The Future Movement said in its new manifesto Wednesday that the Arab Spring provided Lebanon with an opportunity to overcome some if its most endemic problems by easing tensions between Muslim sects and encouraging reform.
Below is the translation of the full text of the manifesto, as provided by Future Movement leader MP Saad Hariri’s press office:
«The Future Movement
And The Perspectives of the Arab Spring
The year 2011 witnessed the explosion of Arab youth movements, which started in Tunisia and spread to other Arab Nations, especially those with military and security regimes, in which people have suffered for decades from authoritarian oppression, and violation of public and individual liberties. These states lacked peaceful power transfers and did not respect the dignity and rights of human beings. These movements had four characteristics: the large number of participants, their diversity, a majority of youth, and their insistence on the peaceful nature of their movement despite the oppression they suffered since the first day. They also shared the same slogans and goals: freedom, dignity, pluralistic democracy, justice, and civil State.
Since the first weeks, these youth and popular movements received a deep feedback from the Lebanese and from Future Movement supporters, as well as in the Arab World, and the world at large. This was due to the terrible crises experienced by our Arab societies, for more than four decades, during which there were almost no one in the streets and squares of the cities and the villages. The Arab people were deprived of their right to express their opinion and interests, depression was rampant, and the hope for the future diminished for large groups of people. Oppression was imposed as an alternative to extremism. The Arab and national dignity was violated by organized tyranny and by the security state, internally, and by the states’ inability to face invasions, wars, and foreign interventions, as well as by oppression that was widespread in the name of the national cause, and by all sorts of failures and deals concluded at the expense of the Cause.
The Future Movement supporters furthermore considered the change spearheaded by Arab youth as deeply important, as they initiated, with most Lebanese, their own spring in 2005, after the assassination of martyr Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. They also took up the demands for freedom, dignity, independence and justice. They were also faced, like the Arab rebels, with killing, organized violence, and political assassinations, which numbered 220 assassinations since 1943. However, that did not affect their will, and did not dampen their work and hopes, as with their counterparts in the countries where the change movement is ongoing.
The change pushed forward by Arab youth movement has happened. It strongly rattled these states and societies, because it was not a revolution from above, or some elite arrangement. This change tackled deep issues related to the culture of the societies and their awareness, concerning identity and belonging, moral questions, the relation between authority and society, between religion and the state, and individual freedoms. It is an elevation of the Arab people’s level of life and lifestyle, of their dignity and humanity. Therefore, it rapidly evolved into a fruitful long-term process, with deep influences on all levels. It is normal, like in all important change movements, that the opinions of social groups in the Arab World, of neighboring countries and their societies, and of the decision makers of developed states, differ about the current process. This deep change received the support, solidarity, and participation of many people, especially among Arabs (and Lebanese). However, it also raised and is causing worries and fears in some social, political, and religious groups, according to their perceived interests, past experiences, hopes or disappointments. As we already stated, change has already happened, and because Future Movement is part of it, we thought it was necessary to express our solidarity, and participate through this document that includes the main and essential orientations that guide our thoughts and actions in this historic period of the life of our nation and our people.
We consider the Arab change a period of maturity, and at the same time a new path, a challenge, and a chance. It is a chance because it places the Arab Nation, including us, at the gateway of a new future filled with the ambitions of our youth, to establish political regimes on the basis of the respect of rights and public freedoms, especially religious freedoms, of the safeguard of human dignity, and of justice and good management of the public affairs. It is a challenge for our ability as Lebanese citizens to review and criticize, to prepare for a moral, cultural, and political revival, to overcome (through enlightened thoughts and actions) the effects of the previous period, during which extremism, oppression and the politics of axis prevailed, an era that divided societies, and increased the rivalry between state and religion, and between societies and their authorities.
The goal of this review, follow up, criticism and struggle is to preserve the unity of our society and its diversity, and the dignity of man in this time of change. Additionally, it would help start a common, comprehensive and advanced action on the national level with all social, cultural and political groups of Lebanon, to strengthen coexistence, and take it as well as the National Pact and the Constitution as starting points to improve public affairs, and allow our youth to participate in building their future, the future of Lebanon and all Arabs.
The change ushered by Arab Youth is a long term democratic process, which goes beyond holding elections that result in a ruling majority .They are also a culture, enshrining full equality between all citizens, protecting public freedoms, respecting diversity, and the right to difference, and rejecting any monopoly from the part of a majority, whatever its nature.
