Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Berri and the Sectarian Hat - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
Select Page

It seems that the hot topic in Beirut at the moment is whether or not Lebanon will take part in the Arab Summit in Libya. The Lebanese government is having trouble striking a balance between the wishes of Lebanese officials to not boycott any Arab summit and internal pressure to boycott the summit because of the case of Imam Musa Sadr, the founder of the Supreme Islamic Shiite Council. Tripoli is accused of [being involved in his] disappearance during an official visit to Libya in 1978 and the Libyan authorities deny this. Of course the individual behind the calls to boycott the Tripoli Summit in Beirut is Lebanese Parliament Speaker and the leader of the Amal Movement Mr. Nabih Berri and his followers.

This is not the main story for us; this is nothing new as it is the subject of every Lebanese incident linked to Libya. What concerns us here is the threat made by Hani Qobaisi MP who is close to Nabih Berri. In this threat he alluded to a drastic Shia position if Lebanon takes part in the Tripoli Summit. He said, “We do not want to go back to re-marginalize the Shia sect’s political role and [at the same time] we do not want to go back to the way things were during the political dispute, neutralizing the Shia sect from taking part in the political role,” in reference to the Shia boycott of the Lebanese government of course that resulted in the Doha Agreement, as Qobaisi stressed that “we will not be partners in any political regime in which the Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi is taking part in joint political activity whether through the Arab Summit or any other activity.”

The question here is how can we interpret comments such as these made by the MP who supports the head of the Amal movement [Berri] vis-à-vis Berri’s project to establish the National Commission for the Abolition of Political Sectarianism in Lebanon? Is sectarianism a hat that one puts on in order to accomplish one’s own interests whether electoral or otherwise? It really is very confusing; if the Amal movement wants to recall the case of Imam Sadr then there’s nothing wrong with that at all, and we do not want to belittle this. However, it cannot continue to act as a sectarian scarecrow that is present at every occasion. The comments made by the MP who supports Nabih Berri mean that the Amal movement is using sectarianism as a weapon to accomplish its own goals, or to blackmail its opponents, as sectarianism is present at every political dispute or any competition to divide posts or even in the attempt to strengthen a leading position in a state that says it is democratic, like Lebanon.

The truth is that it is not a problem regarding Nabih Berri alone in Lebanon but also a problem regarding those who present themselves as secularists. The best example of this is General Michel Aoun who talks about representing a secular current and then shows up in Syria to attend the mass of Saint Maron in a typical [case of] religious-political, Christian tit for tat. Of course let us not ignore Hezbollah that represents an uglier side to sectarianism and therefore statements from the Amal Movement about the position towards the Libyan summit is conclusive evidence that Mr. Nabih Berri’s project to establish the National Commission for the Abolition of Political Sectarianism is nothing but a project to score points and it cannot be applied in Lebanon, even according to the Amal Movement itself.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

More Posts