Sunni Islam in Lebanon
|Islam (Sunni Islam)|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Other Lebanese & Levantine Arabs • Phoenicians • other Mediterranean peoples
other Semitic people (Arameans • Assyrians • Arabs • Jews)
Sunni Islam in Lebanon have followers who constitutes 27% of Lebanon's population of approximately 4.3 million, which means they amount to 1,160,000. Sunnis are concentrated in west Beirut, Tripoli, Sidon and in the countryside of the Akkar. Under the terms of an 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. Within the Lebanese context, especially political, the group is seen as an ethnoreligious group.
Lebanon’s Sunni community is among the largest ethnopolitical groups and comprises around one-third of the total population. Sunnis are widely dispersed in Lebanon with the majority of Lebanese Sunnis residing in urban centers (more than two-thirds living in Beirut, Tripoli and Sidon), and rural Sunnis living in the Akkar region, the western Bekka Valley, and in the Shuf Mountains. They share other Lebanese groups’ ethnic Arab background and Arabic language.
With the Lebanese civil war ending in 1990, and parliamentary elections being held throughout the 1990s and into 2000, most of the previously warring factions were satisfied with the reforms to the electoral system and took part in the political process. Since resolved, Lebanon’s fragile peace is dependent on a sectarian governmental structure, where the President is a Maronite Christian, the Prime Minister a Sunni Muslim, and the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies a Shia Muslim. Lebanon’s re-emergent sectarian structure allows for little cultural, economic, or political discrimination against the Sunni population. Some Sunnis in particular have embraced the political system, due to not being as militarily powerful as they were in the past (e.g., the Sunni militia "Mourabitoun" suffered a number of humiliating defeats in Beirut during the 1980s, and the rise of Shi’a organizations such as Amal and Hizbollah decreased Sunni militancy). As mentioned above, the Prime Minister is to be of Sunni origin, and this post has seen increased influence as part of Maronite-Sunni negotiations. The Prime Minister is specifically in charge of domestic economic reform, and after decades of civil war Lebanon is finally beginning to rebuild its cities and get its economy back in order. If reforms continue to be successful, Sunni leaders will continue to receive support from the population in general.
However, despite decreased Sunni militancy, smaller pockets of Sunni youth continue violence against churches. In December 1999, Sunni extremists killed four LAF soldiers in an ambush in the northern region of Dinniyeh after the soldiers attempted to arrest two Sunni Muslims allegedly involved in a series of church bombings. On December 31, 1999, the LAF retaliated by launching a massive military operation against Sunni extremists in the north. Five civilians, 7 LAF soldiers, and 15 insurgents were killed in the operation. Amnesty International reported in 2003 that the Dinniyeh detainees have been subject to unfair trial and torture. Beyond the reports of torture and a few arrests of Sunni militants by the Lebanese Army, there have been no other reports of government repression since 2001. Perhaps for this reason there have been few public protests by Sunnis against the Lebanese government, an exception being a pro-Syria rally in 2001, which was more a reaction to anti-Syrian Christian protests than a protest directly against any overt Lebanese government action, since there were no substantial governmental efforts to end Syrian influence.
With Saudi Arabia
The Sunnis of Lebanon have close ties with Saudi Arabia, which supports them financially. Moreover, Tripoli, the stronghold of the Lebanese Sunnis, is also the birthplace of Lebanon's Salafi Movement, a puritanical Sunni movement from Saudi Arabia.
With Lebanese Alawites and Syria
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. After independence from France, their co-religionists the Assad family came to power in Syria in 1970.
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.
The last census in Lebanon in 1932 put the numbers of Sunnis at 22% of the population (178,100 of 791,700). 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).
- Emir Khaled Chehab, former Prime Minister of Lebanon and Speaker of the Parliament of Lebanon.
- Riad Al Solh, the first Prime Minister of Lebanon (1943–1945), after the country's independence
- Rafik Hariri, assassinated former Prime Minister of Lebanon
- Saad Hariri, former Prime Minister of Lebanon
- Fouad Siniora, former Prime Minister of Lebanon
- Abdul Hamid Karami, former Prime Minister of Lebanon
- Omar Karami, former Prime Minister of Lebanon
- Rashid Karami, former Prime Minister of Lebanon
- Najib Mikati, former Prime Minister of Lebanon
- Saeb Salam, politician, who served as Prime Minister six times between 1952 and 1973
- Tammam Salam, politician and current Prime Minister of Lebanon
- Walid Toufic, singer
- Al-Waleed bin Talal, Saudi-Lebanese businessman and grandson of Riad Al Solh, Lebanon's first Prime Minister
- Marwa, singer
- Suzanne Tamim, the late singer
- Fadl Shaker, singer
- Hassan Khaled, late former leader of Lebanon's Sunni Muslim community
- Wissam al-Hassan, assassinated brigadier general at the Lebanese Internal Security Forces (ISF)
- Mohamad Chatah, assassinated Lebanese economist and diplomat
- Ahmed Assir, Sunni activist and former Imam of the Bilal Bin Rabah Mosque in Sidon
- Ali Al Hajj, former major general and director of the Lebanese Internal Security Forces
- Ashraf Rifi, former major general and director of the Lebanese Internal Security Forces and current minister of justice
- Amal Clooney, a London-based British-Lebanese lawyer, activist, and author. (Sunni mother and Druze father.)
- Religion in Lebanon
- Shia Islam in Lebanon
- Greek Orthodox Christianity in Lebanon
- Maronite Christianity in Lebanon
- Melkite Christianity in Lebanon
- Druze in Lebanon
- Bab al-Tabbaneh–Jabal Mohsen conflict
- Syrian Civil War spillover in Lebanon
- Future Movement
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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.
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