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A Predicament and a Dilemma - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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I finished reading a wonderful book by the famous Lebanese economist Dr. Kamal Dib entitled ‘Hetha al Jasr al Atiq…Suqud Libnan al Mesihi [This Old Bridge…The Fall of Christian Lebanon]?’ In a remarkable and interesting manner, the book talks about the political and social history of the Christians in Lebanon and the currents that were created among people who call for Lebanon to have its own independent identity affiliated to Europe or France and away from its Arab and Islamic surroundings, and others calling for integration and communication. Because of this specific perspective a strange condition has been created in Lebanon.

Through its Christian symbols it insists that it has a special status because of the Christian presence there (but this is a call that has never been made before by the Christians of Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Egypt or Sudan). Therefore there must be democratic representation through quotas and sharing and this is what has caused impossible problems today. Lebanese democracy does not recognize majority rule and it wants detailed democracy based on sharing, therefore any demographic change on the ground damages the rights of the Christians themselves. This is what made the Christians fearful of any development in the democratic system itself such as abolishing political sectarianism or introducing civil marriages and other proposals that have always been part of the political system in Lebanon.

In Egypt today there is serious talk about judicial intervention in giving Coptic Christians the right to remarry, which is prohibited by the Coptic Orthodox Church. There are voices within Christian society asking for the door to be opened with regards to jurisprudential opinions on remarriage (this is what happened with other Christian groups that follow different schools of thought that allowed for remarriage and derived this from interpreting Christian religious books.)

It seems today that the dilemma of the existence of races, doctrines and religions and so-called minorities in the Arab world needs to be looked at somewhat differently today. There is an urgent need for the right to equality and citizenship to be clear, as well as the practice of democracy that is compatible with the general attitude of society. There cannot be private concepts [for a specific minority] that are separate to the wider general concepts because sooner or later that will lead to the formation of a confrontational society.

Lebanon has a beautiful idea for a country where everyone can have equal rights and no group is distinguished from the other for any reason whatsoever. But if that is not the case then what would be the difference between Lebanon and Israel? The Jews in Israel insist that it is an exclusively Jewish state and therefore [members of] all other races and religions in Israel become second-class citizens. As a result, the term “democratic” used in describing Israeli politics is false and a great myth.

Political development in Arab societies should reflect their reality today or in the near future. Dr. Kamal Dib quotes the late Lebanese Maronite leader Raymond Edde who said to his son, “In 20 years time there won’t be a [single] Christian in Lebanon.” This is a pessimistic view because Edde only saw Lebanon as Christian and [thought that] every other group must serve “Maronite Lebanon.” Therefore, he spent the rest of his life outside of Lebanon trying to solve his country’s issues from Paris!

The entire Arab world is suffering from major problems and it does not need any more extremist details that only find the solutions in the narrow interests of a specific sect or group.

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi is a businessman and prominent columnist. Mr. Shobokshi hosts the weekly current affairs program Al-Takreer on Al-Arabiya, and in 1995 he was chosen as one of the "Global Leaders for Tomorrow" by the World Economic Forum. He received his BA in Political Science and Management from the University of Tulsa.

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