Sunday, December 16, 2007

Islamist Groups in Lebanon

Islamist Groups in Lebanon

December 16, 2007, 3:00 pm

By Gary C. Gambill

The article examines the evolution of three distinct poles of Islamism in Lebanon and how they have adapted to changes in local political and security conditions over the past three decades.

Although Lebanon's ethno-sectarian demography is manifestly unsuitable for the establishment of an Islamic state, the salience of militant Islamist movements in this tiny Mediterranean country has few parallels. Above and beyond the regional conditions fueling Islamic revivalism, Lebanon's weak state, acute socioeconomic and political inequities, and experience of pervasive external intervention converged to create an unusually permissive environment for Islamists. Under these circumstances, radical Islamism has become a powerful instrument of communitarian social mobilization and an effective vehicle for drawing resources from the outside world.


The modern state of Lebanon is a unique amalgam of 18 officially recognized religious sects, the product of over a millennium of immigration by Christians and heterodox Muslims from the surrounding Sunni Islamic world and deliberate colonial border demarcation following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Political offices in Lebanon have been distributed among its sectarian communities by fixed quotas. Under the terms of the 1943 National Pact, the presidency is reserved for Maronite Christians, the office of prime minister for Sunni Muslims, and the office of parliament speaker for Shi'a Muslims. Parliament seats were divided among Christian and Muslim sects by a 6:5 ratio until 1989, then evenly afterwards. In addition, the Lebanese constitution and subsequent laws grant the religious establishment of each sectarian community authority over matters pertaining to personal status (e.g. marriage, divorce, child custody, and inheritance).

Continued: Islamist Groups in Lebanon

No comments: