Taking Pride

Photo courtesy of blog.independence05.com

Lebanon’s march for secularism on April 25th was special and significant in many ways. To begin with, it was the country’s first ever event of this sort, and even though the numbers of attendees was less than the 7,656 who have RSVP’ed with a nod on Facebook, the few thousands who were there said a lot about the aspirations of a generation. I said ‘generation’ because the demographic profile of the attendees 18 years of age or more roughly reflected the distribution of social media users, with a skew to the 20 and 30 somethings. This is hardly surprising given the fact the event’s ‘recruitment’ happened mostly on social media, and the fact that the post-war generations are likely to be the ones most cynical about sectarianism and its (non-)significance.

However, what was most significant about the parade is that it transcended its message and call. Beyond university students whose enthusiasm is still pure and centered on ideas, or the communists who felt like they were drowning in the obsolete, most other participants did not seem to have gone there to call for secularism as an end, but as a means to assert two things: their identity first, and their aspirations second, the two being tightly interwoven of course. From the tail of the troupe where my friends and I were, there was Nassawiya, the feminist collective, with their charged and powerful presence, a group of Capoeira enthusiasts, entertaining us with trans music (that I kept clapping, and even dancing to), and a group of participants covering themselves from the shades of the gorgeous sun on that morning with a rainbow-patterned umbrella. There were also the Hamraiottes, those urban dwellers who find in Hamra and its neighborhood semiotics an identity home. There were many sub-groups, interest groups and niche communities at the long end of the social tail sending out the clear message that secularism is nothing but a platform, without which they could never fulfill their true identities and aspirations. That is simple, for the absurdity of sectarianism, and religion in general, feels like an identity tag that annihilates all the more diverse and more significant tags of a human being’s identity.

The long end of the social tail (Photo courtesy of Samer Chehab)

Then there were our friends from our generation, that we found randomly as we marched, that we hugged, stalked, joked with or flirted with en route from Ain el Mraysseh to the Nejmeh Square. Those friends who shrugged to the authorities prohibiting them from reaching the main parliament square, and headed straight to enjoy the rest of the day in cafes by the sea. And who would really wish to spoil the pleasure of that day with banal details? The sheer confidence, determination and complacency that was in the air was the perfect antithesis of everything the authorities’ prohibition represented. Who needs to head to that chic, but damned and toxic building that houses all the country’s turmoil, when you know you’re there to signal the end of an era, and the beginning of a new one?

This was no angry or frustrated march, but a happy parade that sees the future and knows it belongs to her. In this sense the total indifference and smooth parting at the end was also significant in its own right.

So now what’s next? How do we build on this? The way I see it, we do not need to plan much, for the parade itself barely feels like it was an instigating move, and more like a latent event that was waiting to happen and found in social media the right medium to materialize. It suffices to keep the discourse going. It suffices for us to remain authentic about who we are, and clear about what we want and things will take care of themselves. Our society will evolve and assume the successful individual qualities in its DNA. We just need to keep these qualities inserted in the replicating DNA. And remember, despite all its dramas and conflicts, we live in a beautiful era that is especially empowering to the individual voice, and thus to its collective expression.

P.S. Check other LebLaique-related blog posts from Nadine Moawad, Funkyozzi and Maya Zankoul. Twitter-fed images of the march can also be found on Lebanese Voices.

  1. La Lebanese Laique Pride était aussi à Paris.

  2. And now I feel truly proud.

  3. It’s a great first step, of a million miles journey.

    • nisrine chaer
    • April 27th, 2010

    Raafat! I had no idea ur a blogger! Im not on twitter, actually I am but I dont seem to get how it works yet…
    anyways nice post:) but I disagree with you on one thing. To keep this discourse going, careful planning must be done in my opinion, or else the Laique Pride will be merely an event in the forgotten, or a yearly event at its best. But that is worthless on the level of real policy change. Only lobbying and advocacy actually have a potential of influencing politicians and policy makers. That’s why the Laique Pride must be brought to the next level in future steps.

    check out the daily star editorial for today:

    and btw you should participate in our next meetings!

    • Hi Nisrine, on second thought I do agree with you. What I really meant is that as long as we remain lucid, we will be naturally drawn to positive action without much effort. That does not seem so correct in retrospective, I taken by the euphoria of the Pride I guess. Please count me in for your next meeting.

  4. This was a great thing to read about! The funny thing is, this happened in an area of the world that most Amrican’s view as being wholly and fully “that dark skinned muslim part of the world” which couldn’t be further from the truth. And that such an event in the US would probably raise a much larger outcry from our teabagging morons and haters.

    I applaud you all!

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