Hizbullah... The Story from Within

Islam and Sectarianism

Islam and Sectarianism

The Muslim-Christian Dialogue
The Lebanese milieu was surprised to see a Hizbullah delegation represented by the late parliamentarian Sheikh Khodor Tleis and Hizbullah Political Assembly member Nawaf al-Moussawi visiting Bkirke, the seat of the Christian Maronite Patriarch Mar Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir. This took place on December 1, 1992, with print media headlines and articles of the following day clearly demonstrating their astonishment. Two reasons were behind such surprise:
First, this was an unprecedented move for Hizbullah, which had never worked on such a relationship before, and which was besieged by a number of false claims and accusations concerning the Party's perception of Christians and its stance towards them. Second, this visit came following a long period of frozen relationships between the predominantly Muslim areas of West Beirut and the Maronite Patriarchal representation, which was largely due to political conflicts and the unstable relationships between Hizbullah and the emerging post-Taif Lebanese government. How could Hizbullah take the initiative for such a meeting within these circumstances?
Party leadership took this decision as part of an overall vision to open communication channels with all except those harboring connections with Israel, as for instance the Lebanese Forces militia. It is well known that the nature of the relationship with the Maronite Patriarchy falls within the scope of Muslim-Christian dialogue and political ties with existing powers in the terrain. Achieving oneness between these two powers is not the aim; rather it is the identification of common denominators that assist in the realm of mutually significant issues and ensure amicable resolution of existing conflicts, notwithstanding of course the preservation by each party of its religious beliefs, particularities and overall visions, except for those visions that are prone to change.
Hizbullah decided that the meeting should be open and above-board, not of a traditional courtesy nature. Each party was to present all issues and speak out on all sources of agreement and conflict in order for a clear relationship to be founded. Parliamentarian Tleis summarized the issues discussed through a post-meeting declaration:
The meeting was fruitful. It was sufficiently clear and open for all parties to remain at ease. It was cited that detachment gives rise to estrangement while closeness is a source of cordiality [Y] We have discussed many national and regional issues throughout the meeting, and discussion was deep, clear and candid. We have asked His Grace the Patriarch to request the Vatican and the Pope to open dialogue between Israel and the Vatican, pronouncing our concerns with respect to this issue. We also talked about the Muslim-Christian dialogue and general openness in Lebanon, ensuring the Patriarch that we are dialogue seekers [Y] We have also stressed that this resistance which is defending our nation and country and which has successfully deterred the enemy from further expansionist occupation requires the support of all Lebanese individuals [Y] We have also emphasized our view that cultural, political and religious freedoms in Lebanon are sanctified issues that should not be tampered with.
As an expression of the continued relationship with Hizbullah, a Patriarchal envoy led by the Patriarch's assistant Roland Abou Jaoudeh visited Secretary General Nasrallah on January 22, 1993, whereby it was declared that this is a reciprocal visit to that initiated by the Party. Other meetings ensued and were either held directly with the Patriarch or through the joint committee created for that purpose. The relationship passed through phases of successive or intermittent communication,  depending on circumstances and political stance, but preserved the original intended pace for permanence. His Grace the Patriarch has expressed his respect for the Party despite divergence of opinion on a number of issues, stating that: >unlike other political powers which say what they do not do, Hizbullah's words are not any different from its deeds.'
The notion of Christian apprehension of Muslims and Muslim feelings of inequitable treatment due to the politics of Maronite sectarianism are both responsible for many wars which befell Lebanon, the latest of which was the 1975 Lebanese civil war lasting fifteen years in duration. Religious and political dialogue is of paramount importance. Religious dialogue is needed only at the general level, for discussion of theological beliefs is a sensitive area to explore, a turf charged with a priori barricading behind fixed convictions. It is thus important for dialogue to predominate and for a political relationship based on respect and equitable treatment of all citizens, on the fostering of peaceful coexistence with dialogue as the basic tenet, and on holding fast to the principle that Lebanon is for all and not for one or another division.
