Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Lebanon: The Frightened “Sunni Giant”

By Husam Itani
This commentary was published in al-Hayat on 26/01/2011

Those who called for the exit of the “Sunni Giant” should be more frightened than anyone else, considering that a new giant’s joining of the other sects will only lead the Sunni sect in Lebanon toward becoming more engaged in policies of fear, isolation and panic-stricken identity.

The latter policies are the ones drawing up the framework of the vicious circle in which the Lebanese have been moving for years. The Shiites are concerned about Israel and the destruction with which it is threatening them day and night. They are also afraid of seeing their arms removed by a force that could catch them by surprise and afraid of losing the achievements they have secured in the state institutions and at the level of their share in the authority since the Taif Accord in 1989.

For their part, the Sunnis are afraid of these assassinations that pursue any figure who emerges from among them, from Riad al-Solh to Rafik al-Hariri, including Rashid Karame, Hassan Khaled and many others. This reached a point where some became convinced there was a conspiracy managed by several sides aiming at preventing the Lebanese Sunnis from producing leaders and cadres at a level deserved by their sect. They are also afraid of seeing the rise of the Shiite sect and its most important symbol, i.e. that military power which challenged and defeated Israel in more than one location and confrontation and is carrying a clear sectarian rhetoric. The Sunnis are afraid of seeing the Shiites climb the social, economic and scientific ladder, at a time when they perceive themselves as being at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder. They are scared of the Shiite vitality that gets support on the political, financial and military levels from regional powers, which are always mobilized, in the face of a chronic sluggishness prevailing among their leaders and elite and an excessive slackening in the “Arab moderation” camp.

As for the Christians, they are scared of both the Shiites and the Sunnis. Indeed, the two models put forward by the supporters of “political Islam” in its Shiite and Sunni facets, are drastically against all the values which the Christians say they have been carrying in this East for almost two thousand years - or at least since the establishment of institutional relations with the Western Church in the sixteenth century. Neither Wileyat e-Faqih nor the Islamic Emirate, i.e. the two extremes of the political Islam projects, can feature what would convince the Lebanese Christians to engage in any of them consciously and supportively. As for the Christian alliance with the different Islamic denominational powers, it ranges between attempts to outsmart these powers and attempts to contain them. However, the Christians trying to outsmart those powers will discover, just like the leftists before them, that the illusion of the exploitation of the Islamists to serve their own interests is fake. As for the realization of the failure of containment, it will be slower.

What happened in Lebanon yesterday reveals the depth of the sectarian tendency within the Future Movement at the expense of the disappearance of the national component with the sects in it. Resorting to the violence of the poor Sunnis in the most desolate and deprived regions to act as a crane for the Future Movement in its protest against the exclusion of Saad al-Hariri from the premiership, even if at calculated doses and for limited periods of time, leaves no room for any doubts surrounding the retreat of the democratic and civil action of the aforementioned movement, and all the March 14 forces from behind it. We say this without slipping into the pointless talk about the right to mobilize the street and what is guaranteed and prohibited by law.

Moreover, the mobilization of the street the way it was seen reveals the March 14 forces’ loss of one more brick in the rhetoric that extended beyond the sects and addressed the general national sensitivities, after the talk started falling in the context of the protest against the “appointment of a soldier in Wileyat e-Faqih as the leader of the Sunnis.”

No one is naïve to the point of believing that the “independentists” could be burdened with one additional concern that is not linked to their direct interests, seeing how the dissolution of the contract between the March 14 forces and their return to their primary sectarian and denominational components does not serve any national project in Lebanon. As for the “Sunni Giant” whose exit was heralded by the Tripoli speaker, it is yet a new sign for the loss of the latter project.

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