Sunday, September 20, 2009

Talal Arslan: I Hope That He Is For Real.

(Note: This post is much more concerned with the message rather than the messenger.)

This space has often discussed the root problems of the Lebanese experiment and lamented the fact that neither the Lebanese citizen nor the traditional political leaders have shown a deep understanding of the crisis and so they have in essence shunned their respective responsibilities in working towards a meaningful and real solution. That deep rooted failure by all parties concerned is the major reason that so many were obligated to call the Lebanese experiment a colossal failure and a hopeless one for that matter.
Fortunately all of that seems to have changed. Finally a Lebanese political leader has it right. Talal Arslan the founder and the head of the Lebanese Democratic Party has issued yesterday a call that deserves to be received by open arms by all responsible freedom loving ,democratic Lebanese . Mr. Arslan declared in unambiguous terms that it is time for the Lebanese people to be liberated from the undue influence of foreign capitals and foreign ambassadors. He urged all parties, labour organizations and civil institutions to hold a Lebanese constitutional convention that could establish the important principles on which a responsible secular republic is to be based. He went even further to stress the need to establish the new vision on the all import concept of “Mowatiniah” that is all but conspicuously absent in the current Lebanon. His call made it explicitly clear that what is needed is to agree on the basic architecture of a Lebanese identity that is free of all the corrosive and destructive influences of confessionalism.
Mr. Arslans call ought to be taken extremely seriously by those who profess allegiance to democracy, liberty, equality, fairness and modernity. This call is so important that it could form the basis for a new Lebanon that many have been dreaming about, a secular Lebanon that is built on respect for law and order and the dignity of the state. This call could snow ball in a short period of time to deliver Lebanon out of its political backwardness and consistent crisis provided the traditional political leadership is prevented from co-opting such a movement in an effort to preserve their power base in the status quo. Lebanon needs a new synthesis, a popular one since it is often the case that revolutions do not succeed if they are top heavy, and they must be from the grass roots.
It is our duty to offer Talal Arslan all the support that he needs if his call is to get a fighting chance at changing Lebanon for the better. This is truly the first time that we have a serious invitation to a meaningful dialogue to fashion a country that we want and not one designed by the religious leaders. This convention must not allow either the religious leaders or any of their representatives to participate in the proceedings because its aim is no less than a revolt against the role of religious institutions in the public square. I imagine that Mr. Arslans biggest foes will be his traditional partners at Hezbollah in addition to Bkirki and the Mufti.
As for those who always react compulsively against all Western related ideas including secularization they need to be reminded that one of the most influential advocates of secular thinking was an Arab and a Moslem for that matter, Ibn Rushd (Averroes).
Mr. Arslan, your latest call has so energized me as a Lebanese citizen that I am ready to become a card carrying member of your party provided you make the idea of a truly diverse and well represented National Constitutional Convention your rallying cry no matter what other traditional political leaders might say. Shout it from the roof tops, shout it loud and clear that Lebanon is about to be reborn as a country for all its people no matter what is their gender, sexual orientation, religious practice or the colour of their eyes. Talal Arslan for President, it has a nice ring to it. He has the vision and the courage that we need if we are to escape provincialism, pettiness, discrimination and self destruction.

A Podcast of the above text may be heard at:


R said...

Are you serious ?

Ghassan Karam said...

When I wrote the post I expected lots of incredulity because Talal Arslan is a minor player. But that is not the point. He has made a gutsy call for an open national convention to agree on the mechanism that would abolish sectarianism and promote citizenship i.e. mowatiniah.
Nothing short of such a convention will free us and restore our political health and vibrancy. The only question is: Are we up to the challenge? Unfortunately I do not believe that we are, not yet.

R said...

Ghassan, neither are we up to the challenge nor is Talal Arslan an agent of change. At least not for the better.

Recall that his very presence on the political arena is not due to any leadership skills, charisma or political programs but rather as a result of his being the son of a prince who was a son of another prince etc... More importantly, he has not been anything short of disgusting in the period preceding and following the assassination of Hariri when he was one of the choir boys leading the attack against the late prime minister then serving as an apologetic for the Syrian regime, whom he still works for. His level of popularity is a joke as evidenced by the fact that he would fail to win (and has previously failed to win) a parliamentary seat contested by Jumblatt's minions. Both his Syrian credentials and his lack of popularity contributed to his buddies in the opposition donating a couple of MPs so that he can form a "parliamentary" block. I cold recount several reasons why any hope you have in him is misplaced; the main one boils down to him being no different in essence from any of our other politicians who depend and feed into the patron-client relationship...

In short, Talal Arslan (or Walid Jumblatt) or any of the hereditary leaders of Lebanon calling for a Mowatiniyya (Citizenship) conference are as pure in their motives as a pack wolves calling for a conference on Vegetarianism.

Ghassan Karam said...

I believe that it has been a very rare occasion when we had major differences in opinion. I do not think that this is one of them.
The rationale for my post was not to praise Talal Arslan as a saviour but to point out that we need a radical change and if a marginal figure like Talal Arslan can be the catalyst then so be it. Eventually such a radical transformation of the country has to take place. My real fear is that we will not act in time to preserve this project from going under.

lukewarm said...

I didn't know you did satire :)

when I heard it I was like, we need more conferences like this.

But I feel like this initiative is not sincere because of the person declaring it.

Do you think in a cost/benefit analysis, that it is worth pending energy on this particular conference should it emerge, or would it be better to wait?

ghassan karam said...

Maybe I should add a note that the idea behind the post is the message and not the messenger.
I am convinced that ultimately such a conference will take place and yes it could work because there is no choice. That is simply how history unfolds. The real trick though is to keep the patriarch, mufti and imams out of this.


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