Hizbullah's relationships were not limited to one Christian wing. Many visits were made and relationships founded with all other Christian religious leaders, be they Orthodox, Catholic, Armenian, Assyrian or others. Further, relationships with Christian political leaderships were also initiated, Hizbullah always asserting its interest for associating with all wings and working towards whatever achieves a life of partnership among the Lebanese people in their one country. Just as it is unsuitable to deal with all Muslims as one entity with a single approach and prospectus, it is also inappropriate to consider all Christians as having one frame of mind and a single approach. It is also important to delineate the difference between political and religious dialogue, for each has its turf and its constituents. The requirements are for a political dialogue that transcends those unsolved religious obstacles, and for common objectives towards a unified nation to rest as a basis for all programs and plans of cooperation between the concerned parties.
This approach was not free of problems, for sectarianism is quick to mingle with whatever is religious, turning into forms of tribal intolerance that are as far as could be from religion. Had the matter been confined to divine messages, relationships would have been smoother and results much better, for such divine doctrines have many commonalities. Moreover, many a religious banner has been hoisted in the name of Muslims and Christians that are as far as could be from practical religious implementation both in private and public life. This only serves to show that the ordeal originates from sectarianism and does not have roots in the divine messages.
In spite of this, it is important to transcend the sectarian hurdles in favor of cooperation, of the search for that which assembles and does not disperse, for whatever brings opinions together and does not alienate. It is important to do so even when the exertion is significant. Lebanon needs to be a stable abode for all Lebanese, where outsiders should not be allowed to interfere either on land or in the manner of living. Lebanon's particularity as a nations of various sects is an issue of paramount importance, and dialogue should be fostered to organize differences in lieu of submitting to the scams and desires of others.
Sectarianism Versus Devoutness
 The French and British mandates over Arab lands led to a partitioning of this region into smaller states that are not naturally split either geographically or ethnically, or even in terms of language. The area's customs, families and traditions very much intersect. Partitioning was based on the plans that both colonialist powers had laid out in order to safeguard their dominion and the interests of the parties that cooperated with them. Lebanon thus came under direct French custody given the country's Christian particularity.
Lebanon attained independence in 1943, and formed as one nation with several religious sects B eighteen altogether. A sectarian regime was formed whereby power was distributed among the various wings either by way of constitutional law or through common practice. A 15-year Lebanese war ensued, conducted in the name of Muslim-Christian sectarianism, hoisting banners of Christian apprehension in predominantly Muslim surroundings, the need to safeguard and develop internally acquired gains, and a Muslim feeling of inequitable treatment given a weak role in government disproportionate to the number of Muslims in Lebanon. There was also a regional banner linked to the Palestinian problem and its repercussions. What followed fifteen years thereon was the Taif Accord, which translated into a constitution abating the effect of prevalent norms and practices and transforming them into constitutional law as, for instance, was the case with troika distribution of power among three sects. Change also increased the cabinet's authority and shifted the distribution of parliamentary seats from a ratio of five to six between Muslims and Christians to a one-to-one distribution. The Taif Accord was the bridge towards ending the rebellion of Major General Michel Aoun and towards a new beginning for Lebanon marked by the organization of constitutional institutions, the launch of parliamentary elections, the unification of leadership for the Lebanese army, and the tearing down of obstacles between the various regions. The essence of the regime remained sectarian, however, and implementation was still subject to sectarian balance.
Within such a context, Hizbullah was formed in 1982 as a party adopting Islam as its fundamental creed and doctrine, viewing religion as a divine set of guidelines that encompass all heavenly-sent missions, all of which have been completely included in Islam, and calling for the implementation of such a doctrine in people's daily lives. Whoever abides by Islamic principles in both public and private life, at the level of religious belief and actual implementation, is considered a devout believer. It is thus not sufficient for one to be born Muslim or to have a Muslim parent in order for the banners of belief and abidance to be hoisted, for actual expression comes through visions, forms of worship, and practical behavior. The Holy Qur'an distinguishes between mere affiliation with Islam and actual belief:
The wandering Arabs say: >We believe.' Say [unto them, O Muhammad]: >Ye believe not, but rather say, Awe submit@, for the faith hath not yet entered into your hearts.
Affiliation is compelled upon one at the time of birth, while belief is voluntary and based on free will. As such, affiliation and belief concur in a believer and do not do so in one who is Muslim simply for being born or registered as such. The call for abidance entails a call for both belief and devoutness.
