The only way to create a modern state is to deconfessionalise it. But then Lebanon, whose very identity is sectarianism, would cease to exist
Certainly not the Lebanese government, whose sectarian elites have been running their country in a cesspit of corruption ever since the French mandate decided after the First World War that Lebanon should be a sectarian country run by dividing Christians, Sunni Muslims and Shia in a mutual pact of patriotism, fear, jealousy and distrust. (The British, remember, did the same in Palestine, Cyprus – yes, and Northern Ireland too. The French did it in Syria.)
It’s not just the old cliché about “divide and rule”. We Westerners have always been experts in our ability to be “fair” to minorities and majorities by setting them up opposite each other in exquisite love and suspicion. Look at America’s creation of the Shia state of Iraq – we shall not mention Kurdish minorities at this point – yet for me, the most amazing thing about the latest Lebanese uprising is not the protest at WhatsApp taxes, unemployment and government theft, but that the Lebanese, in their small and wounded country, after all the bloodshed and failures and continued dictatorship of the 2011 revolutions in the Middle East, still believe they can fight and make a difference. There is courage for you.