A House of Many Mansions by Kamal Salibi

By Kamal Salibi

This present day Lebanon is among the world's so much divided nations - if it is still a rustic in any respect. yet ironically the faction-ridden Lebanese, either Christians and Muslims, have by no means proven a keener realization of universal id. How can this be? The Lebanese historian Kamal S. Salibi examines, within the gentle of contemporary scholarship, the old myths on which his country's warring groups have dependent their conflicting visions of the Lebanese state. The Lebanese have regularly lacked a typical imaginative and prescient in their previous. From the start Muslims and Christians have disagreed essentially over their country's old legitimacy: Christians most likely have affirmed it, Muslims have tended to stress Lebanon's position in a broader Arab historical past. either teams have used nationalist principles in a harmful online game, which at a deeper point contains archaic loyalties and tribal rivalries. yet Lebanon can't come up with the money for those conflicting visions whether it is to boost and hold a feeling of political group. during his energetic exposition, Salibi deals an enormous reinterpretation of Lebanese historical past and offers insights into the dynamic of Lebanon's contemporary clash. He additionally offers an account of ways the pictures of groups which underlie glossy nationalism are created.

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The Arabs under Islam did not only come to be organized in different Islamic sects; there were many among them who never became Muslims, including the two historical Christian Arab communities of Syria, the Melchites and the Maronites. Of these two Syrian Christian communities, the Melchites, who followed the Byzantine Greek rite and ultimately came to be divided between Greek Orthodox and Greek Catholic communions, were by far the more numerous. With their greater social solidarity, however, and their geographic concentration in a rugged and limited mountain territory, the Maronites were the more forceful, and politically, with time, the more important.

In the middle decades of the century, between 1839 and 1876, the Ottoman state made a determined attempt to modernize its institutions by a series of reforms called the Tanzimat, and the idea of a secular Ottoman nationality was promoted to give the empire a greater internal cohesion. This idea, however, was too subtle to be understood for what it was by the common run of Muslims, who continued to regard the Ottoman state as the State of Islam; and it was nattlrally rejected by the common run of Christians a s a n Islamic ploy.

In some cases, this reserve, though normally concealed, virtually amounted to hostility. The fact was that these communities had historical scores to settle: in the case of the Twelver Shiites and Nusayris, with Sunnite Islam; in the case of the Druzes, with the Maronites who had been their historical associates and political competitors in Mount Lebanon. The Druzes were certainly no closer to Sunnite Islam than the Tweher Shiites or Nusayris. While Sunnite Muslims had traditionally regarded Twelver Shiism as no more than a regrettable THE CONFIDENCE GAME 51 political schism within Islam, taking little note of the fact that these Shiites also had a different religious interpretation of the common faith, they had always regarded the Nusayris, and more so the Druzes, as highly aberrant communities who were practically infidels.

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