The First Lebanese Born Without a Sect

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I’m sure you all remember Khouloud and Nidal Sukkariyeh, the first Lebanese couple to get a civil marriage without going to Cyprus and forcing our government to recognize it as legitimate, using a loophole that existed in our constitution back from the days of the French mandate.

We all knew as well that they were awaiting their first born when the news of their marriage spread like wildfire among the Lebanese populace. We wondered what would happen to that child, bureaucratically and whatnot. Well, we now have our answer.

Ghadi, Khouloud and Nidal’s firstborn, is – I believe – the first Lebanese citizen to be born without a sect plastered across his papers. The Lebanese mold has been broken once again.

This is obviously great news. It’s another firm step in getting our country to become more aware of citizens like Khouloud, Nidal and their son who don’t want to be governed by regulations that are detrimental to their well-being as citizens and which are custom-made to the community they just happened to be born in.

It’s a firm step in getting people who have lived all their lives believing there’s no alternative to realize that yes, something could be done about the situation we’re in. And it’s also a firm step in, maybe, changing the perception of those who view all of this as one big load of unacceptable actions.

But I have to wonder: is 2013 Lebanon the best place for a child like Ghadi to be born into regarding his sect-less identity? Our country is divided among sects. Job interviews need you to be honest about your religious affiliations. You can’t get into certain places if you don’t have a wasta that is contingent upon your political affiliation and your sect. The entire country is built in a way that allows those and only those who exist within the grand mold of a “sectual” identity – even if only on paper – to truly have a shot at making it.

I hope the current status quo isn’t bad news to Ghadi because it would be a shame for a child that just made the history books to go down memory lane unremembered. Allah y3ayysho.

Lebanon’s First Civil Marriage Approved

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“I will sign Khouloud and Nidale’s marriage,” Marwan Charbel – our minister of interior affairs – declared today, “even though I do not support civil marriage myself.”

I don’t get why it seems like not supporting civil marriage is actually a healthy mentality for politicians who are ruling our country.

Perhaps it is to please their growing political aspirations, after all the majority of Lebanese apparently do not support the issue with drastic differences across sects. A recent poll I read shows the following results: Druze and Christians support civil marriage with more than 60% while Shiites and Sunnis oppose it with more than 70%. The total comes down to almost 57% not supporting civil marriage.

Khouloud and Nidale’s marriage passed through a lot to get to where it is. There was a time where it appeared it won’t pass as minister of justice Shakib Qortbawi said he doesn’t believe the legal aspects of it work out. A committee that was assigned to look into the issue decided that the marriage was in fact legal and despite statements from minister of interior affairs that he wouldn’t sign, he apparently did.

So it is now official – Lebanon has now had its first civil marriage ever. But at what price?

Could Nidale and Khouloud’s marriage truly get more Lebanese who are enthusiastic about this to do what they did (link)? They stroke off their sects off all their legal documents, when through a lot of legalities in order to bypass the strict counter-regulations to what they were doing and eventually had to wait months and months until their issue was resolved.

Their marriage and the debate that ensued sparked reactions from religious and common folk that no one could have expected. From fatwas declaring apostasy on all Muslim politicians who approve of it to Christian priests convening for the main purpose of discussing it.

 

I’m willing to bet that if their issue hadn’t received media attention, it wouldn’t have ended up this favorably as well.

The questions to be asked are: will Nidale and Khouloud’s marriage be the first of many to be done in the same way? Or will the hardships they went through deter people from doing so when the alternative is much, much simpler? Will their marriage open up the flood gates or will it remain a singular event standing in a country that seems to be as close to legalizing civil marriage as it is to come up with a new electoral law especially when so many couples are nowhere near willing to strike off their sects just to get married while there is a much simpler alternative only 100km and $2000 away?

Congrats to Nidale and Khouloud. Hopefully their struggle to have their union recognized doesn’t die off as another cause du jour in a country where causes are faster to spring up than rabbits reproducing.

Saad Hariri & Lebanon’s Civil Marriage

Following more than two hours of questions and dodging answers, you could say that Saad Hariri’s first interview in a long time came down to one single moment that everyone was waiting for.

It wasn’t his proposal for the electoral law. The ship has sailed on that. It wasn’t about when he would come back to the country. We all know it will be soon as elections are starting to knock on our doors. Many tuned in to see how the man would look like after all this time. Many were surprised to find his speech flowing smoothly. Many, such as myself, were not impressed with the quality of the discourse.

But we can all agree that Saad Hariri shined when the moment called for it.

