Don’t Blame The Lebanese Sunnis – Blame What Got Them Here

Picture via Annahar

It’s very easy for Lebanese to get carried away. They do it way too often and way too dramatically. On the other hand, it only lasts for about a brief period before they move on from that theatrical moment.

The latest Lebanese moment has been going on for more than a week now but it’s escalating. Some Lebanese have taken it to the next level by proclaiming that another civil war is upon us. Blame the short memory span for this – they seem to have forgotten worse has happened on May 7th, 2008 and we still got out of it. They seem to have forgotten a very similar thing took place on January 2011 when Hariri’s government was toppled. A reminder should be in order, just in case.

So today blaming the Sunnis for the situation in the country has become the way to go – how better are they than those who burned Beirut on May 7th, 2008? What’s the whole purpose behind burning tires and closing roads?

The answer is simple. Anger.

The Sunnis of Lebanon are angry. They are angry because:

  1. The prime minister who supposedly represents their sect doesn’t do so one bit.
  2. The political leader who realistically represents their sect is nowhere to be found. He’s possibly eating croissant in Paris, lecturing via twitter – and not doing a good job at that as well.
  3. How the person mentioned in 2 went out of power and the person mentioned in 1 got to power is due to a threat by their fellow Muslims, Hezbollah, who threatened to use weapons – and burn Beirut again – in case their demands aren’t met.
  4. Prominent Sunni figures get killed, the latest is Sheikh Ahmad Abdul Wahid in Akkar, and they can’t do anything but watch the news as a response.
  5. Their image, especially in Lebanon, has been distorted to showcase them all as a bunch of Salafists who want nothing but to establish an Islamic republic in Lebanon. The fact that Salafists are irrelevant politically in the Sunni community has escaped some people who just love to carry the idea around and shout it from any platform they can get.
  6. With every passing day, their position as one of the main sects in the country is being compromised. Think the Maronites in the 1970s. Wouldn’t you be worried?

As a reflex anger response to the killing of the Sheikh, the Sunnis have taken it to the streets. They are closing roads and burning tires, which is the maximum they can do. It still beats doing worse just because the government threatened to remove an officer from the airport. Whether you want to admit it or not, they don’t have the weapons arsenal that Hezbollah possesses. The amount of destruction they can do is far less reaching and disastrous. But who cares, right?

BeirutSpring has described how the protests are coming off to Lebanese people and he hit the nail on the head:

But their protests, even if cathartic, are creating three big headaches for their community:

  1. They are angering the rest of the Lebanese by inconveniencing them and reminding them of the war. Sunnis are coming across as irresponsible and dangerous.
  2. They are not achieving anything. Even if the point was to establish deterrence (to make others think twice before upsetting the Sunnis), it’s not working. It’s just a loud and costly tantrum.
  3. They are establishing a reputation that the Sunnis are an excitable bunch that can easily be provoked.

But here’s why the way the Lebanese population is responding cannot but be hypocritical at best.

  1. Why wasn’t the anger at what’s happening today also present back in May 2008? Because when some sects and parties burn down Beirut, it’s because they are fighting Israel, when others do so it’s because they are fighting Lebanese. You gotta love Lebanese logic.
  2. On the long run, they aren’t achieving anything because this type of action gets you nowhere. The Sunnis have done something very similar last January. Did that get them anywhere? No. In fact, I’ve heard many ridiculing their “day of anger.” The sentences I’ve heard? “They should come to us to teach them how to be angry.” I suppose you can tell who’s meant by “us.”
  3. In a country where a fragile peace is kept by miraculous measures, where the situation is like a yoyo rocking backwards and forwards between peace and no peace, I think the Sunnis have shown lots of restraint especially with everything they’ve been dealt. If they want to be portrayed as an excitable bunch, what does that say about those who get excited because of much less and react much much more than this?

Am I with what the Sunnis are doing? No. I’m against all forms of violence because they lead nowhere except springing more fear and hate. But is the panic about the situation justified? Definitely not. It has happened before in Lebanon and it will happen again as long as not everyone in the country is on equal footing. Is the judgement against those protesting justified? Perhaps so. After all, you can’t but look down on burning tires and blocking roads. But people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

Developing thick skin for all sects is needed. Some have it more than others. But in a country where the major player doesn’t have skin, how is skin thickening for everyone else remotely possible?

11 thoughts on “Don’t Blame The Lebanese Sunnis – Blame What Got Them Here

  1. Spot on. Of course, what they’re doing is not correct and it shouldn’t happen but instead of cursing them, we need to look at what got them here.
    Incidentally, the thickest skin in Lebanon belongs to the Christians.


