Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

Anti-sectarian law only skin-deep in Lebanon


When Lebanese Interior Minister Ziad Baroud issued a memorandum giving Lebanese citizens the option to remove their sect from civil registry records, it seemed like a step towards removing deeply embedded sectarianism from Lebanon’s social fabric.

The country has been convulsed by bouts of sectarian violence, most notably the 1975-90 civil war, in which 150,000 people were killed, and more recently last May when a power struggle spilled into armed conflict and supporters of Shi’ite Hezbollah briefly took over parts of Sunni western Beirut.

Study the measure a little more closely and some questions emerge. What happens to those wanting to run for seats in parliament, which are distributed according to sect to satisfy Lebanon’s delicate power-sharing balance? What about citizens who have to go to court over personal status issues, which in Lebanon are presided over by courts run by religious sects? Ultimately, they have no choice but to reveal their religious affiliation.

So it is doubtful that this measure will really remove sectarianism from Lebanon’s moral and social consciousness, especially when you have a political and legal structure in which sectarianism is required to achieve a power-sharing balance to accommodate 17 different religious communities.