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…