FaithWorld

Secular Lebanese protest against Muslim-Christian sectarianism

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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.

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Hezbollah cuts Islamist rhetoric in new manifesto

nasrallahLebanon’s Hezbollah group has announced a new political strategy that tones down Islamist rhetoric but maintains a tough line against Israel and the United States.

The new manifesto drops reference to an Islamic republic in Lebanon, which has a substantial Christian population, confirming changes to Hezbollah thinking about the need to respect Lebanon’s diversity.

Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, who read the new “political document” at a news conference on Monday, said it was time the group introduced pragmatic changes without dropping its commitment to an Islamist ideology tied to the clerical establishment in Iran.

Guardian blogger picks up on “takfir” where we left off

Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah during an interview with Reuters in Beirut, 5 Sept. 2007/Jamal SaidiThanks to Haroon Siddique over at the Guardian newsblog for doing some work I left unfinished last week. On Feb. 26, I wrote a post about a leading Muslim seminary in India declaring terrorism to be un-Islamic and noted that the news got almost no coverage in western media. “So the statement, which was backed by several thousand Islamic scholars, looks like it will end up like the tree that falls in the forest with nobody around to hear it,” the post added. The next day, our Beirut bureau reported that Lebanon’s Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah — one of the most respected clerics in Shi’ite Islam — had denounced the practice of Muslims charging others with non-belief as “one of the most dangerous issues” faced by the Muslim world. This practice, called takfir in Arabic, is used by radical Islamists as a justification for killing other Muslims.

As soon as I saw the report, I thought this would probably be another tree falling in the forest unheard and bookmarked it to wait to see if it would be picked up. Other demands got in the way and then other blog subjects came up, so the takfir post didn’t even make it to the falling tree stage in the blogosphere. This happens more frequently than I like, but we can’t cover everything.

Now Siddique has come to the rescue with his post “Who’s listening to the Muslim moderates?” A few excerpts: