“Lebanon is just too secular for me”
Posted by adiamondinsunlight on March 7, 2007
This post is for G, whose recent self-description as “the least secular person you will meet in this country” had me in stitches.
Last September I met a new friend for coffee in downtown Seattle. H is Lebanese-American, a nature-lover in the best ready-for-a-hike-at-any-minute Pacific Northwest tradition, and a very devout Shi3a Muslim. We were having a hoot of a time, laughing about our childhoods, discussing US and Lebanese politics, and telling family tales – all the best elements of a getting-to-know-you new friendship conversation.
H has spent more years in the United States than in Lebanon, but still has parents and three siblings there. Do you think about moving back to Beirut? I asked.
Honestly, Diamond, H replied, I love Lebanon but I just can’t see myself living there. Lebanon is just too secular for me.”
What? I thought, horrified. Had I just stumbled upon the Pacific Northwest’s least likely fanatic? How could anyone say that Lebanon was too secular – or even just secular?
Yes, H continued, the country is way too secular. The first questions everyone asks me are: what is your name? and: where are you from? Once they know my religion, their attitudes change completely.
Ohhhhhhh, I said, relieved. H meant that Lebanon was too sectarian.
Its not precisely a French English moment, as the words in French are fairly distinct. Secular is séculier or laïque; sectarian is sectaire.
Not precisely French, but still funny :-).