Religion, class, ethnicity and gender in Lebanon

Religion, class, ethnicity and gender

Gender equality : This is a subject of great debate in Lebanon. Most Lebanese have been exposed to European culture and would like to change the system in place, even if a certain amount of progress has already been made. For example, women can now enter any profession they like (including the army). Most of them finish their studies which gives them a sense of accomplishment. In recent years, it has become necessary to have two sources of income per household as a result of the country’s economic problems. Women’s contribution to economic life is also supported by religious leaders who only ask for balance between work and family, so it is common to find women working full time jobs even though they are married with children. In some respects however, women are at a legal disadvantage, namely when it comes to the transfer of citizenship to their children if the father is not Lebanese.

Note that it is unacceptable in Lebanon to discuss homosexuality or flaunt it. Both religion and culture have traced very clear lines that should not be crossed.

Religion :This is the most controversial subject in Lebanon. Officially, there are 17 registered faiths in the country and these are what attract the most attention in the political and social sphere. Nonetheless, other ideologies and faiths do exist (primarily due to frequent travel and massive waves of immigration since the early 1900s).

A large number of people consider religion to have been responsible for the civil war (1975-1990). Those who led the war played on people’s emotions and frightened them with the spectre of the dangers posed by other religions. The different political parties tightened their ranks around religion (not nationalism). That being said, halfway through the war, followers of the same religion began to fight one another and even atheists joined militia with religious affiliations! All this suggests that the war was caused more be a tribal sense of belonging to a religion than by the actual ideologies promoted by the different religions.

Hiring processes often suffer from religious favouritism. Employers prefer to recruit people of the same faith (and same religion) as them.

Class : The middle class was the largest in Lebanon before civil war broke out. Today, it is growing poorer, at a time when the upper class is growing richer. A few vestiges of the socialist movements that marked the 1960s and 1970s still linger. One religious group adopted the fight for socioeconomic equality as its political platform. Nonetheless, Lebanon is a capitalist country with no social security system. And the government has not taken any measures to reduce the gap between the classes.

Ethnic origin: Lebanese people all have the same ethnic origins, but with one exception: Armenian immigrants that settled in Lebanon during the First World War. They have all since been naturalized but prefer to live in their own neighbourhoods. They are known for their skills and their hard work.

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