Sectarianism, on the other hand, represents the association of individuals with a particular sect due to birth as such and therefore being partial to that sect for the mere fact of belonging to it. This is akin to familial, tribal or regional fanaticism, the difference being in the title and the number of those involved. Given that the sectarian regime in Lebanon has fostered such faith-based affiliations and awarded every sect a number of privileges and gains, it is no wonder that the political, union, election, developmental, cultural and media turfs in Lebanon have all been affected by such an environment, and that many an aspect of such movements has been affected by confessional adherence. The pride of a Muslim's affiliation to the Muslim group thus no longer means abidance by Shari>a or doctrinal principles. The same is true for Christians, or rather for all sub-groups in Lebanon's Christian and Muslim worlds.
Candidacy for a parliamentary position bears a sectarian title, just as assuming a governmental position means benefiting from the portion assigned to a particular sect. Distribution of development projects across Lebanon takes into account the power balance among sects in those regions, and the appointment of key first-row governmental positions is closely associated with the population's sectarian distribution. As such, affiliation to and defense of sectarianism has become a norm. This, of course, was dragged into the political arena as the reason behind certain amicable or discordant political relations, for alliances and divergences based on internal sectarian or regional calculations which affected the overall environment and created an atmosphere of constant disagreement and antagonism on many details B and behind the veil of sectarian interests lies private interest.

There is a fundamental difference between religious devoutness and sectarianism; the first is a form of compliance while the second denotes intolerance. Devoutness does not engulf all those pertaining to a particular sect; it is restricted to those few or many who practically comply with fundamental religious principles. Whoever labels devoutness as sectarianism, and does so for the mere fact that the religiously devout are Muslims, is on a false track. Hizbullah is therefore neither a sectarian party nor a party for a particular sect. It is a Muslim party founded on the system and order of the Prophet and his family of disciples, bearing a comprehensive vision, and grouping in its ranks all those who believe in its ideology and discipline irrespective of their sectarian affiliation at birth.
Some may call for following Christianity, which may represent a manifestation of missions rival to that of Islam. People once again fall captive to sectarianism, thus making the distinction between religion and sectarianism meaningless. This is an inadmissible predicament, since Christianity calls for worshipping and obeying God Almighty and for commitment to the Ten Commandments. Christianity is therefore an open call to avoid wrongdoing, to establish ethical education, and to abstain from the pleasures of life in this world in return for the gifts of the hereafter. This, in general, does not contradict Islam's call for worship, good ethics and straightness in life. However, the additional commitments in Islam derive from its comprehensiveness at the level of the social order. They also derive from the form of government and are not limited to behavioral guidance of the individual. As such, the Islamic system concurs with Christianity on many aspects pertaining to guidance of the individual. Nevertheless, a distinction exists in terms of the scope and comprehensiveness of the two religions, as we can deduce from the Divine Islamic message.
Hence, there is no reason to narrow the scope of our adherence to religion or refuse diversity and change, as the Islamic direction is not aimed at contradicting Christianity but rather at completing it.
Adherence to religion raises a virtuous citizen whose behavior is reflected in his approach to society, for he is required to be reliable; impartial; honest; sincere; a working contributor to society whose religion deters him from committing the prohibited due to a strong faith in God Almighty's wakeful supervision, judgment and the Day of Resurrection. Whatever the effect of personal discipline or societal restrictions, nothing is more successful in shaping an individual's behavior than religious faith. Hizbullah's achievements in the realm of resistance against Israeli occupation, the provision of social services and the safeguarding of public interests through internal involvement in political life are but fruits of such faith. These should not be measured against a few religious slogans that were hoisted by some groups and which lack such meaning and such level of religious ethic. When the Lebanese Forces raised the cross as a slogan and focused on the sectarian dimension to gather supporters, they were not expressing the religious commitment that Christianity calls for.
The religious, jihad, political and social behavior adopted by Hizbullah has offered a rich experience for twenty years now, which has contributed a new and influential meaning to Lebanese life through its presentation of a model that is applicable to the surroundings at least in some aspects. As such, religious devoutness can transcend the sectarian trap and remain a suggested path parallel to others. Let competition be over the fundamental principles such as our perspective of the universe, man and life. Let it not be a fanaticism countering other prevailing sectarian fanaticisms.
Consequently, the call for including religious topics as part of school education derives from the effect that religion has on breeding useful behavior in life, as the problem never had its source in adherence to religion but rather in the lack of devoutness and in the efforts exerted towards exploiting religion. Should religious education form part of the sectarian game, and should we seek a common ground that would satisfy all sects, a cancellation of the integrated religious approach as it is presently perceived by those who believe in it would ensue, and a new sect would be created,  which would deprive the doctrines of their roots and flatten them in such a way that drains their ability to be  useful and effective in the cultivation of the individual.
