Lebanon: A State of Sectarianophobia

Two Lebanese go out together to have dinner. They had never met before. They know nothing about each other.
The first looks at the second and asks: “what’s your name?”
The second glares and replies: “why do you want to know? You want to know my sect, don’t you?”
The first is perplexed. Wasn’t someone’s name part of the natural process of knowing that someone? Or asking about their hometown?
How can you know someone if you don’t know a minimum of their basic information?
Well for many Lebanese, if you ask these questions then you’re automatically labeled as sectarian filth.

Our society has gotten so afraid of the idea of sects that we tend to see sects everywhere and cower away from them. No, when someone asks you their name, they don’t always seek out to know know your sect. When someone asks you where you come from, their intention is not to always know your sect. Get over yourself.

Our fear from sects doesn’t stop at that. We also have our stereotypes that we associate with every person, depending on their answer to the previously mentioned questions. A Maroun from Mount Lebanon? He must be one of those people who think France should have stayed here. A Hussein from the South? Hezbollah galore right there. A Omar from Tripoli? Saad, Saad, Saad, Saad, Saad.

We ask ourselves not to be limited by our sects and yet, when it comes to it, we limit each other immediately based on our preconceptions. Have you ever tried to have a heated political debate with a Lebanese who drastically disagrees with you and somehow they ended up blaming your sect for your opinion? It has actually happened to me more than once. Somehow, for many people, the idea of thoughts and a mind independent of your sect does not exist. How could it, right? Sects are to blame for everything in the country.

There’s traffic? Blame the sectarian system. There’s electricity outages? Blame the sectarian system. There’s water shortage? The sects must be overly drinking. We are so hell-bent on finding a scapegoat to blame for everything that we have managed to turn sects into monsters hurting our society like nothing else has.

Perhaps our main problem as a society is that we are so afraid of the idea of sects that we see it a monstrous thing that needs to be abolished.
At the end of the day, if me asking for your name makes me sectarian, then yes I am.
If me asking for your last name makes me sectarian, then yes I am.
If me asking for your hometown makes me sectarian, then yes I am.
If me not thinking sects are monsters makes me sectarian, then yes I am.
If having political ideas that fit with your sectarian stereotype makes me sectarian, then yes I am.
If me not panicking about the mere mention of sects makes me sectarian, then yes I am.
If my ideology being too extreme for you makes me sectarian, then yes I am.

Yes, I am sectarian. But I’ve got news for you… so are you.

10 thoughts on “Lebanon: A State of Sectarianophobia

  1. The funniest one I heard was how many volts do you use – as in, 220 volts for “east” Beirut and 110 volts for “west” Beirut…

    Reply
  2. i am from achrafiye, but my dad took us to church 2 times a year. i went to immaculate conception school, but also a public school, and zahret el 2e7san. guess what i am?

    Reply
  3. But Elie, not all people are like you and many Lebanese are still interested to know a person’s sect before knowing his/her name so that they can do this profiling you mentioned in your post —> ” A Maroun from Mount Lebanon? He must be one of those people who think France should have stayed here. A Hussein from the South? Hezbollah galore right there. A Omar from Tripoli? Saad, Saad, Saad, Saad, Saad.” and yes those who still do it are sectarian filth.

    So people are different and you still have the true sectarian monsters around, it’s just a trait of the Lebanese society. I get pissed when a group of friends belonging to the same sect refer to someone as “men jame3etna”, I mean what has that to do with anything, but that’s how things are, many people still favor those who are of their own sect just for the mere reason that they’re from the same sect, regardless of other reasons that can truly make a difference.

    Anyway, when it comes to the institutionalized sectarianism that turned the whole political system and the public administration into a definition of “dysfunctional” then yes that’s a monster, call me sectarianophobic if you want but it is a monster.

    Reply
    • People like the ones I mentioned exist everywhere. People like to profile, whether we like to admit or not. They feel more comfortable drawing a certain similarity between themselves and the person they’re talking to.
      In Lebanon, the first thing that comes to mind is someone’s sect. It is not “healthy” but I don’t see it as something necessarily wrong. I wouldn’t care about telling someone my sect because I don’t see it as such a relevant thing. It wouldn’t define my relationship with the other person.

      Sectarian monsters exist everywhere. And they are ignorant. Let me give an example: Marie Le Pen is having great numbers in French polls. Is she not feeding on sectarian feels in French society? But somehow, it’s more permissive there. True, sometimes people seek out someone’s sect to see if he’s “men jame3etna” and if they’re doing it for the wrong reasons, then it’s obviously unacceptable. But sociologically, it’s easier to relate to someone who comes from a common background as you.

      I agree that our political system needs an overhaul. This post is not addressing that. It’s addressing the feel I get that people see sectarianism everywhere, even in things where sects cannot apply.

      Reply

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