I am not usually a fan of Mr. Hariri’s antics. But I must give the man credit where credit is due. Because the moment was, by Lebanese standards, historic.

Saad Hariri did the following:

  • He defied his sect’s religious reference and that ridiculous fatwa barring any politician from supporting civil marriage under the threat of apostasy.
  • He went against the majority of his base by supporting a marriage that they are against.
  • He became the first major Sunni leader to come out in support of civil marriage, breaking a taboo among the Muslim ruling class of Lebanon by advocating for something that goes beyond Islam.

That wasn’t enough for some Lebanese. The moment Saad Hariri supported civil marriage, they accused him of doing so for electoral purposes. Color me confused but how is defying your entire voting base on a crucial issue such as this beneficial electorally? This is courage that I haven’t seen in a Lebanese politician in a long, long time.

But I digress.

I, as a Lebanese first and foremost, am proud of the stance that Saad Hariri took regarding the issue of civil marriage. I, as a Lebanese Christian, am happy that this non-Christian leader sees beyond the scope of his sect that some of my “Christian” leaders are failing to do while whoring around my supposed rights in the process.

When asked the question of whether I wanted Saad Hariri to be back as prime minister, I answered no. Today, he forced me to reconsider. Why wouldn’t I with his newly found mentality?

Saad Hariri just did what his father was too afraid to do. What Najib Mikati was too afraid to do a few days ago. And he’s proudly welcomed today in the Lebanese circle of kuffar.

Look At All Those Lebanese “Kuffar”

I’m sure you all know by now but according to the Mufti of the Lebanese Republic, Muslim politicians who voice support for civil marriage will be considered as apostates and deserters of the Muslim faith. (Link). As of this morning, his speech has become an official binding and registered fatwa. Some Lebanese decided that such obvious cultural terrorism wasn’t going to be the way to silence them. So they did what they could and they spoke up – peacefully.

Sophia Maamari and Hassan Choubassi. They got married in Cyprus

Sophia Maamari and Hassan Choubassi. They got married in Cyprus

This is Nadine Lager and her husband. They got married in Austria

This is Nadine Lager and her husband. They got married in Austria

Jamal Kara and his wife who got married way back in 1977. They are now grandparents.

Jamal Kara and his wife who got married way back in 1977. They are now grandparents.

Rita and her husband. They got married in France.

Rita and her husband. They got married in France.

William and Nadine - they got married in Cyprus

William and Nadine – they got married in Cyprus

Dyala Mitri and her husband Stephan Davidshofer. They got married in Geneva.

Dyala Mitri and her husband Stephan Davidshofer. They got married in Geneva.

Salim el lawze and his wife. They got married in Cyprus

Salim el lawze and his wife. They got married in Cyprus

George & Monica El Khabbaz. They got married in Ayia Napa.

George & Monica El Khabbaz. They got married in Ayia Napa.

Rana Khoury and Rayan Ismail. They got married in London.

Rana Khoury and Rayan Ismail. They got married in London.

Rawad el Zir and Ali Mourad - they got married in France.

Rawad el Zir and Ali Mourad – they got married in France.

Hassan Kassem and Joulia Bou Karroum. They got married in Cyprus.

Hassan Kassem and Joulia Bou Karroum. They got married in Cyprus.

Layal Mroue and Elie Geahchan. They got married in Cyprus

Layal Mroue and Elie Geahchan. They got married in Cyprus

Randa Kabrit and her husband. They got married in - wait for it - Istanbul.

Randa Kabrit and her husband. They got married in – wait for it – Istanbul.

Tamara and Bassam Choueiri. They got married in Cyprus.

Tamara and Bassam Choueiri. They got married in Cyprus.

Yara Francis and Thomas Green. They got married in the United States.

Yara Francis and Thomas Green. They got married in the United States.

Lara Salman and Jad Tamer. They got married in Cyprus.

Lara Salman and Jad Tamer. They got married in Cyprus.

