Posted by: becketfund | February 24, 2009

Lebanon: Religious Affiliation Removed from ID Cards

BEIRUT – A recent decree by the Lebanese government has allowed its citizens to remove  religious affiliations from their identity cards, BBC reported on February 24. In a country that has lived through years of civil war and is still deeply divided along religious lines, many see this decision as a  symbolic and a important step towards much needed unity and national reconciliation. During the civil war, which lasted through the 1970s and 1980s,  militias aligned with various religious groups would set up checkpoints and ask for the identity cards of those who tried to pass. People would often be shot on the spot if their documents revealed the “wrong” sort of religious affiliation. Lebanese society, and its political system, is divided along sectarian lines: a Sunni Muslim in Lebanon could become a prime minister but never a president as that position is reserved for Maronite Christians. The speaker of the parliament can only be Shia Muslim. And when Lebanese citizens want to marry, divorce or adopt, or when they register a birth or a death, they have to refer to courts that are run by the religious sects to which they belong. Human rights groups say the government’s decision regarding the ID cards is a welcome but purely symbolic step.

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