First: The national issue:
In principle, Lebanon does not lack a civil contractual state since the time of its National Pact, even if the system suffers from some defects. Lebanon’s people also do not lack national loyalty. Despite this, and as the Arab Spring is in full swing, our nation seems to face several obstacles and challenges, due to the many disturbances and the dangerous clashes the country and our system have faced for the last seven decades. This is caused by five factors:
First, the establishment of the Zionist entity in Lebanon’s neighborhood, after occupying a large part of Palestine in 1948 and then occupying it fully in 1967. Second: the tendency of some of its major sects at one point or another to dominate and monopolize decision making, overstepping the customs and processes of the political system. Third: using Lebanon as an arena of conflict, during periods of tensions, by Arab , regional, or international parties, exposing the country to foreign interference. Fourth: the Syrian tutelage and hegemony over Lebanon and its system, for more than 30 years. Fifth: the inability to formulate and develop a national political project to protect the country, the State and the system.
In the Future Movement, we consider that the Arab Spring with its wide popular movement and effective ability to usher change in the Arab area and its neighborhood, represents a big chance for Lebanon, its citizens and state, to overcome challenges and dependences. This can be seen in three points: 1, the strategic changes caused by the democratic transformations and the real and effective cooperation of the Arab League States on all levels, which leaves no possibility for the axis policies, and for the destructive and divisive interferences by regional and international parties. 2, the democratic transition in Syria will rectify the relationship between Lebanon and Syria, on the basis of balance and equality, and the Syrian National Council (SNC) alluded to this in its statement on 25/01/2012, and in its letter of solidarity sent to March 14 on the occasion of the commemoration of the assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The SNC spoke of a radical correction of the relation between the two states, by amending the bilateral agreements, demarcating the borders, and cooperating to preserve their interests and the normal relations between the two peoples and two states. 3, the acknowledgment by all Lebanese, including those who resort to weapons to intimidate others, in the new Arab age, that it is in their national, Arab, and Islamic interest to strongly support reform, reconciliation, Taef agreement, and the constitution.
But the strategic changes resulting from the Arab movements are not sufficient to strengthen Lebanese nationalism after all the defeats it faced. All Lebanese political sides should take part in the Arab change movement. All Lebanese youth with civil, patriotic and national maturity, who showed great abilities during the Lebanese spring, and offered martyrs, also should assume their responsibilities. Their Arab counterparts are writing, with their struggle, a new future, and new political systems, that are controversial, but that are a way out of the era of moral, political and strategic crisis. Therefore, the civil change drive of the Lebanese youth from all belonging, built on personal and public freedoms, and their belief in citizenship based on the equality in rights and duties, can give a new life to Lebanese coexistence, and enhance the constitution, which is based on Lebanese citizenship and nationalism. We call for a Lebanese nationalism based on the concept of the a democratic citizenship state, with the participation of all Lebanese in building new policies that will eliminate the negative aspects of the system and gradually lead to real civil state.
Second: The inter-Islamic issue:
The Arab Spring opens a new horizon for communication and understanding between the component of the Arab Societies, especially between Sunnis and Shiites, after tension between them reached the limits of discord in Iraq, and the entry to Beirut with weapons in 2008. This tension has two causes: the specificity of the increase in awareness in both parties even if it is for different reasons, and the struggle for power. This upcoming spring encourages the search for new formulas that dissipates tension between them, and their union in a political framework based on citizenship and full partnership in the management of public life.
No one denies the differences on several historical and theological issues, although what is common between them is much greater. These differences must be limited to the specificity of each sect, which must be respected, and should not be politically exploited, or used for incitement in the media. The Arab change must include the right to difference, the freedom of belief, and appreciate diversity. These are values that respect the specificity of the religious and ethnic groups, on one hand, but do not turn their back to the national frameworks that regulate the relations between the groups and the social and political life, on the other.
Politically the Arab spring ended the legitimacy of all authoritarian regimes, and removed the covers used by corrupt ruling elites to hide behind, and categorically emphasized, with no possible bargaining, the principle of democratic legitimacy in all public affairs. These principles prevent any side from intimidating the other, dispose of the rationale for the expansion of the specificities at the detriment of the State or their isolation from that State, and eliminate any pretext justifying the weapons outside the State, whatever the names and objectives. These principles also require the adoption of the law and the Constitution as exclusive references to settle any dispute, and the non-recourse to arms and to invasions of cities as in 2008. Most importantly, these principles encourage all Lebanese to supersede their national loyalties on foreign loyalties, demagogies, and regional and international axis policies. With just these factors the Sunni-Shiite tension can be absorbed, in the Arab region and especially in Lebanon, thus reasserting Arab belonging and the legitimacy of the cultural and religious diversity. This also cuts the path of all greedy sides, that use fear and sectarian or ethnic specificities to serve their own strategies and special interests.
In view of the modern sociopolitical Lebanese experience, the country should not go through a Sunni-Shiite clash, and should stay an example of Islamic and national unity. The influential officials in both camps, clergymen, political leaders, thinkers, and intellectuals, should adhere to the goals of unity, and remain able to prevent the differences from becoming clashes. Therefore, there is a need for constant initiatives, and deep dialogue between the two sides, on all levels and forms, to spread mutual trust, dissipate confusion, defuse chronic or sudden crisis, and stop the mixing between the religious-sectarian issues and the political issues.
Third: The Islamic-Christian issue:
Throughout history Muslims and Christians built their culture, civilization and lives together. They built their national identity together, and fought side by side to free their Arab Nations from foreign occupations. They also faced, together, the fallouts of the oppression used by unwise authoritarian regimes. As we are evaluating the consequences of the youth movements on Lebanon and the region, it is necessary to mention that the Arab Christians were at the forefront of contributors to the Arab renaissance, to the elaboration of Arab identity and belonging, and to the preservation and improvement the Arab language. Thus the Christian intellectuals and politicians were, with their Muslim counterparts, pioneers in the emergence of the modern Arab renaissance, and in Arab openness, and in the rise of national states in the Arab Orient. In many occasion, during the times of conflict in Lebanon and the region, it seemed that the chasm between Muslims and Christians was too vast to close, while in fact it was caused by many external issues with no religious nature. However, the Taef National Agreement reinforced, the considerations of coexistence and shared belonging and fate, in both parties. Thus the conflict ended, which led Pope Jean Paul II to say that Lebanon is more than a nation, it is a message!
Therefore, many were choked, when the wave of change reached Syria, by the statements made by several religious and civil leaders from all confessions, in Lebanon and Syria, expressing their fears and apprehensions. Their position was based on: the fundamentalist extremist nature of some revolutions, and what happened to Iraq’s Christians after the US invasion in 2003 (assassinations of religious figures and churches demolition), in addition to attacks against churches in Egypt, and the progress of Islamic fundamentalist parties in elections in several countries. In addition to the massive wave of Christian exodus from the Arab Orient, which occurred before the revolution, and there are fears that it would increase in the current chaos accompanying with the changes of regimes and leaders. These fears and worries might be justified and might need review and understanding.
However, deducting political consequences from this is another matter. In modern times, the overwhelming majority of Muslims did not show extremism or violence against Christians, or sympathize with extremists. The change took place. It would be detrimental to bet on the dying tyrannical regimes, which caused the suffering of Christians as Muslims. Moreover, alliances and projects based on the concept of minority do not have a future, and have nothing to do with Arab Christians, whom Muslims do not consider to be a minority just as they do not consider them-themselves as such. They are partners in the culture, belonging and destiny, far from the logic of protection adopted by certain regimes and the effects of which were very negative.
The Arab spring is a chance for all groups of our societies, and for all the authentic historic components of this Orient. Oppression almost rattled the basis of coexistence and the concept of citizenship and equality in basic rights, with no differentiation between Muslims and Christians. Conflicting questions as to extremism and fundamental Islam exist, and require attention and cooperation to overcome them. They demand steadfastness and common struggle in the framework of the principles of freedom, dignity, citizenship, and civil state. In the last decades, an opposing duality rose between extremism and oppression, because opposites attract. There is however no doubt that if extremism regresses with the fall of despotism, this does not mean sealing the fate of all problems. To remove obstacles, we must rely on the common struggle of free citizens and the civil action of youth. The people will thus be encouraged to participate in building the new political society and come together under the umbrella of the civil state, the democratic mechanisms and the freedoms guaranteed by law. If the bet is based, first, on the civil movement, the partnership between citizens to strengthen the rule of freedom and citizenship, and the system of parity regardless of numbers and political disputes, the second source of peace or confidence is reflected in the enlightened religious thought, guided by the grand Imam of Al Azhar in Egypt, which has published three documents in the wake of revolutions:
The first paper is about governance and the civil pluralist democratic state. The second relates to the Arab movements for change, their legitimacy and their right to unarmed and nonviolent revolution in order to change the leaderships and regimes if they become illegitimate because of injustice, oppression, tyranny and the prohibition of political freedom and peaceful alternation of power. The third document sets out the four freedoms: freedom of belief and worship, freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of scientific research and freedom of literary and artistic creativity. In this revival, Al Azhar is based on the system of «rights and interests» of Muslim Scholars, which includes the right to life, the right to thought, the right to religion, the right to dignity and the right to property, and the fact that Islam does not advocate the religious state. The late Lebanese Imam, Sheikh Mohammad Mehdi Shamseddine, said that the civil state based on citizenship would be a salvation for religion and the state at a time!
The importance of the publication of these documents by a great Islamic reference lies in the contribution to the revival of Islamic culture, and the struggle against extremism and the mixture of religion and politics. These are important issues in the new Arab renaissance.
We Lebanese – who overcame the religious state, and who are hoping and working on overcoming the sectarian state – have a duty and a message. Our duty is to protect the State of coexistence, and prevent any attack on its rules and customs. As for the message, it is to work with the Arab environment in consolidating coexistence between Christians and Muslims in States of free citizenship and free citizens. States of religious and civil freedoms, especially in this time of change, because it is the time of the future.
Fourth: The Arab issue:
During the last decades many used to talk about “Civilized Arabism” which they favored and considered, at times, as contrary to Nationalistic Arabism, and in other times as contrary to the Arabism related to religion, and always as contrary to the Arabism of military and security governments. What is happening now in the time of revolutions is the emergence of two notions of the renewed Arabism: Civilized Arabism and National Arabism. The current revolutions which share the same titles and slogans: peaceful action, freedom, dignity, democratic state, don’t want ideological or ruling parties. The problem that the revolutionary youth is facing is the practice of despotism in the name of stability, nationalism and rejectionism, as well as the problem of the loss of national interest, the spread of corruption, the prohibition of freedom of expression, the monopoly of public affairs management and impunity. That’s why there was a close connection between the youth actions and democracy in each country that witnessed a youth revolution. Therefore for the first time the new Arabism relates to democracy on one hand and to the nationalist revolutionaries on the other hand.
According to the logic of movements for change, in thought and practice, there is no problem of belonging, but of safeguarding the interests and rights, changing governance, and recognizing the principle of peaceful alternation of power. This is a feat that young people have made to get ??out of the artificial contradiction between the individual, the nationalist and the patriotic. Like nationalism seems no more reviled, Arabism is no more linked to a theoretical or authoritarian concept, but turns into a common cultural and uniting denominator, not exclusivity that separates. We find this new concept of nationalism and patriotism in the early campaign launched by media loyal to the Syrian regime against peaceful activists for freedom and dignity, accusing them of being part of a conspiracy against the Nationalist, rejectionist and resistant regime, and the hasty exit from Arabism as a whole because of the unanimous rejection by the member states of the Arab League of the unspeakable violence practiced by the current Syrian regime against its people.
The new national Arabism gives a new impetus to Lebanese nationalism, which was translated, by the Muslims, in the document ‘Ten national and Islamic constants» published by Dar El Fatwa in 1983, and the document» National and Islamic Constants «published also by Dar Al Fatwa in 2011. In terms of «civilized Arabism», it gets out of the prevailing negative sense, to mean that Arabism is a culture and not an exclusive ethnic or religious belief. In these two considerations, opportunities for dialogue and union of Muslims and Christians are strengthened to protect the independence and sovereignty, and eliminate the barriers of fanaticism in the name of religion or nationalism. Lebanese nationalism is no longer a taboo that spreads contradiction between feelings and nationalist interests, but is, with the movement of young Lebanese and Arab, part of this new Arabism, or even the condition of its survival.
Fifth: The Palestinian cause:
Palestinians and Arabs resisted the Zionist project since the 1920’s. They struggled against the Zionist entity after the occupation of the Palestinian territories. The last four decades were very harsh on Palestinians and the Arab nation, due to the predominance of the Zionist entity, the unjust international policies, the incapacity of despotic regimes and their dependence, and the transformation of some armies into oppression apparatuses against their people and living forces. But now that Arab populations are regaining their freedom, the management of their public affairs, and their right to preserve their national interests, the era of drifting and wasting time is over and will be replaced by the era of a free, independent Palestinian state with Arab Jerusalem as its capital. The Arab Spring will transform the Arab conflict with the Israeli enemy from a confrontation with oppressive regimes to one with free people, who are not ruled by despots. The Arab spring era will be the era of Palestine’s victory on colonization and settlements, in the name of freedom and the right of self-determination. Recovering Palestine, its people and territories, was the main title of the Arab liberation project during the last seven decades, and it became today the essence of the new Arab liberties.
Sixth: The position regarding the Syrian revolution:
For over three decades, the Lebanese have become accustomed to deal with the Syrian regime with fear and subordination. The legitimacy of any idea or political direction was dictated by the position vis-à-vis the Syrian military presence in Lebanon. Arabism was defined by allegiance to «one Arab nationalist regime» that controlled Damascus. Those who deviated from one of these principles, or both, were considered traitors and eventually buried themselves into a frightened silence or exile, or worse. At these «two pillars of Arabism», a third was added, and was to recognize a «resistance» represented exclusively by Hezbollah and the Syrian rejectionist regime once again!
These three pillars have been shaken, but not eliminated. It started with the call of Maronite Bishops in 2000, then the birth of the March 14 movement and the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon in 2005 following the assassination of President Rafik Hariri. In the last seven years, and despite the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon, the charge of treason against Arabism has survived, and has even increased, prompting many of us to say: we do not need a daily blood test to prove our Arabism and our nationalism!
The Lebanese Spring waved the banner of freedom, independence and sovereignty. And now these slogans have become Arab slogans at the time of the Arab movements for change. But after the outbreak of the uprising against the Syrian regime, the charges of conspiracy and treason have flared up against supporters of independence or those who express their solidarity with the Syrian people’s uprising against his despotic regime, and this under two pretexts: those who are supportive of the Syrian people are guilty of «conspiring against the Resistance»; the specificity of Lebanese-Syrian relations requires a non-interference in Syrian affairs. No doubt that it is the Syrian people who are making the revolution. In Lebanon, those who really interfere in Syrian affairs by the autocratic methods of yesteryear, are those who proclaim loud and clear every day in the media, on the ground and in all Arab and international forums, that they support the Syrian regime against its people, or that they distance themselves from any interference in Syrian affairs!
Freedom is indivisible. Those who support freedom for Lebanon and its people cannot continue to support the Syrian regime against its people, that rises for freedom and dignity. The Lebanese-Syrian relations cannot become equal on political, moral and Arab levels, unless the democratic transition in Syria succeeds in laying the foundation of the regime of freedom and justice, and establishing equal relations between the two states according to the rules of good neighborliness and common interests. We need solidarity to the Syrian people up with him in his crisis with his regime and his uprising against him, and our loyalty to the brotherhood, freedom and dignity promised by the Arab Spring, while ceasing to find pretexts for maintaining tyrannical Syrian regime and criminal at any price. It’s our duty to show solidarity with the Syrian people in times of crisis, and to be loyal to our vows of brotherhood, freedom and dignity that the Arab spring is fighting for, and to stop finding justifications for the despotic and killer Syrian regime. As for the concerns raised by some, they should come from the tyrannical regime survival, not its demise.
The Syrian Spring, who spread an air of freedom and dignity, mixed with the blood and suffering of Syrian youth, children and elderly, will have a positive impact on the Lebanese system, freedom and independence, and on the establishment of normal relations and equal with Syria. It will also be beneficial to Arab Syria, whose people have raised the slogan: Death is better than humiliation! The Spring of Deraa, Homs, Hama, Idlib, Douma, Damascus and Zabadani will unite with the Lebanese and Arab Spring, for common belonging, objectives, values ??and destiny.
The new Arab Orient is being crafted by the Syrian revolutionaries and free men, who demonstrate perseverance and strength to break free and liberate their nation from the era of tyranny and falsification of great causes for various pretexts.