According to some twisted religious rationale, all of the above people and more are engaging in blasphemy. Why? because some men of the cloth and their very avid followers cannot wrap their heads around the idea that some people out there don’t want their religion to dictate every single aspect of their lives. Do you know why Mufti Kabbani is against civil marriage that much? I don’t think it has anything to do with religion. If he was so worried about the rights of Muslims in securing a spot in heaven, he’d be the first person helping out Muslim people in need around the country seeing as they are – by all accounts – the poorest people of Lebanon. It’s because civil marriage limits his influence and the influence of people like him immensely most notably when it comes to their bottom line at the end of the month, one dollar at a time. In the words of the late sheikh Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah, a renowned Muslim scholar known for his modernized thoughts, “civil marriage is not a problem because it documents a marital contract between two parties in a very clear way with them committing to a marital relationship.” It is here that I believe we should commend Patriarch Raï for a stance not only with optional civil marriage but with making it compulsory. (Link). Do you know why blinded religious people come up with paragraphs upon paragraphs of why civil marriage is a sin? Because they can’t wrap their heads around the simple notion of freedom of choice. What’s in it for you if some people want to live in your version of sin? What’s in it for you if I am a “kefer?” Also why should your notion of “kefer” apply to those who don’t even share your religious views to begin with? I’ve got news for some of those people: Lebanon is not sharia land. And it will never be. The biggest obstacle to civil marriage and subsequently state in Lebanon isn’t just religious folk who can’t fathom living in a place where their religion doesn’t go all the time, it’s also cowardly politicians who cannot conceive standing against their religious reference in such matters and who also don’t realize that living in a state with a sectarian system doesn’t mean living in a religious state à la Saudi Arabia. I am pro civil marriage because I simply support that basic civil freedom. To some, that is beyond complicated to fathom. The above pictures were obtained from this Facebook group (link) which I recommend you join hoping that this sudden surge in national awareness of the issue, coupled with support from the Lebanese president, doesn’t become another “women quota in parliament” and “voting age lowering” issue by it actually translating to some tactical wins. Blasphemy is great sometimes.

The Death of Lebanese Civil Marriage

Khouloud and Nidale are a couple that distracted everyone from the utter failure of our politicians at coming up with an electoral law last week with them using loopholes in Lebanon’s political system to have a civil marriage in Beirut. Everyone was abuzz with what the couple did.

But, as is the case with Lebanon, not all reactions were positive and their marriage left us with more questions than answers (link).

The first official reaction to the marriage was Lebanon’s president Michel Suleiman who expressed his support to what Khouloud and Nidale did, voicing the need for civil marriage in Lebanon. His statement was also echoed by the Maronite Patriarch Bechara Al Raï.

Soon enough, our prime minister Najib Mikati was the first to shoot down hope of ratifying a proposal to have legalize marriage in Lebanon because we “don’t need such controversial issues at the time being.” It eventually culminated with Lebanon’s justice minister announcing that Khouloud and Nidale’s marriage was, in fact, illegal and will not be accepted.

And we thought that was it – we had a brief stint with the possibility of our country maybe becoming civil. But Lebanon’s civil marriage drama was renewed today when the Sunni mufti, Kabbani, decided to captivate us with his take on the issue by issuing the following fatwa (link):

“Whoever of Lebanon’s Muslim politicians in legislative power agrees to legalize and ratify civil marriage – even if optional – will be considered an apostate and a deserter of the Muslim religion. He won’t be washed, entombed, prayed on and buried in Muslim cemeteries.”

And with one of Lebanon’s main sects absolutely refusing any prospect of civil marriage in Lebanon, the issue has been killed probably to no return anytime soon. Many people agree with him as well.

What Mufti Kabbani is failing to realize is that he doesn’t live in a country where his sharia is applied to everyone and when he effectively shoots down a national proposition of this magnitude, he is limiting everyone’s freedom of choice – not only the Muslims that he wants to fight for.

What Mufti Kabbani seems not to know is that for $2000 his Muslim population can hop on the first plane to Cyprus, get married and be back in Lebanon that same afternoon. What he is failing to realize is that the point of an optional civil marriage is precisely that: it is optional. Those who want have a civil marriage, regardless of religion, should be free to have one. And those who want a pure Muslim or Christian marriage regardless of their reasons could have one as well. Why should it be the entire country’s problem if he’s worried that, when given another option, many of his Muslims would opt out of an Islamic marriage?

I fail to see how an optional civil marriage is degrading to the rights of Muslims. I fail to see how such a fatwa is Lebanon’s mufti fighting for the rights of his Muslims. Whoever of his Muslims doesn’t want a civil marriage and believes it is blasphemy can simply not have one.

We are now a country that threatens with apostasy to make a point. We are now a country that has fatwas target civil liberties. Last time I checked, that existed in places that we ridiculed as having no freedom of speech and whatnot. It turns out we may not be much better. Thank you Mufti Kabbani for the eye opening realization.

