November 17, 2006

The Gloves Are Off!

The tide is turning, the gloves are off; this society is openly dividing itself along religious lines.
Once again, I might add. Although it was always clear that there were ‘issues’ between the different sects, for the past 15 years Lebanese have always tried rather vigorously to give me the impression that there really was no problem at all between the Lebanese themselves, but that it had been ‘foreign forces’ that played them against each other. Of course this argument didn’t hold very well if 10 minutes later you’d hear remarks like “well, what do you expect, he’s a ……… “(Fill in any of the 4 main religious sects).
In certain circles it was even a taboo to make cliché, or negative statements about other sects. But once you got to know people well enough, or they though they knew you well enough, the real disposition would surface. I can tell you countless stories of people who – because I am blond and blue-eyed – thought I was a christian, or who – because I am married to a muslim – thought I was a muslim, and thus considered me as being ‘one of them’, and in that position would speak to me about things they would never tell me had they known I was actually from the ‘other’ side. I have no real side; I am in the happy position of being able to switch sides. But I would hear the stories.

But now the gloves are off. We can now openly talk about ‘those shiites’, or ‘those sunnis’, and ‘those maronites’. This evening, a car drove to town to celebrate the AUB student elections. The guys hanging out of it were wearing Amal shirts (a shi’ite party), but for the first time I hear people in Lebanon openly chanting about their sectarian identity. I couldn’t hear it all, but it was quite distinctly about something ‘shia’. This would have been unthinkable a couple of months ago. Talks about impending sectarian clashes are quite normal. We are back to square one, it seems.

This blogger blames it again on ‘foreign forces’. He says: 'Lebanon, tragically, is resuming its historic role as a proxy war battleground for countries more powerful than itself. Just about every group in the country allows itself to be used as a proxy by some nation or other, and so it continues.'
Although the quote is nice, I am getting tired of us blaming it on others. I think it is time to look inwards. If you are willing to attack fellow Lebanese because your leader says so, then you are to blame, not external forces. Armies can’t fight if they don’t have soldiers.

In few of the changing mood in society, a group of worried citizens has come up with a very nice campaign warning people of the increased sectarian sentiments within Lebanon. For an outsider some of these pictures may appear strange. For the Lebanese, they say it all. There are some hilarious pictures and billboards I must say. I hope it works.

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