It is very easy to be labeled partisan or sectarian in a country like Lebanon. The accusation provides a shortcut for some in their quest to neutralize an opponent. However, this is only ideological repression and a confiscation of liberties, especially since general political conduct usually reveals the essence of any proposal and uncovers true motives. Religious individuals prove their stance and thesis, while sectarians are denounced through their very sectarianism, especially where the weighing scale is built on principles and not parochialism.
It is also easy to launch slogans calling for the alienation of religion from the spectacle of life under the pretext of handling the sectarian problem in Lebanon. But reality proves that although many of the factional positions and powers hoist nonreligious and secular banners, they are, at the same time, deeply rooted in sectarianism, a fact that is only evidenced through practical political behavior. As such, who possesses the authority to distinguish between that which is religious and that which is sectarian? Who has the right to authorize public action and forbid it to sectarian movements? And why are the nonreligious allowed, using weak arguments void of any solution for the existing sectarian reality, to freely express their ideas and convictions while the religious are not permitted to present their arguments?
One Member of Parliament did put forward an idea for a legislative proposal that would annul the sectarianism of Lebanese factions. He saw in this an introduction to founding a Lebanese political life to replace the traditional sectarian distribution. By doing so, he plunged himself right in the midst of the sectarianism issue, for when the condition for abandoning party sectarianism is based on the percentage distribution of sectarian leaders, and where the number of members from a certain sect does not exceed a certain percentage, then the faith-based system applied in the state's institutions would have found its practical interpretation in the actual structure of the Lebanese parties. The presence of parties would thus be a presence of sectarian balance and not a contribution to Lebanese political life. Through this proposal, the problem of sectarianism would only be transferred from the level of the public political framework to the foundations of party infrastructure, making of confessional distribution an actual given in every Lebanese institution.
Moreover, who can give the legal cover for a secular party to operate in Lebanon while a religious party is denied such right under the pretext of confessional quandary? Freedom cannot be divided, and it is the right of all to express their views and beliefs on condition that force and subjugation are not used to impose such views. If secular parties are certain of the validity of their thesis, of their suitability to ameliorate political life, these parties should demonstrate practical proof in the field instead of seeking shelter behind laws needed to overcome the political obstacles of membership. We must dispose of the principle of provisional freedom that is applicable to one ideological set at the expense of another, for it is principle that we are concerned about and not the form behind which such ideas hide.   
Annulling political sectarianism is considered to be an optimal and sound prelude for alleviating the burdens of the system in Lebanon. It paves the way for the gradual dismissal of the obstacles causing inequality amongst citizens and leading to differences in the rights and obligations of one sect over another. It would also contribute to annulling sectarianism at the level of the civil service, which is currently based on distribution of the state's gains as shares. It should treat the mismanagement problem in order to reinstate the natural role of qualifications, and achieve equitable rights and obligations amongst citizens.
Moreover, we need not fear for the sects, since suitable laws that safeguard freedom of religion and worship can indeed be enacted. As for qualifications, they can be found in all sects, and if calculations were based on citizenship, the problem would no longer exist for the rule would apply to all. The lesson is in playing the part for the sake of the country instead of allowing the interests of certain groups to rip it apart. A calm and objective study, supported by evidence, launched through dialogue, and based on identification of those risks inherent in the details as opposed to generalizations and misgivings, should accomplish a suitable project with a proprietary mechanism, however long it takes. Haste is not called for, while negligence only worsens this sectarian system that is unable to put forth appropriate solutions to our issues, and which bears inside it factors for its own collapse and the weakness of its citizens' solidarity.
There is no connection between annulling political sectarianism and the personal status law. This law organizes social relations between a couple and their children in the context of marriage, divorce, inheritance, and general matters pertaining to couples. In Islam, this is divine law, not a special jurisprudence that can be changed or replaced. For what God Almighty legalizes cannot be considered prohibited by anyone, and what God Almighty prohibits cannot be legalized by anyone. It was mentioned in the Prophetic tradition: >What Prophet Muhammad permitted will remain permissible until Judgment Day, and what he forbade will remain forbidden until Judgment Day'
The personal status law has no effect on the public political system. Some secularists seek its cancellation in order to break one of basic tenets of religious commitment, one that has become entrenched in general customs even amongst the nonreligious and has become the basis for protecting against a drift outside the circle of religion. Some Christian wings use the question of the personal status law as a margin for maneuver, for they are well aware of Muslims' adherence to it on the basis of legitimacy. They pose it as a medium of exchange: an untouched personal status law in return for unbothered political sectarianism and retaining the basic foundations of the sectarian system.
