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Clans and Communities of Lebanon

Druze at a funeral

Lebanon’s somewhat peculiar political system – the President has to be a Maronite, the Prime Minister a Sunni, the Speaker of Parliament a Shiite, the Minister of Defence a Druze, and the parliamentary seats are divided along (religious) community lines, which today often also run along political lines – draws attention to the importance of these communities. In the same vein, each of the eighteen recognized religious denominations has its own laws and courts regarding matters of personal status, such as marriage and divorce, and inheritance. This means that everyone has to be registered with one of these communities.

The Lebanese mixture of cultures is one of the characteristics of the country. As long as they have been accessible, the Lebanese mountains have been a refuge for minorities persecuted elsewhere. These different groups lived in relative harmony for centuries. In the 19th and 20th centuries – partly because of the international situation – tensions grew, eventually leading to clashes and even civil wars.

In the mountain communities, certain families had acquired a leading role. Many of these dynasties still exist and provide today’s political leaders – who, as a negative consequence, are sometimes accused of ‘clientelism’.

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