Putting Lebanon’s First Civil Marriage in Perspective

We sure are all thrilled that a Lebanese couple defied all odds in having Lebanon’s first ever civil marriage happen on our soil (click here). They are courageous and should be commended, as we’ve all done and they have shown that, if you absolutely want to, getting a civil marriage in Lebanon is entirely possible although extremely tedious.

Some people categorized is as a triumph for a secular state to be, some were thrilled that they don’t have to go to Cyprus now to get married. Others were over the moon that this is this couple’s way of sticking it to religious figures who want to keep us down. You know how the drill goes.

But things are not that peachy. Quite simply put, if you think about it Lebanon’s first civil marriage is a triumph for our secular system first and foremost.

As I was discussing with a friend the possibility of maybe removing our sects like this couple did, I had this nagging idea in my head all the time: how much would that limit my prospects in this country?

And the answer is: a lot.

How is a couple being forced to remove their sect from all governmental papers in order to get married a triumph over the sectarian system? If anything, it’s a grave injustice for them. Not because our sectarian system is healthy but because by opting out of it through removing their sect from all their legal documents as per Article 60 LR., this couple has not only limited things for themselves but for their children and their children’s children as well.

It’s not even about governmental jobs which are allocated according to sectarian quotas. It’s about universities which admit students in a Lebanese-affirmative action sort of way whereby half of its admissions are Christians and the other half is Muslim. It’s about jobs that would hire you outside of qualifications if you’re from a certain sect. It’s about this mentality among a lot of people – arguably the majority – to help out others just because they are “men wleid l tayfe.” (from our sect).

It’s not the way things should be, sure. But it’s the way things are. Should the consequences of a civil marriage be limited opportunities for everyone involved? I hardly think so.

Whether we want to admit it or not, the current state of affairs in Lebanon is entirely run on that category in your documents labeled “sect.” Once that box is empty, where do you fit in the bureaucratical aspect of things? Nowhere. How will they register their children when the time comes? How difficult will it be for them to get things done in this country starting from getting that meaningless “ikhraj l eid?”

On top of all that, here’s a sample of some of the comments on NowLebanon’s article about the issue:

Civil Marriage Lebanon

 

Enough said, I guess.

Quite simply put: a “proper” Lebanese civil marriage should be one that takes place while all your governmental papers still have your sect written there in that box.

Either way, if you want to get a civil marriage Lebanon is not the way for you. Nicosia should still be your main destination because at least you know that if you get married there you won’t have a whole lot of repercussions to go through and you know that your children won’t have to go through hell and back in order to get a job.

Lebanon’s First Ever Civil Marriage

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Amid ongoing discussion about the Orthodox Law, Christian rights and naseauting political ads, there’s a piece of news which makes you hopeful about this country we live in.

No, they didn’t go to Cyprus. They didn’t travel to the end of the world to have their marriage signed. Yes, they are religious – she is veiled. But a Lebanese couple who wanted to get married decided that they wanted their union to be an embodiment of civil, not religious, rights. And so they became the first couple to – legally – have a civil marriage in Lebanon. For the full story, click here.

What Khouloud and Nidal did was to remove their sect from their personal records according to Decree No. 60 L.R. from the Lebanese constitution, which meant there was no religious court for them to get married in. The couple signed their civil marriage document on November 10th.

Their marriage is now subject to consultations at Lebanon’s ministry of interior affairs. Because this is so big.

According to the article I linked to earlier, the decree the couple used is simply not making an administrative disclosure of your corresponding sect, which makes you liable in front of civil, not religious, court.

After removing their sect from legal documents as per decree 60 L.R., the couple went through the following process:

  • Get a paper from the “Mokhtar” allowing the marriage.
  • Publish the marriage decision 15 days in advance either in the Official Gazette or in two newspapers or on your parents’ door.
  • Get legal documents from notary public that contain all the items in the marriage contract.

This sounds like a whole lot of paperwork. And it is. But at least now we know that a civil marriage in Lebanon is possible.

The news of this marriage comes at a time when many of the country’s politicians are discussing the possibility of adding a 19th officially recognized sect to the country – the sect of those who don’t have a sect or don’t want their sect to dictate every aspect of their legal life (atheists, people like this couple who don’t wish to be identified by their sect, etc…).

Here’s hoping the ministry of interior affairs doesn’t throw hurdles in front of this couple’s union because their marriage is apparently perfectly legal. And here’s hoping our religious folk don’t start advocating to close this loophole in our constitution.

This marriage, though, needs to be put in Lebanese perspective because it’s not really a fairytale. (Click here).