Civil Marriage
 Former Lebanese president Elias al-Hrawi adopted a bill related to the personal status law and to optional civil marriage, meaning for it to become a law applicable in Lebanese courts alongside those personal status laws applied by both Muslims and Christians. Motives were entirely in the realm of addressing a civil matter: the lack of such a law drives some Lebanese couples abroad so they can get married in accordance with the civil laws prevailing in some foreign countries.
This reality obliges our competent national civil courts to apply those foreign laws under which marriage contracts were signed. However, this is to the detriment of the principle of Lebanese sovereignty in the field of legislation. Besides, it imposes financial burdens on citizens. Some Lebanese people B protected by the freedom of choosing one's creed B change their sect within the same religion and sometimes entirely change their religion in a bid to disavow the consequences of marriage within the framework of the governing sectarian law. This also does wrong to legal and social stability'. Hence, the motives ended up considering that >the state is responsible for providing an atmosphere that contributes to the fostering of a national blend', which means that this bill is considered the necessary pillar for the practical cancellation of sectarianism.
A defect already exists in allowing a marriage contract to be signed outside Lebanon. As we shall later prove, the same consequences prevail at the civil marriage level as those prevailing in Lebanon. Given a sectarian framework, disowning the outcome of a marriage will always occur, for civil marriage law is only optional and a couple might choose not to apply it, a matter which renders the above-mentioned motives void. A comparison between civil marriage and legitimate Islamic marriage will clarify the negative social effects resulting from civil marriage and show the objective reasons behind refusing it.
Civil marriage is a contract concluded between a male and a female, entailing rights and obligations; it bears aspects that cover the span of their marriage life and that comprehensively cover the elements of personal status. In other words, civil marriage is not merely a contract signed in front of a civil judge. Those who choose civil marriage do so for the conditions and effects it entails, not because of its relative ease of achievement.
Islamic marriage is also a contract signed between a male and a female and on which legitimate rights and obligations are imposed. It is accomplished through an affirmative answer from both sides. It is practically easier than a civil marriage; the presence of a clerk during the signing of the marriage contract is only to ensure validity, and the attendance of two witnesses at the court is merely for legal registration. However, the guidelines governing a religious marriage differ from those of a civil marriage.
A number of steps and effects apply to religious marriage, and could be either formalities or fundamentals. They are interpreted as the foundation principles, rights and obligations. The contract, for instance, requires a specific oral phrase. It cannot be made valid by merely saying: >I want you to be my wife [or husband]', or if it is accomplished so as to show acceptance of the two parties. Rather, the marriage is founded on the wife's positive answer with these particular words: >I marry you upon a dower worth Y'; The man should accept by saying: >I accept.'
Choosing an Islamic marriage translates into acceptance of all the Islamic laws applicable to the organization of personal status. Moreover, a couple need not obtain a legal consent, for the contract is in itself that consent. The couple can also add a number of conditions that are permissible under Islam and that do not contradict with permanent principles.
The contract requires the couple to be committed to their legitimate rights and obligations. Guardianship in running the family is borne by the husband, and it is he who should spend on his wife and children even where the woman is wealthy. The wife is not obliged to spend while living in her husband's house; it is a matter of choice. Should irreconcilable differences occur between a couple where divorce is deemed to be the only solution, the latter would only be effective and true where the husband states to his wife, with or without mentioning her name, the words: >you are divorced'. Wording is essential, or else the divorce is not effective. The divorce procedure also requires the presence of two just witnesses.
A religious marriage contract also includes inheritance obligations. If the husband dies without children, his wife inherits one quarter of his wealth; where there is at least one child, the wife inherits one-eighth of her husband's wealth. If the deceased husband has many children, a male's share of an inheritance is equivalent to that of two females.
If divorce occurs, a mother has the right to foster her son for two years, and her daughter for seven years, after which it is up to the man to foster and cultivate the children. Expenditure is a responsibility to be borne by the man throughout the period of custody. These details and many others are considered legal responsibilities of Islamic marriage.
