For a country that prides itself with its religious diversity, branding it as a tourism slogan and all the cliche that comes with it, we sure are extremely ignorant when it comes to those who don’t belong to the sect we were born in.
I’ve been wondering lately about how it must be to a Lebanese Sunni in Lebanon today, to be a person who has to constantly wonder whether the person facing you is secretly wondering whether you are an ISIS member in disguise or whether your mother is sympathetic with the terrorists in Arsal or whether your entire existence is directed at implanting the Islamic State in our land.
I’ve been realizing, upon pondering over the issue, that if I were a Lebanese Sunni today, I’d be angry.
Somehow it is assumed that being a Sunni automatically means army hate and support of the murder or kidnapping of its members. Even the army’s blood is a matter of hypocrisy, or how could you explain how the murder of Samer Hanna was easily dismissed as an honest mistake for failure to inform?
When Lebanese army officers acted out against protesters in Mar Mkhayel, in Beirut’s southern suburb, those army personnel were reprimanded and put on trial. MP Hashem even went out to say that the incidents are a “massacre.” No one cared at the time. Few remember that now. Stances against the army are also a matter of hypocrisy and in the eye of the beholder.
Terrorists, Terrorists Everywhere:
When Charles Ayoub decided to bring some attention to himself and his “newspaper” by fabricating a story about the banning of Crosses in a Sunni Lebanese city, people were not quick to investigate but to judge. Those Sunnis are all terrorists. They want to eradicate us from our land à la نحن هنا وهنا سنبقى .
All hell broke loose, rightfully so, when the mayor of Tripoli banned beer ads in the city. But when this and this happened in Tyre a couple of years ago, before ISIS and all those Sunni terrorists, no one blinked an eye, because alcohol is haram, but when Tripoli did it, it was all about the Sunnis wanting to enforce the Sharia in Lebanon.
Ahrar Sunna Baalbek:
Lebanese Tweeps were also not only quick but exceedingly enthusiastic about a Twitter account proclaiming itself to represent the free Sunnis of Baalbek. No one had known who was operating the account at the time but everyone assumed the content must be real. Sunnis are all terrorists. When the operator of the account turned out to be a Hezbollah supporter, everyone who had quoted it feverishly to point fingers was quick to dismiss him as just “another lost youth.”
One Year Later:
One year ago today, Tripoli was blasted in two of its mosques. It was fated that both explosions wouldn’t work according to plan, which was to maximize casualties. The result, however, was almost 50 people dead, including many children, and a city that saw its biggest acts of terrorism since the Civil War. By all standards, the Tripoli explosions – the first aimed at such a massive agglomeration of civilians in the country – should have shocked Lebanon into a different state of being. Nobody, however, cared. The perpetrators were even identified. They were not Sunni extremists. They were, in fact, Syrian regime sympathizers, and still nobody cared. Few expressed anger, indignation, was appalled, offended, disgusted, scared and worried about themselves. I guess terrorism is only scary when it affects non-Sunnis and is perpetrated by Sunnis.
Hezbollah Hearts Syria:
Hezbollah decided to go to Syria to help its BFFs combat a rising mostly-Sunni opposition. The fights were hidden at first, denied, but widely known among anyone with a critical mind. Soon enough, Hezbollah was admitting to a growing list of casualties of young Lebanese men, at the prime of their lives, coming in from Syrian fights. Today, the list of Hezbollah militants who died in Syria is around 500. Today as well, if you dare speak out against what Hezbollah is doing in Syria, you are painted as an ISIS sympathizer who wants to bring them into the country – because somehow, a Shiite militant group fighting Sunnis does not put fuel on a centuries old fire between Shiites and Sunnis.
It all goes back to that day. The glorious day of May 7th as some would put it, when militants stormed Sunni areas of Beirut in retaliation of governmental decisions that affected their reach and power. The cover-up? Our government is working undercover for the Israelis in dismantling the opposition. The result? A complete disintegration of the fragile relations between Lebanon’s Sunni and Shiite sects, reflected first and foremost in the political status quo that has been perpetuated since that day as Lebanon’s Shiites finally assumed the banner of the country’s strongest and most powerful sect. Tripoli, arguably Lebanon’s biggest Sunni agglomeration, started its spiral decline during that period as well. The rise of Lebanese Sunni extremism and the rise of Assir were a consequence of that day too.
