First you need to understand that Lebanon is nothing more than the creation of the French and the Maronite Patriarch in 1920. Lebanon was amazing! Just read about the golden era and you will understand how amazing it was before the Iranian and Syrian influence. Google images of Lebanon and you will see the Switzerland of the East. It was a modern beautiful progressive country where people lived in peace and harmony.
But before 1920 and the creation of Modern Lebanese borders there was something called the Mutasarrifiya of Mount Lebanon, the 1st modern proto-Lebanese state. It consisted of the mountain region of Mount Lebanon and was a semi-autonomous region within the Ottoman Empire. It was created because of the constant persecution of Maronite Christians (who were catholic), western powers and specially France pressured the Ottomans to protect the Maronites after the massacres during the mountain war between druze and maronites. In 1861 the Mutasarrifiya was created with nearly 85% of its inhabitants being Christian. This entity was nothing more than a Maronite state where the Maronite Patriarch held a lot of power and the local Governor was Christian.
During world war one the Ottoman army caused an intentional famine in Mount Lebanon killing almost 40% of the Population, mainly Maronite Christians.
This episode horrified the Maronites.
Then in 1918 the region passed under French control. The french were willing to divide the region to destroy any hope of syrian nationalism but also to get loyal local allies. The Maronite patriarch met with the Colonial authorities and drew what will become the modern lebanese borders, this new entity will be known as Greater Lebanon.
The new province incorporated the Muslim Chiaa regions of south Lebanon and Bekaa valley for their agricultural yield (remember, the maronites were still horrified by the Famine and wanted to be self sufficient) and the Sunni north and Beirut.
In this new State maronites were “only” 48% of the Population in 1920. Yes maronites ALONE were 50% of the population. Orthodox Christians and others made up roughly 22- 25% of the population which made Lebanon a vastly Christian country with about 70–75% of its inhabitants being Christians.
During the French colonial period the country experienced a huge leap forward. Yes, colonization was extremely beneficial for Lebanon: Railways, roads, administration, modern agriculture and harbors and most importantly French educational institutions and modern hospitals were introduced.
Then independance came in 1943. Muslims were demographically stronger, having 10 children was normal back then. The country had almost 500 000 inhabitants in 1920. In the 1932 census there was 785 542 citizens. Of which 55% were Christian and 45% (including druze) were Muslim. The demographics changed radically but the Christians still had the political power with a majority of seats in the parliament and a very powerful Christian president.
During the 50s Lebanon was in a golden age. The country was politically stable (dominated by Christians though) with an economic boom occuring, Relations with the western world were excellent, tourism was booming and banks were in a good form. Lebanon was the Swiss of the Middle East. A very open society very similar to any western society back then, with almost everyone speaking French and Arabic and even English. Lebanon was by far the most prosperous country in the region (after Israel).
The older people often lament that how much buying power they had those days, despite being a blue-collar worker. Life back then was extremely easy.
Grand agricultural projects were undertaken and many Hydroelectrical dams were built under the Presidency of Kamil Chamoun, a pro western Christian president. This was Lebanon’s golden age.
In 1958 however, the muslim Sunni community and in some way the Chiaa community too were starting to claim more political power.
They attempted a coup d’état to deposit the president but failed thanks to an American intervention. From now on Lebanon would only go down. Muslims wanted Pan-arabism in a country born to protect maronite Christians. Kamil Chamoon wasn’t allowed to run again for the presidency, fearing an uprising.
Then came the civil war, where Christians struggled to survive. A lot of them fled to the West, and at some point in the 80s were only about 23% of the population due to mass emigration.
After the war ended the political power now was in muslim hands with a weakened Christian president with no real powers and a 50/50 parliament. Christians began coming back and today they are around 40% of the population.
To sum up Christian Lebanon was a truly special state in the region. What destroyed it was the Pan-arabic movement and Pan-syrian nationalism, along with leftist uprisings. Today the state is fragile and fragmented with Muslim ex-warlords holding power in strategic positions. Corruption is frightening and the parliament is useless. The state is in heavy dept and the economy, while still better than the neighboring arab countries, is dead.
The country died to a point of no-return due to Muslims wanting PanArabism and PanSyrianism or Communism over Lebanon.
The Lebanon today is very different and all you have to do is drive from the airport and look at the area. An area full of Palestinian camps, slums and garbage that have been there for over 70 years. In addition to the Palestinians, now they have +2 million Muslim Syrian refugees so we have become a land of refugees. It’s very sad to see what is happening to Lebanon today. I think it’s interesting to read about how the civil war started or one of the main reasons – outside influences and proxy wars (PLO). Lebanese Muslims wanted the pan-Arabism pan-Syrianism (as someone already pointed out) since they saw themselves first as Muslims and then as Lebanese which is why so many supported the Palestinians using Lebanon to fight Israel. Nowadays Lebanon has a very corrupt group of leaders regardless of religious sect but I think Muslim youth are the ones paying the heaviest price as most are unemployed, uneducated and jaded and if you ask any Maronite Christian they will automatically tell you our lives were better during the war when Lebanon was split East and West (Christians and Muslims). I don’t think it’s religious as much as cultural. Drive through any Muslim neighborhood and you will notice the difference, not bad or good just different. As for Lebanon becoming Muslim majority I am not sure those numbers are accurate but I wouldn’t be surprised since Muslims have a higher birth rate – there’s a correlation between educational level and birth rate. That said what makes Lebanon different is the respect that Muslims and Christians have for each other. I think the Palestinians tried to drive a wedge between them and after the civil war Lebanese learned their lesson. Now most Lebanese are united over the daily struggles they face to live their lives with dignity and hope that the Syrian refugees and Palestinians will return home. The burden they place on Lebanon’s already weak economy and infrastructure is tremendous. It’s ironic how many will drive from Syria to pick up aid from organizations and then return to home. Now that UNRWA will no longer support these groups it will be interesting to see how many remain.
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