Sunni Islam in Lebanon

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Lebanese Sunni Muslims
المسلمون السنة اللبنانيين
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Total population
1,160,000[1]
Languages
Vernacular:
Lebanese Arabic
Religion
Islam (Sunni Islam)

Sunni Islam in Lebanon has a history of more than a millennium. According to CIA study, Lebanese Sunni Muslims have followers who constitutes 27% of Lebanon's population of approximately 4.3 million, which means they amount to 1,160,000.[1]

The Lebanese Sunni Muslims are concentrated in west Beirut, Tripoli, Sidon and in the countryside of the Akkar.[2]

Under the terms of an unwritten agreement known as the National Pact between the various political and religious leaders of Lebanon, Sunni notables traditionally held power in the Lebanese state together, and they are still the only sect eligible for the post of Prime Minister.[3]

History[edit]

An estimate of the distribution of Lebanon's main religious groups, 1991, based on a map by GlobalSecurity.org
Lebanon religious groups distribution
An estimate of the area distribution of Lebanon's main religious groups

Origins[edit]

The cultural and linguistic heritage of the Lebanese people is a blend of both indigenous Phoenician elements and the foreign cultures that have come to rule the land and its people over the course of thousands of years. In a 2013 interview the lead investigator, Pierre Zalloua, pointed out that genetic variation preceded religious variation and divisions:"Lebanon already had well-differentiated communities with their own genetic peculiarities, but not significant differences, and religions came as layers of paint on top. There is no distinct pattern that shows that one community carries significantly more Phoenician than another."[4]

Genealogical DNA testing has shown that 24.8% of Lebanese Muslims (non-Druze) belong to the Y-DNA haplogroup J1. Although there is common ancestral roots, these studies show some difference was found between Muslims and non-Muslims in Lebanon, of whom only 17.1% have this haplotype. As haplogroup J1 finds its putative origins in the Arabian peninsula, this likely means that the lineage was introduced by Arabs beginning at the time of the 7th century Muslim conquest of the Levant and has persisted among the Muslim population ever since. On the other hand, only 4.7% of all Lebanese Muslims belong to haplogroup R1b, compared to 9.6% of Lebanese Christians. Modern Muslims in Lebanon thus do not seem to have a significant genetic influence from the Crusaders, who probably introduced this common Western Europen marker to the extant Christian populations of the Levant when they were active in the region from 1096 until around the turn of the 14th century. Haplogroup J2 is also a significant marker in throughout Lebanon (29%). This marker found in many inhabitants of Lebanon, regardless of religion, signals pre-Arab descendants, including the Phoenicians. These genetic studies show us there is no significant differences between the Muslims and non-Muslims of Lebanon.[5]

Relations[edit]

With Saudi Arabia[edit]

The Sunnis of Lebanon have close ties with Saudi Arabia, which supports them financially.[6][7] Moreover, Tripoli, the stronghold of the Lebanese Sunnis, is also the birthplace of Lebanon's Salafi Movement, a puritanical Sunni movement from Saudi Arabia.[8]

With Lebanese Alawites and Syria[edit]

The Lebanese Sunni Muslims initially opposed the creation of the Lebanese state separated from Syria, where the majority of the population was also Sunni Muslim, and wanted the territory of present day Lebanon to be incorporated within the so-called Greater Syria.[9]

Sunni Muslims and Alawites have been in conflict with each other for centuries. The Alawites of the Levant were oppressed by the Sunni Ottoman Empire, but gained power and influence when the French recruited Alawites as soldiers during the French mandate of Syria.[10][11][12] After independence from France, their co-religionists the Assad family came to power in Syria in 1970.[13]

Over the years, there have been numerous clashes between the Sunni and Alawi communities in Tripoli, particularly over the past 14 months since Syria’s uprising began, as part of the Arab Spring that started in Tunisia. The deadliest exchange took place last June, when seven people were killed and more than 60 wounded, after Sunni Muslims staged a protest against the Assad regime.

At the best of times, the Alawites are regarded by Sunnis as heretics; at times of tension, when thousands of Sunnis in Syria are being killed, they are regarded as the enemy. And when a popular Salafist figure is strangely abducted and arrested by Lebanon’s General Security Service – an organization linked to the Shia Hezbollah militia that, in turn, is linked to the Assad regime – the Alawites become the whipping boys.[14]

Geographic distribution within Lebanon[edit]

Lebanese Sunni Muslims are concentrated in west Beirut, Tripoli, Sidon and in the countryside of the Akkar district, located in Northern Lebanon, and Northeastern Beqaa Valley mainly around the city of Arsal.[15]

Demographics[edit]

Lebanese Sunni Muslims[1][16]
Year Percent
1932
  
22%
1985
  
27%
2012
  
27%

The last census in Lebanon in 1932 put the numbers of Sunnis at 22% of the population (178,100 of 791,700).[16] A study done by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 1985 put the numbers of Sunnis at 27% of the population (595,000 of 2,228,000).[16]

Lebanese Sunni Muslims constitutes 27% of Lebanon's population of approximately 4.3 million, which means they amount to 1,160,00 as of 2012.[1]

Notable people[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d "2012 Report on International Religious Freedom - Lebanon". United States Department of State. 20 May 2013. Retrieved 15 December 2013. 
  2. ^ Lebanon Overview World Directory of Minorities. June 2008. Retrieved 28 December 2013.
  3. ^ International Religious Freedom Report 2008 US Department of State. Retrieved 28 December 2013.
  4. ^ Maroon, Habib (31 March 2013). "A geneticist with a unifying message". Nature. Retrieved 2013-10-03. 
  5. ^ Zalloua, Pierre A., Y-Chromosomal Diversity in Lebanon Is Structured by Recent Historical Events, The American Journal of Human Genetics 82, 873–882, April 2008
  6. ^ Lucy Fielder (23–29 June 2011). "Trial by fire for Lebanon's government". Al Ahram Weekly (1053). Retrieved 28 December 2013. 
  7. ^ "Tripoli". Hugh Macleod. Retrieved 4 July 2010. 
  8. ^ Garrett Nada (10 May 2013). "Lebanon’s Sheikhs Take on Assad and Hezbollah". Wilson Center. Retrieved 28 December 2013. 
  9. ^ Greater Syria By Daniel Pipes
  10. ^ Mordechai Nisan. Minorities in the Middle East: a history of struggle and self-expression. McFarland, 2002. ISBN 0-7864-1375-1, ISBN 978-0-7864-1375-1
  11. ^ Reva Bhalla (5 May 2011). Making Sense of the Syrian Crisis Stratfor. Retrieved 28 December 2013.
  12. ^ Seale, Patrick. Asad Of Syria : The Struggle For The Middle East / Patrick Seale With The Assistance Of Maureen McConville. Seale, Patrick. Berkeley : University of California Press, 1989, c1988.
  13. ^ Robert Kaplan (February 1993). "Syria: Identity Crisis". The Atlantic. But the coup of 1970, which brought an Alawi air force officer, Hafez Assad, to power, was what finally ended the instability that had reigned in Syria since the advent of independence. 
  14. ^ Patrick Martin, (14 May 2012). Syria's war ignites sectarian strife in Lebanon The Global and Mail. Retrieved 28 December 2013.
  15. ^ Lebanon Sunnis Overview World Directory of Minorities. June 2008. Retrieved 28 December 2013.
  16. ^ a b c "Contemporary distribution of Lebanon's main religious groups". Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved 15 December 2013.