Archive for May, 2011

“This Is Not a Revolution!”: Laique Pride

Friday, May 20th, 2011

As we walked peacefully slowly toasting in the sun, just a few barrels of us, in support of civil, secular laws in Lebanon, I thought, well, we’re beating the Arab world in our protests – no one’s been  shot at yet. When I said this out loud, my friend reminded me that “This is not a revolution,” which was later echoed by the high-pitched chanting emcee: “Shebab, shebab, this is not a thawra! This is a demonstration to demand our civil rights.”

I was being cheeky (what a reality to aspire to; plus, we haven’t promoted the urgency yet…) but meanwhile, shots were being fired from across our southern border during the Nakba day march, which approximately 40,000 people attended in Lebanon alone. This marked the first time in 63 years that Palestinians were allowed at the border of Lebanon and Israel.  The reports are that ten died on Lebanese land and dozens were injured, some grievously, though the casualties were not at the hands of the Lebanese army, but of the Israeli’s, who joined the many other Arab states who have used/are using brute force against unarmed citizens in the past six revolutionary months. Of the dozens injured is one of my former students at AUB, who was shot in the back and lost a kidney and his spleen. Doctors say he may never walk again.

In the shadow of the huge event of heading to the southern border and the subsequent violence, the Laique Parade felt like just that – a parade – except with fewer people. We were told it wasn’t a revolution and it certainly didn’t feel like one. The only people who heard us were the gawking police, the lackadaisical army, the impatient cars who lay on their horns, and a few people in their undershirts who watched from their high rise balconies. Oh, and a small restaurant crowd who cheered for us – which was encouraging, actually. (Otherwise, in my humble opinion, the route was poorly chosen!).

The Laique movement is akin to the anti-sectarian movement. However, the anti-sectarian movement gained momentum early in the year and then fell flat, deciding to hold up, reevaluate and organize due to its “vagueness” and an unclear mission, and, ironically, the divisions within the movement. The key phrase that was repeatedly chanted by the organizers at the parade was “This is the solution.” If that’s not a revolutionary statement, I don’t know what is! The implication here is that the crippling sectarianism in the country is our main demise; the irony is that “the solution,” civil, secular laws, is difficult (though, surely not impossible) to reach in our divided country – and as discovered in the anti-sectarian movement, difficult to agree upon even amongst its strongest supporters.

Still, the efforts of all members and parties can go a long way. Respect to those who have not given up on change. The Laique movement began last year, before the revolutionary fever. While the anti-sectarian movement tried to ride the wave. The  two groups are different, at least in presentation. While the former demands the toppling of the sectarian system completely, the latter demands adding civil rights first. Nonetheless, the existence and support of both illustrates an obvious and true desire of people who want their civil rights to be completely separate from their religious sect – despite the political implications (imbalance in power, namely). Why should anyone have the right to tell you that you must marry, inherit, or divorce under this or that (unfair) religious law? As our emcee repeatedly chanted the infamous Lebanese question into the mic: “What sect are you from?”  she answered, “It’s none of your business!”

I wonder, though, how do these efforts turn into a revolution?

Anti-sectarian movement sit-in, Sanayeh Garden. Since February.


Here are pics from the Laique Parade, May 15.

The Emcee and the King of Laique

Walking toward downtown - a ghost-town of a route...

Workers watching the crowd of laiqu-ers

Nizar and Wael. "You dare not say you like laic..."

Not a bad idea.

Under one long flag.

This activist did not lower his arm for the entire demonstration.

Dog for civil rights.

"Marouniye" and the image of Che Guevara, together - bet you haven't seen that before.

Lunching - and cheering for Laique...

Lots of respect for bringing kids to demo's!

A march for secularism is incomplete without the Ka3ek vendor.

The mission, according to the Laique Pride Facebook page:

“All the Lebanese are equal before the law. They enjoy equal civil and political rights and are equally subjected to public charges and duties without any distinction whatever.”
(Art.7 Lebanese Constitution)

We are Lebanese citizens who wish to live in dignity and equality with other co-citizens. Armed with public and private rights and liberties warranted by the Lebanese constitution, we mobilize for a civil secular state founded on citizenship, guaranteeing the expression of the country’s diversity and securing social justice, one of the main foundations of civil peace.

We call for:

– laws respectful of human rights, public and private liberties as well as gender equality,
– a strong, impartial and independent judiciary,
– a Lebanese civil code for personal status,
– the abolition of institutional sectarianism,
– the strengthening of education on citizenship.

The Laique Pride is a movement seeking to gather the different shades of the Lebanese secular fabric. The march is a yearly meeting to make our voices heard and to put a face on our demands.

The Laique Pride encourages and supports every movement and organization working towards a more egalitarian society. It does not claim or intend to substitute secular actions underway all through the year, but rather wishes to inspire new citizen initiatives in Lebanon.