Lebanon: A dogged position

It is quite a collection of demoralizing and dismal failures that make up the recent history of Lebanon. An intensely sectarian country, which still seems bleary eyed from the civil war that ravaged it from 1975 till 1990. Numerous arbitrary killings and arrests, the disappearance of at least one political figure, reports of the government engaging in torture, which is not even prohibited by law.

The government cannot even claim to control all the territory. Armed groups remain active despite two UN security council resolutions requesting the government to forcibly disband them, including Hizbollah which lobs the occasional missile into Israel. Sunni and Shia authorities claim significant influence, clashing with violent effect. Religious courts hold authority over personal law, like marriage. They have recently focused on watering down a law protecting women from domestic abuse. Such a law they fear would jeopardize their position, as it would all Lebanese men, since to them sharia protects women sufficiently, including a husband’s basic right to rape his wife. All the better to force her into an endless succession of pregnancies to make it as hard as possible for women to find the courage to leave their abusive spouses. 

A few women have nonetheless managed to leave, with the help of NGOs like Kafa (Enough) who have helped women trapped in chronically abusive marriages divorce their husbands and leave. But it is rare for a woman to successfully free herself. If the shock of her parents and reality of heaving behind their children and being vilified by those around her is not sufficient to scare her into staying put, the husband may murder her. Ar least 15 women are known to be murdered each year by their spouses.

The women are fighting back, there were significant protests on the streets of Beirut recently, women taking their anger into the public domain, challenging Judges who claim a husband has exclusive rights to his wife’s body whenever he sees fit, regardless of her protestations. Still the law protecting woman has been reduced to severely that is will not be worth the paper it is written on, and certainly not worthy of the blood of the women who are suffering under the unmerciful Sharia.

This should shock western society, who should never be reluctant to lend a hand to liberate such backward, disgusting societies. We also need to guard against the intolerable threat posed by fundamentalism, masquerading as multiculturalism. The former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, once advocated in a speech giving the Muslim community in Britain the right to practice Sharia among themselves. This is a dangerous and philistine attack on civil society, where everyone must obey the same laws. Of course the old Welsh sheep can rattle on about accepting Sharia on the basis of multiculturalism, and extremist Muslims can keep demanding that “their” women in western countries wear the full chadri form of the burqa (where only the woman’s eyes may be seen), but we must also speak up in rebuttal. Freedom of speech works both ways, it has to otherwise the entire doctrine is meaningless. Far to often the inhabitants of civil societies fail to make themselves heard, and for the sake of wanting to appear progressive and multicultural they allow the prelates who enslave women and castrate enlightenment values to gain an advantage.

But where women thrive and empower, poverty and disadvantage for all in society diminishes. Therefore as the women of Lebanon fight bitterly for their rights, and little by little ground is yielded to them, the country will begin to strengthen and prosper. It is with this in mind that we can afford to be a little optimistic when contemplating the nations of blood and sand. Any chance you get dear reader, to support the women campaigning in Lebanon for the right not to be raped, I implore you to seize it.  

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