About 3,000 people marched in Beirut on Sunday to demand a secular system in place of the Muslim-Christian sectarianism that permeates politics, employment and family status matters in Lebanon. “Civil marriage, not civil war” was among the banners carried by the mostly young, educated protesters who gathered in response to a campaign on Internet social networking sites. It was Lebanon’s first such demonstration in favor of secularism.
Many wore white T-shirts with “What’s your sect?” written on the front and “None of your business” on the back.
Lebanon, whose five million people are split into 18 sects, developed a power-sharing system enshrined in a 1943 national covenant which gave Christians a majority in parliament and said the president must be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim and the speaker of parliament a Shi’ite Muslim.
The Taef accord that ended Lebanon’s 1975-90 civil war gave Muslims parity in parliament and also called for the abolition of sectarianism, but the system persists, with religion-based quotas observed in the bureaucracy, army and education.
Read the full story here. Photos by Jamal Saidi.