustapha: I agree with you on the last part. It is frustration, but it’s frustration based on what i experience on the ground. No matter what the causes where, the attitude and effect of Lebanese atheists is extremely negative in “most” cases. (attacking theists to feel/seem more valid, disrespecting, generalizing, calling us fundies, spreading immoralities, “defining your own morals” quoting my atheist friend!!, nothing should be considered wrong, the line between what our children should be subjected to or not is defined by their personal morals, and the list goes on and on.) Now regarding the fundies part, i invite you to re-read his disrespectful post and treatment of theists. this is not the mentality of a person striving for a civil state. and yes it is about “what they are trying to do with my world as i know it”. you can have your human rights no matter what your beliefs where, but to come and condescend theists and try to import your immoralities into an already sinking country is unacceptable. there are plenty of countries ma bya3erfo jins el deen out there.but our country is different. i would love for everybody to have their rights, yet without spreading atheist immoralities and lack of boundaries to say the least. you can practice those elsewhere.

      • romeo

        @Mustapha: you’re a true, graceful, Lebanese host. Your attempt at calming the discussion brings back memories of heated Lebanese discussions from my past 😉

        Let’s see how we’re gonna deal with @really here.

        By the way, “fundie” IS a derogatory name for fundamentalists. So yes, I am trying to irk and annoy religious zealots. Successfully it seems (yay)

        I don’t like to generalize based on a comment from only one person.
        But @really ‘s reaction is typical of most religious zealots.

        They REALLY (no pun intended) feel threatened by anything that does not correspond with their beliefs (also known as religious fantasies, imaginary gods, hallucinations, etc.)

        Let’s dissect the response:

        1) Fundies are intolerant of others. Notice how they want those who do not subscribe to their beliefs to “leave the country”. They seek a pure society of sorts. Reminds you of someone? (hint: middle age Spain)

        2) Fundies think they have a monopoly on morality. Notice how they call any Atheist as “immoral”. Proves the point in my original post above. I love it.

        3) Fundies are simple minded. Notice how they instinctively divide the world in “us versus them”. They cannot tolerate shades of grey. No analytical thinking. It’s “my way or the highway”.

        In any case, thanks @Mustapha for triggering these discussions. Truly appreciated.



    • http://www.myfabricplac.com hisham

      Hear Hear.

  • PassingThrough

    I think you are conflating the sociological aspect of religiouslyefined identities with the theological

  • http://blackcedar.blogspot.com/ Rani

    I agree that forcing a religious identity on an atheist is wrong. But that already existed before the Orthodox law. Lebanese citizens have their religious identities on their state-issued IDs. The Orthodox law is simply working from within that reality. It did not create it.

  • Craig

    NI, I didn’t suggest Egyptian Christians had anything to do with Lebanon, but Mustapha made claims about the whole region and he said atheists and agnostics were the “real” persecuted minority. I’m not seeing it. Not regionally. And while I’m not even Arab, let alone Lebanese, I am Christian and I have to say the persecution of Christians in the middle-east is pretty effing appalling. Lebanon is the only place Christians have it fairly good, and who is to say that’s not because of these “sectarian” laws? No other Arab country has laws sharing power amongst the sects and minorities have it pretty bad as far as I can tell. And I have been paying attention.

  • EJE

    Good read and good discussion point. As L’orient Le Jour points out, if you are secular (et al.) you have to convert to Judaism, which based on the current draft of the law, should allow you to vote freely.