Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Algeria… and now people wanting to overthrow the system in Lebanon. I find myself wondering if it’s getting way out hand – if people are suddenly beginning to take advantage of this surge in regional adrenaline.
Do we really need to march down and demonstrate to overthrow the system in Lebanon? Is it really the best option we’ve got?
We are the only country in the region that actually has a democracy that functions – regardless of whether you think it functions properly or not, we can still vote, get our voices heard and be able to do marches like the one planned today. Sure, we have many shortcomings but I believe they dwarf in comparison to what the people of Egypt, Tunisia had to go through to get where we were in the 1940s, let alone what the people of Libya are going through as we speak.
To change the system in Lebanon, I don’t believe you need a revolution. I think you need common sense, one that is easily blinded when excitement surges among the people. Look at it this way: say the planned “revolution” succeeds and a secular state is enforced, do you honestly think that will happen without changing the basic foundation upon which the state is built? And by that I mean democracy. Do you really think shoving down secularism down people’s throats would get you further?
The people of Lebanon are not secular people because that is not how they were brought up. To move towards a secular state, you need to have a secular mind – one that is only present in a handful of people currently. And I don’t think the current political atmosphere in the country warrants further upheaval.
The best way, in my opinion, to have a peaceful and logical transition into a secular state is via a major overhaul of the education system. You cannot keep on teaching the same things being taught dealing with the way the country is run and still believe a secular state is plausible. People need to be taught on embracing the different other in a more hands-on approach, people need to be exposed more to the other’s religion and we need to at least have a version of our history that does not stop when the French Army vacated its barracks in 1946. By having an education system that invites people to become more aware of the different other, perhaps we can start moving our minds towards becoming truly secular and understanding that if I, a Maronite, do not have the presidency written for my sect, that’s okay. Or if you, a Shiite, don’t necessarily get the speaker of parliament, that’s okay as well. Same thing applies for the Sunnis and all the other sects.
Moving towards a secular Lebanon is a very hard thing to accomplish. The movement towards that should be transitory and not blunt. It should be accepted and not forced. Therefore, uniting Lebanon starts by letting the people of Lebanon share their ideas and come to common grounds with those ideas. Uniting Lebanon does not come by having one idea forced upon everyone. That would be basically a dictatorship.
On a final note, I invite people not to fall into the misconception that atheism is synonymic to secularism. It has become a common belief among many in Lebanon that the two are inherently related. That is far from the case. I also hope that we appreciate what we’ve got in our country and not take it for granted. We are still the only democracy in the region and it’ll take the countries that have had recent revolutions years to get to where we are today – regardless of what you might think lacks in our democracy. Is a revolution an answer? I don’t think so. Do we need to move towards a secular state? I believe it’s a necessity. How? Let’s just say, don’t get carried away by political excitement.