The rules of civil marriage are different, although some concur with those of religious marriage. They also differ from one country to another and from one law to another. Differences between the two forms of marriage can be understood from the bill proposed by President al-Hrawi.
According to Article 20 of the proposed bill: >The wife has to contribute to home expenditure if she possesses money', meaning if she is rich or is generating an income. She is therefore considered a partner to her husband in spending. However, Islamic rules consider expenditure to be a duty of the husband; the wife should not spend at all. Where the wife shares with her husband the burdens of the family, such an act would be voluntary, not a duty, and he cannot force her to spend. According to this article, however, she is obliged to do so.
Another difference is detected in Article 34 of the proposed civil marriage law: >The wife is forbidden to remarry before 300 days have passed after breaking the marriage.' In Islam the so-called iddat or period of waiting is three menstruation cycles, or three months, while in the case of the husband's death the wife can remarry after four months and ten days. The proposed bill made the waiting period ten months, and this, we believe, is unfair to the woman, for it is a long period that is not linked to determining whether the wife had been pregnant or not prior to divorce or to her husband's death. Such a long waiting period has no justification and should be discretionary.
Article 73 differs fundamentally from Islamic doctrine. It is concerned with adoption: >Adoption is a juridical contract that establishes rights of legitimate foster sons and daughters with their foster parents.' This means that the adopted child becomes a legitimate child and enjoys all rights accordingly. In Islam, however, an adopted child cannot be a legitimate child.
According to civil law, if a married couple adopts a boy and later gives birth to a girl, she will naturally be deemed his sister. Article 83 states that >new prohibitions that hinder marriage arise between the parents and their relatives on the one hand and the adopted child on another'. This means that the adopted child cannot marry his foster sister, and she must act as a sister does towards her brother. However, under Islam, she is not his sister and he may marry her, and as such she will behave towards him not as a brother but as an outsider.
Under civil marriage, the adopted child has full rights; if either parent dies, the adopted child is entitled to an inheritance alongside his foster brothers and sisters and under the same conditions. Under Islam, the adopted child is denied inheritance. This is how rights are mixed up and lost, for what is allowed in Shari>a or Islamic law is prohibited in civil marriage and vice versa.
The Holy Qur'an contains verses forbidding adoption:
Allah hath not assigned unto any man two hearts within his body, nor hath he made your wives whom ye declare [to be] your mothers, nor hath he made those whom ye claim [to be] your sons. This is but a saying of your mouths. But Allah sayeth the truth and He soweth the way. Proclaim their real parentage. That will be more equitable in the sight of Allah. And if ye know not their fathers, then [they are] your brethren in the faith, and your clients.
These are verses that flatly prohibit us to consider the adopted child as an actual legitimate child, as in doing so we would be pursuing proscribed acts of pre-Islam.
The rules of civil marriage are different from those of legitimate Islamic marriage, and there is no possibility of harmonizing the two systems. The wording is sufficiently different between the two to warrant expectations of further difficulties upon implementation.
Mixed Marriage
Islamic law permits a man to marry a woman who adheres to another revealed religion (Christianity or Judaism). Some scholars are, however, very reserved in this regard, and tend to forbid this matter. Nevertheless, other scholars permit it and consider marriage between a Muslim man and a Christian or Jewish woman to be a forthright legitimate matter. But the basic problem which all Muslims, Sunni and Shi>ite , unanimously agree upon, is that a Muslim woman cannot marry a Christian or Jewish man, the act being labeled as a sin and the marriage considered void from the Islamic point of view. The relation is seen as mere adultery. However, civil marriage law sees this relationship as a natural one, for the civil code is simply bound by a different set of rules.

The true wisdom behind such a constraint was revealed through many a discussion. A Christian or Jewish man does not originally recognize Islam as a divine religion B speaking here from a sheer religious point of view and not from a political standpoint. Further, this matter does not refer to the social relations that Islam fosters, encourages and respects. A Christian or Jewish man  does not recognize the Prophet Muhammad. Although every person bears responsibility towards his religion, when a marriage is established with a man who does not recognize his wife's Prophet, it is almost certain that he will not maintain her religion, nor will he leave her with the choice to abide by her faith. All restraints would be removed, and there would be no guarantee that the wife would  keep to her convictions and her religion if she so wishes. However, when a Muslim man marries a Christian or Jewish woman, the latter can always maintain her religion, for Islam recognizes the prophets Moses and Jesus. The problem is thus no longer such, and the marriage can be appropriately conducted.
