Lebanon’s identity crisis..

My dad calls me every Sunday from Trinidad..We talk about Lebanon, we talk about Trinidad..and basically recap all that has happened over the past week.  Last Sunday we were talking about how many people (I’m not sure of the exact percentage)  in Lebanon speak three languages fluently..

He, like many people, was unaware that Lebanon was once under the mandate of the French..and that even though the mandate ended officially in 1943 (thanks @footnem @rihamberjaoui @mich1mich @abaretruth @flbader), French is still widely spoken in Lebanon..

“But, it’s more than that,” I tried to explain.  “It’s not only the language,,but the French lifestyle and customs..Some of my friends speak only French at home, watch French TV, buy French products.. and what’s more, some of them don’t even speak Arabic properly..”

I got off the phone wondering to myself why this is..

I know that I probably should have conducted some more research before writing a post about this..but I thought, what better way to learn about Lebanon than to ask the Lebanese, so my friends, perhaps you can help me fill in the gaps..

1. Why is French still so widely spoken and the French culture and customs still so ardently embraced, even though the French left Lebanon in 1943.

2. Why do some Lebanese people consider themselves Phoenicians and not Arabs?

3. Why does it seem (and now this is a hasty generalization) that most people who are French educated are Christian, and most people who are English educated are Muslim (again, these are just my observations).  Is this accurate, or am I mistaken?

4.  What are the factors that go into choosing whether to send your child to an English school or a French school?



Filed under life in Lebanon

54 responses to “Lebanon’s identity crisis..

  1. Güstav

    All I can say, we’re all Lebanese 😉

  2. Answers

    1. Because you can never leave tradition behind. USA still have native american (indian) tradition in football teams, names of streets and towns.

    2. Basically since Christianity is not officially Arabic, many Christians believe they come from the European ethnicities, and Phoenicia is considered more European than Arab.

    3. This is not completely true. However English is spoken by many of the predominantly Muslim countries in the Middle East and the “French” ideas gave greatly impacted most Christians.

    4. This all depends mainly on three factors
    1. Family Customs and Beliefs
    2. Location in Lebanon
    3. Politics … yes politics..

    • Anonymous, sorry

      This is absolute nonsense. Please do not take it seriously.

    • meinlebanon

      Thanks for the comment, however I have to comment on one thing, the Native Americans are “native” to the United States, hence why we still pay tribute to them in our traditions and as you say, in the naming of certain athletic teams..however, the French were only in Lebanon for a short time, and it can be argued that the French culture, language, and customs is soooooo much stronger in Lebanon that Native American culture, language, and customs is in the States..

      I’m trying to understand why this is. 😉

      • i will answer ur question with another question?

        why do the american customs affect Lebanon. when america hasnt even ruled here..

    • a

      wow! are you kidding????

    • x

      reply to number 3-

      because predominant christian areas were under french mandate and muslim areas were under british mandate. checkout the first universities in lebanon. you have AUB located in a muslim area and universities such as USJ and USEK (both french) located in christian areas.

  3. Most of muslims actually learn french in school before english.Due to the dominance of the english language in all working sector and the lack of practice, most of them completely forgot or at best can barely form a proper sentence. French is my first language and at school most of my classmates were muslims.

  4. As for the phoenician claim, I yet have to see Lebanese speaking the language. I bet maybe less than 1% of the population know the alphabet.
    So whoever claim, they are phoenicians, they should listen to the sound of their voice first and realise that their mother language is arabic.
    The main argument yet is to convince Lebanese that they are all the same (first and foremost Lebanese) no matter what their beliefs are.

    • meinlebanon

      I have to agree with you that the main argument here is to convince everyone that they are first and foremost Lebanese..but my question is, why does everything come before nationality? Religion, politics, education/language..etc etc..

