Worried Lebanese

thought crumbs on lebanese and middle eastern politics

Anti-confessionalism at its worst (another hate mail)

Posted by worriedlebanese on 19/06/2007

amam31.JPGHere is an email I wrote yesterday and sent to AMAM:

I believe Amam is doing a terrible job. It has been launching one political campaign after the other for the past year ridiculing sectarianism, confusing sectarianims and communalism, and equating them with division, underdevelopment and war.


The ideology AMAM diffuses is not new. It can be traced to the 1920s and it has marked the Lebanese constitution since its adoption in 1926 (c.f. article 95). Oddly enough, it’s a State ideology that is propagated in our history books (try to find in a history manual any reference to communal identity), in ministerial declarations, in television programs… And what has it amounted to? A complete ignorance by most Lebanese on all issues pertaining the communities they don’t belong to, and even the knowledge of their community is flawed.

The Lebanese do not even know the exact number of communities that are established in Lebanon. Do you know? It’s 17, not 18, not 19. Seventeen: 12 Christian, 4 Muslim and 1 Jewish (the Ismael-is are not an established community in Lebanon). Do you even know that a non-religious community was recognised but never established? probably not. Brainwashed since your youth that Lebanon, State and Society, is confessionalist, and that confessionalism is bad, you’ve never gone further than that and asked yourself in what way is confessionalism bad? Is our system really confessionalist?


So what is AMAM actually doing? Is it doing anything new? In the content, absolutely not. In the format yes, it is making anti-confessionalism “sexy”, pseudo-humorous, contemporary.

AMAM’s campaign is fighting the only positive development in the past few years: communalism is no longer taboo, people are expressing their communal belonging (and fears) freely and openly. The expression is new, but the feeling old. Now that it is expressed, maybe the country can start addressing it.

What is wrong with being proud of ones communal heritage? What’s wrong with wanting to be truly represented by a person from ones own community? What’s wrong with communal power-sharing? In principle, and in practice too. But remember, when one is judging things in practice, one has to be sure that they are the result of the specific variable he is working on, and not of something else, or a mix of variables…

So now communalism isn’t taboo any longer. People talk about their communal fears and wants. Christians are expressing their fears of mass immigration. Do you think it better if they just shut up and left the country silently, like the Lebanese Jews did or the Lebanese Armenians are doing today (check the yearly figures of student enrolment in Armenian schools).

Instead of trying to understand communal expressions and fears, AMAM is fighting them, ridiculing them. You do not fight the manipulation that surrounds them, you denounce their very expression. You conflate communalism and sectarianism under the same derogatory label: “confessionalism”. You refuse to distinguish between their socio-cultural and political dimensions, their spontaneous and their manipulated expressions… To AMAM it is all very simple: “confessionalism” is a social ail. Hence, all your campaigns denigrate the Lebanese society and portrays it as bigoted and sectarian. Here you’re mocking an imaginary private company, in another campaign you are mocking social and professional interactions “parking for Maronites”, “doctor for Shiites”, “Greek-orthodox specialist”…

What you are doing is foolish, short-minded and arrogant. You think you are reacting to the failings of the Lebanese society when you are actually but their simplest expression.


8 Responses to “Anti-confessionalism at its worst (another hate mail)”

  1. Marji said

    This post summarizes what we talked about during your last visit. And I totally agree with you :).

  2. Agreement can sometimes be very flattering, but it is never very stimulating. Can’t u at the very least disagree with one point!?

  3. naya said

    salut je viens jeter de l’huile sur le feu, i totally agree too with both of u. As for stimulation, i think u have at least 90 % of lebanese population totally admirative of AMAM’s “extraordinary” campain against u and ready to bite ! So some support from time to time cannot hurt :-))).

  4. Unfortunately, these 90% of Lebanese are hardly ever as stimulating as either one of you when you disagree with me 😉

  5. Come to think of it, maybe I should translate it into arabic and publish it in the Nahar or the Safir or the Akhbar, what do u think?

  6. […] two years ago (albeit hysterically) through a “hate mail” sent to Amam05 posted here. The arguments haven’t changed, but maybe I should restate them more […]

  7. Qifa Nabki said

    Worried Lebanese,

    This comment comes a couple of years late, but I only just started following your blog.

    Surely there is a difference between (a) an attachment to one’s confessional community and (b) participation in the political life of one’s country by virtue of one’s membership in that community alone.

    Why is it a problem to voice one’s worries about the emigration of a certain sect while simultaneously calling for the abolition of political confessionalism?

    • Hey QN,
      thanks for your comment.
      The “hate mail” I sent to AMAM a couple of years back was about a specific campaign they had waged against confessionalism. My point wasn’t to analyse either confessionalism or anti-confessionalism. This, I will try to tackle in a couple of posts this week.
      But I won’t leave your comment unanswered.
      The (b) point you raise is, I believe, a misrepresentation of a negative effect of the power-sharing formula. The basic principle in Lebanon is equality between all citizens, and between all communities. And I believe this equality is true to a very large extent. Political participation is not conditioned by membership to one community. All Lebanese nationals have the same political rights. One of the few legal limitations to these rights has to do with access to a very limited number of political positions. Many democracies have limitations of access to a number of political posts (ask Schwarzenegger about it). Instead of misrepresenting the whole system, and condemning it as a whole, why not try to see how these legal limitations could be reduced.
      As for your last question, I don’t see how it relates to this posting :-s

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