Assir went to ski. Assir went to the beach. Assir took his four wives shopping. Assir took his three hundred children biking. Assir went to the bathroom. Assir made a speech. Assir belched. Assir did this or that. And it was all documented, like a bonafide Lebanese version of the Truman Show. Assir turned out to be irrelevant. His lasting effect on the perception of the Sunni sect and on the fabrics of Sunni society as well, with his fiery messages of hate, were not as irrelevant. The perception of the Lebanese Sunni sect, with the rise of Assir, became mostly seen through that lens.
Hariri & Co:
In a country where sects are bulked and extrapolated to the single political figure that represents them, Lebanon’s Sunnis have been stranded since 2011 when Hezbollah orchestrated the governmental coup that overtook Hariri and literally kicked him out of the country for a three year sabbatical between Paris, a broken leg in the Alps and occasional pilgrimages to Saudi Arabia. The effect of the Future Movement, Lebanon’s moderate Sunni political group, started dwindling to the pleasure of little Orangey Christian folks. Its ranks, with the absence of their unified leadership, began to crack both financially and politically. Dissidents began to show as its MPs started to stray from the moderate message that FM employed for its Lebanese politics, and the people followed.
The international tribunal for Lebanon, appointed by the United Nations to investigate the assassination of Rafic Hariri and a growing list of figures after him had come to the conclusion that Hezbollah was responsible for the assassination. Trusting the STL, however, meant you are a member of the imperialistic American controversy aimed at dismantling Lebanese society. Your only option in Lebanon today is to consider the STL a clear attempt at weakening Hezbollah in the face of Israel. There are no other variables allowed to you.
In a decent country, the above list wouldn’t matter. In fact, the above issues would be a matter of national debate – as they should – as to the best way to approach the divided fabrics in our society and assure social justice to all in a civil society, which we don’t have and probably never will. We cannot, however, keep ignoring that there is a grave injustice in the media, in our minds and in our daily lives towards each other, especially the Lebanese Sunni sect, portrayed today as the prime fighter for the rights of the Islamic State in Lebanon. Once upon a time, I overhead a Lebanese say that he believes all the people of Arsal should be killed, women, children, elderly and men – just because they harbored Syrian refugees. He then added that it’s what Lebanese Sunnis have always done. This is not normal nor is it acceptable.
In the sectarian Lebanon of today, if a Sunni had written this post that you’re reading now, you’d have dismissed him as another one of those extremist sympathizers who hate the army, want Israel to eradicate Hezbollah and are against the current of what is perceived to be the Lebanese way of life. There’s more to the Lebanese sectarian reality today than the last few years have brought to us with their actions, reactions and actions again. The culmination of those past few years, however, is a Lebanese society today that is in a silent war.
If I were a Lebanese Sunni, I’d find what’s happening to be unfair. I’d be horrified at the way Lebanese media is portraying me, at how other Lebanese people of other sects that aren’t much better – even today – think of me. I’d be appalled that most Lebanese Christians fear me when most of them are closeted extremists who’d pick up the nearest riffle and go to war if they had the chance. I’d be appalled that Lebanese Sunnis have the country’s poorest and most illiterate populations, out of which emanate the extremism attributed to the entire sect today, and still the brush paints the entire wall black.
If I were an uneducated Sunni with nothing in sight but religion and being too easily susceptible for brainwashing, it would be a sure slippery slope for me until I become a militia man who hates the army, becomes active against it and raises the لا اله الا الله flag on my balcony.
The Lebanese situation is almost textbook-like, but we are too blinded, too prejudiced and too politically non-neutral to have a sane discussion about what must be done. Extremist Lebanese Sunnis must be eradicated, it is said. The problem is that their eradication, as is presumed forcibly, will lead to other groups that are more extreme and that can do worse things. Know why we have extremists before lashing out at their existence. What we need today is to understand why radicalization is happening in our country, why we suddenly hear of Lebanese suicide bombers, of Lebanese who go to fight for greater causes, whatever it might be. Are we ready as a country for that? I guess the correct response to that is: are you fucking kidding me?