News / Middle East

Demonstrators Call for Secular State in Lebanon

More than 2,000 people have marched through the streets of downtown Beirut calling for a secular state.

It started on the social-networking site Facebook, a call to arms by people who believe church and state should not be one. After the online movement grew, Laique Pride organizers decided to take that spirit off-line, staging a rally through downtown Beirut to the Lebanese Parliament.

While the Laique Pride movement stops short of calling for specific demands, they want to move away from a state based on religion, says Yelda Yones, one of the organizers. She says the tradition of Lebanese apathy must stop.

"It is up to us to do something if we want it to change," she said. "To stop nagging about the system not functioning and start doing something about it and stay positive and united."

Lebanon is home to 18 religious sects and is deeply divided along sectarian lines, with Parliament seats allocated by religious affiliation and its president is a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim and parliament speaker a Shiite Muslim.

In Lebanon, only religious authorities can perform marriages, register births and deaths, and rule on matters of inheritance, so the rights of citizens vary by religious group and are not uniform.

Another rally organizer, Said Chaitou says reforming the state to become more secular will not infringe on peoples' personal religious beliefs.

"Lebanese people should understand what is secularism and do not be afraid of it," he said. "It is not against religion, it is not against them practicing. Secularism will bring equality between all the Lebanese people."

No politicians attended the rally, although some have called for civil marriage rights in Lebanon. Demonstrator Munther Yehya says the existing system benefits politicians.

"It is against their political interest, which here translates into their economic and financial interests," said Yehya.

While dozens of parents rolling strollers came out for the cause, in addition to politicians, the rally also lacked support from the older generations.

Rima Maroun says gathering attention from a wider demographic will take time.

"We know that all of the big manifestations that happened in the world were launched by the young generation, so we hope that this thing can drag the older people and motivate them to come because they are tired of doing," said Maroun. "If we do not have the energy to do these kinds of things, nothing can ever change."

Organizers say their next step is to launch an online forum that will be open to the public to exchange ideas about how best to achieve secular reforms. They also say they plan to hold the rally again next year.

You May Like

Video Obama Announces Plan to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Ebola Fight

At US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Obama details troop deployment and other pieces of US plan More

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Communityi
X
September 16, 2014 2:06 PM
Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid