Tuesday, 25 May 2010


Calls for Separation of Religion and State at Secular Demonstration in Lebanon

  • Tuesday, 25 May 2010
  • Fouad GM
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  • Following are excerpts from a TV report on a secular demonstration that took place in Lebanon. The report aired on LBC TV on April 24, 2010 forwarded from the MEMRI website. You can also watch the TV report (in Arabic) here.

    Picture taken from Katrine Syppli's FlickR


    Reporter: Lebanon is considered a liberal country, compared to its neighbors, and if its location in a generally conservative region is taken into account. Nevertheless, religion plays an essential role in its political system, and this has a negative impact on civil life sometimes. Even if the general character of the Lebanese is primarily determined by their sectarian affiliation, some of them refuse to let their sects determine their personal lives. Since for them, secularism is the solution, the secular people took to the streets of Beirut under this slogan, demanding the separation of religion and state.

    Demonstrators carry signs, with the slogans:

    "What's my sect? None of your business."

    "Fatima and Tony are in love... That's a problem."

    Demonstrator: We intend to abolish sectarian politics by separating religion and state. In our parliament, seats are allocated on a sectarian basis. We want it to be according to a proportional system.

    In the world, secularism means complete removal of religion. That is not what we want. One's religion is a personal matter. "What's my sect? None of your business."

    Photo by Alain Hasrouny

    Reporter: The secularists' demand for separation of religion and state has several reasons, including the wars caused by sectarianism, the dead, the wounded, and the damage to all aspects of life, as well as the negative consequences to the lives of the citizens, especially when it comes to personal status laws, such as those pertaining to divorce and inheritance, subject to the courts of each sect. This is probably the greatest obstacle that sectarianism imposes on the lives of these young people, who consider civil marriage, for example, to be a solution to many problems faced by couples of different religions.

    Demonstrator carries a sign with the slogan:

    "Sectarianism is the filthy work of Satan... Avoid it."

    Reporter: This is what leads them to make the 30-minute trip to Cyprus, in order to get married in a civil ceremony.

    Demonstrator: Anybody who cares about secularism in Lebanon should be here today, so we can show our real numbers. This will raise awareness and make people talk about secularism. The Lebanese don't know what secularism is. They are afraid of it. They are afraid that secularism will deny them their religion.

    Reporter: The demonstration, which included signs describing the negative aspects of sectarianism, was predominated by women. Women suffer severe discrimination under the laws of the various sects, and despite the efforts and activities of the NGOs, the people in charge refrain from taking any action.

    The only exception is the initiative of Minister of the Interior Ziyad Baroud, who removed sectarian affiliation from ID cards. Many people view this measure as a new starting point for a country with 18 different sects. This, however, has remained the only measure taken, due to various considerations of the politicians and religious leaders.

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