In Lebanon, “a small group of non-partisan civic-minded citizens called Laïque (Secular) Pride” is organizing a March for Secularism, to take place on April 25 in Beirut, “in support of secularism, and to bring attention to the letter and spirit of the Lebanese Constitution,” reports Alexandre Medawar for Common Ground News Service.
In so doing, Medawar draws out some of the complexities that unsettle any attempt to treat Lebanon decisively as either a secular or a multi-confessional republic. Thus:
Article 9 of the Constitution clearly determines the secular character of the Lebanese state and consequently the secular character of Lebanese citizenship. Lebanon is a republican and secular state in which all citizens are equal. In theory, that is.
In fact, the nation’s legislators never established a civil status that would distinguish Lebanese citizens from their religious status. Citizenship is contingent on religion first and foremost, since all personal legal acts (birth, marriage, death and inheritance) are recorded in separate official records established along religious lines.
He concludes, however, that there is broad and growing support in the small, seaside state for a more pronouncedly secularist tack:
However today, many Lebanese citizens endorse the stated values of the republican, secular and equalitarian Constitution. Religious or not, practising or not, they do not identify with the sectarian and unconstitutional practices put in place by the political oligarchy. These Lebanese claim the right to enjoy their civic rights and carry out their civic duties irrespective of any religion, in keeping with the letter and spirit of the Constitution—no more, no less.
The march has received the green light from the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities. It is the first step in bringing together the individuals and groups in civil society that support a secular Lebanon. For now, its goal is to make all Lebanese aware of the text that lays down the foundations of their state and to strive for its application through legal means and the media.
Read the entire article here.