A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

“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 :-).


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