  2. I agree with the reasons you gave for “our” anger, but I think u should have stressed more on the dramatic event yesterday. If for some people Shadi Mawlawi was a normal citizen, and he doesn’t deserve such a tragic response (though I don’t think so) , Sheikh Ahmad AbdelWahed is not. He is a Cheikh and he does not only represent “us” but he’s a religious man whose assassination is by no means justifiable. I felt yesterday and frankly this is what I’ve been feeling since 2005, direspected and an underestimated lebanese sunni.


    • I’m thinking here as an outsider, more so than an insider. What happened yesterday was the trigger but the whole thing has been piling up for far too long, as you said. In a way, in the heat of things, you might think what happened to the Sheikh is the cause, but in fact there are more things to it. Don’t you think?


  3. elie i rly liked the article especially the sarcasm. I kno sometimes we need to name stuff by their name. It rly hurts me that i hav to declare that i belong to a certain sect and defend it. I cried yesterday because of this sheikh’s assassination not bcoz he’s a sheikh or a sunni but bcoz he’s a lebanese citizen who was killed by the lebanese army. btw i don’t blame the whole army for it. but i also feel sry that some ppl believe that he was killed bcoz he didn’t follow the army’s orders. In that case aren’t they supposed to shoot at the tyres or like shoot at his legs when he came out of the car. However the pictures show that all the glass was broken and blood was all over the car. whoever did it meant to kill him. i don’t want this reaction from the sunnis no matter how provokative this was.


    • Thank you for reading Aya. No one blames the whole army for it – but I agree, there are measures that need to be taken as part of a routine in case something like this happens: shoot at the tires, stop the car.
      I think the Sunnis shouldn’t have reacted this way – no one should. But the sheikh’s death was a tipping point, not the direct cause.


  4. May Sheikh Ahmad Abdel Wahed rest in peace, it was tragic. But before identifying him as a sheikh, identify him as a human. Just like the soldiers of the Lebanese Army are human. Everyone is prone to mistakes, and I hope as a medical student you know that no one is perfect…you might even be more righteous than any sheikh of your religion or any priest of mine, because you are doing something that’s humanitarian, in other words nothing related to political regimes or “preserving your religion”. You are learning to do the true act of God, and that’s being there for people. You don’t need a sheikh or a priest to tell you what the right thing to do in this world is…which you are doing!

    With that being said, one more thing is left to be told. BEFORE an action is taken BY ANY POLITICAL PARTY/RELIGIOUS SECT due to certain circumstances: 1. Know what happened through the law which no one can override (no matter how flawed people think/know it may be), 2. Identify the problem and THEN 3. Act upon it. Until now, we have no true evidence about what happened, so why act out before knowing what happened? In a jungle, when

    So please, the minimum you can do as a future physician is to REPRESENT YOURSELF. Everyone should represent himself/herself but you’re considered a future leader in the community so it begins with you. Not a sheikh nor a priest can represent you or tell you what to think. What makes you different from the community is thinking for yourself. You can believe in your religion, but don’t impose it on people and make sure not to assume that people are targeting each other because of their religion and especially the army. I don’t care that these people are Sunnis, but what I care about is that they caused chaos in my country at a time when chaos is evident. Sheikh Ahmad Abdel Wahed’s death wasn’t a mistake, there was a reason behind it. Until we know the reason, no one is allowed to assume the worst.


    • Identifying people as human beings is a given. But one would be foolish to assume the deaths of all human beings is equal. Even the deaths of army personnel is treated with hypocrisy. Check out one of my subsequent posts to know what I mean.
      Being a medical professional has nothing to do with it. You need to be, as you said, a human first. And sometimes being human means things touch your emotional side more than others.

      Perhaps people should wait for evidence, but the death of the sheikh is not the cause for what’s happening now. It’s not even close. It was the tipping point.
      The idea that these people caused chaos is true in theory but the fact of the matter is the chaos they caused is so irrelevant compared to what others cause over and over again. Ask yourself: if the sheikh had been of another sect, where would we be by now?

      Yes, I can see the panicked look on your face now. Zmatna.


  5. * In a jungle, there are no rules. In a society, when something as tragic as this happens, we investigate because we reason, we use our logic…although the logic of our government is flawed but it is still better than the logic of setting chaos in our country.


  6. Pingback: Tannoura Maxi is Banned in Lebanon « A Separate State of Mind | A Lebanese Blog

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