A sound solution for our Lebanese society requires examination of the real problems in lieu of creating new ones. The number of Lebanese people with mixed-marriage problems is low, and as such does not warrant the enactment of laws for a small portion of society the effects of which on family unity (or disunion, for that matter) will be substantial. This subject is not related to religious adherence, whether to Islam or to Christianity, but rather to convictions. Problematic circumstances may result from marriages where a couple rarely shares the same opinions. Such marriages usually do not last long, eventually ending in divorce.
Islam prohibits mixed marriage between a Muslim woman and a Christian or Jewish man, mainly being due to harmony being the foundation on which all marriages should be built in order to ensure internal stability for children, and because safeguarding the well-being of martial life is a prerequisite for preserving the interests of the marriage.
Some may change their religion in order to get married, considering their conviction in the other as being more important than their religious belief. This would be an entirely personal matter; such people have sought a solution to their problems in line with their beliefs and ability to commit. They thus bear the load of those legal responsibilities and duties that such a decision entails, and in doing so do not tamper with social balance. However, we do not advocate a change in religion for the sake of a marriage based on fervor and passion.
The educational repercussions of the proposed civil marriage law are a threat to family structure and unity. Should it be an obligatory form of marriage (as opposed to being optional), its effects on family disintegration would be wider and more precarious.

The proposed bill for optional civil marriage in Lebanon is a step towards secularizing the personal status law and distancing religion from the arena of daily life. The great majority of Lebanese people do not support it as a solution. Legitimate Islamic marriage has always protected the family, serving to spare society those crises faced for instance by the West, where civil laws governing marital relations have resulted in millions of children living at orphanages. Although efforts to organize these orphanages and to create near-family atmospheres therein are numerous, these homes are still a source of many personality complexes. The solution lies in strict laws protecting the family entity from disintegration, legal confusion, of the intertwinement of rights with obligations.
One problem plaguing Lebanon is the penetration of sectarianism into every aspect of  a citizen's life. Sectarianism is used as a legitimate key for political and social promotion, an introduction to fanaticism that may doom the country or foster partitioning and public corruption. Sectarianism also creates imbalances in the political compass of some groups. The Taif Accord  called for forming a national board to terminate political sectarianism, and the first step in this direction should call for practices that do not single people out on the basis of their religious identity, but which award very individual equal rights and obligations before the law. This is the minimum solution for a harmonious regime able to accommodate a variety of sects.
        [1].  Al->Ahd newspaper, issue no. 441.
        [2].  Surah no. 106; al-Hujurat, verse 14.
        [3].  Western democracies have often failed the test of freedom of expression, as when some students wearing headscarves were denied enrollment in French and German public schools under the pretext that such dress is a demonstration of religious ceremony that challenges the traditions of Western society. This was done despite the knowledge that this dress code is a part of faith and not a form of competition for a slogan. They also failed to recognize the freedom of the other when they stood up to the Islamic movements in Algeria and some other countries, discrediting their elections under the pretext of an impending Islamic danger. As a result, a lot of suffering has come about in these countries which persists today.
        [4].  As told by Imam al-Sadek, quoted from al-Hurr al-Aamili in Important Chapters in the Principles of the Twelve Infallible Imams, vol. 1/643.
        [5].  The full text of this bill was published in As-Safir newspaper in the February 6, 1998 issue.
        [6].  According to the Jaafari faith, the marriage contract is accomplished and considered true without the attendance of two witnesses, while the presence of two witnesses is obligatory according to the Sunnis.
        [7].  According to the Jaafari faith.
        [8].  Sura no. 33; al-Ahzab, verses 4B5.
        [9].  An opinion poll carried out by As-Safir newspaper in 1998 revealed that 69.5 percent of the population opposed optional civil marriage. Percentages across religions differed: 88 percent of Sunnis opposed, as did 81 percent of the Shi>is, 42 percent of Maronites, 36 percent of Orthodox, 52 percent of Catholics and 57 percent of Druze.
      [10].  Paragraph 2 (g) of the Lebanese National Accord. Published by the Lebanese National Assembly. WHICH YEAR???