    • f

      well the french connection to lebanon does go back several centuries — it’s not just a legacy of the mandate. but more and more, it seems that french culture is giving way to american culture in lebanon!

      as a side note, you forgot another huge part of the identity crisis when it comes to language… the difference between lebanese and arabic! so no matter where kids start school in lebanon, they aren’t being instructed in their native language. i imagine the repercussions for identity are rather staggering, given how much of an impact early childhood has on later development.

      i would love to see the day when there are good schools where instruction is in lebanese… but that will take a bit of a cultural-linguistic revolution 🙂

  5. BeirutiAdventures

    1.)Remember, being under the french mandate for so long, it is only normal to continue with a lot of the customs. This is also visible in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. Compare it to any country under the french mandate, you’ll see this trend.
    2.) A lot of lebanese consider themselves Phoenecian over Arab because, essentially we are… Somewhere down the line. You’ll notice that people on the coast consider themselves phoenecian more than the people of the Bekaa valley for example because, phoenecians were mostly a coastal people, while the bekaa was syrian land. That doesn’t make them arab in some peoples eyes, because syria was Aramaic nation, not an arab one. The people who still say they are phoenecian, consider arabs as intruders who changed their cuture. But these same people don’t mind the french intrusion.
    3.)That’s a broad and like you said hasty generalization. I speak both, read both and understand both. I come from zahle and both schools were present. But it depends on location. The Metn region would focus on french, while west bekaa focuses on english, spanish (yes spanish), because most of the diaspora coming from that region are in canada or argentina. Weird eh?
    4.)My family focused on english because I would either be in AUB for an education, or in the west. Most people in my city however, choose french schools, for one reason or another.

    Its a lot to take in, you actually beat me to this post, I was writing on this and had it saved in my drafts lool! Good topic. But a lot of these questions have political factors involved as well like someone mentioned above.

    • meinlebanon

      As always, thank you for your thorough comments..I know that this is a complicated topic to talk about because it involves many sensitive topics (religion, politics)..but I am just always filled with so many questions about why some things in Lebanon are the way they are…and to me, it’s better to ask than to live in a country that I know nothing about, right?

      • BeirutiAdventures

        100% I agree, its great to know, and I love how you ask! 🙂 lebanon is the land of the unexpected, whatever doesn’t make sense… Is lebanese haha. Oh and for the one person below me who talked about Maronites originating in syria, that’s true… Don’t worry you won’t get shot for talking about history haha. My maronite friends say it all the time 🙂
        Great post my dear!

  6. Ramzi Ramman

    “The glory of the Phoenicians is in the Bible, they are claimed as ancestors by snooty Lebanese…”

    “Asked about the politics of the Phoenicians excavations, the way that since the 1800s, the Lebanese have idealized the Phoenician civilization and claimed it as their ancestry, Badawi is dismissive. “Effective people,” he says, “do not do that anymore.” It is understandable for south Lebanese to claim a magnificent ancestry when years of war have left Saida and Sur battered and impoverished. But, ancestors or not, the ongoing discovery of Phoenician material remains has offered the people of the area some civic pride.”

    “Historian Kamal Salibi said that the way some Lebanese lean on Phoenicia as part of the country’s identity, “developed more as a cult than a reasoned political theory,” and featured in tourist pamphlets. A recent report by the Genographic Project reported that Phoenician ancestry is by no means unique to Lebanon. As many as one in 17 men living today on the coasts of North Africa and southern Europe may have a Phoenician direct male-line ancestor.

    But while one could argue that it is unhealthy for an unstable country to invent a glorious past for itself, few could deny the excitement of unearthing evidence of an ancient and puzzling people. Looking out at on the sea at Sur, it would take a hard heart not to picture boats full of purple and Phoenicians pulling out of the harbor. Turning back to the war-worn houses of Sur being renovated by people who want a sea view of the newly touristy promenade, it seems like good news that the dream of the Phoenicians is still drawing people to come, like Herodotus, to stand in their ruins and imagine their glory.”

    It’s like saying everyone who lived in the Canaan or Levant area is a Phoenician descendant. Not true. We like to think that we came from somewhere glorious, somewhere powerful, when we can’t face our reality. It’s escapism. Ill give you another example. The Lebanese proudly claim that the word for ‘Bible’ comes from the name Byblos. This is false. It comes from the Greek word ‘Biblion’. This is how the Lebanese take historical fact and bend it to their will.

    Answered 🙂

  7. it’s a complicated issue and i dunno if i can squeeze an explanation into a comment but will try .

    1.way before 1943 and the 2 world wars , France was present in the region , mainly in Lebanon through religious missionaries . therefore they have founded many institutions in Lebanon (schools, universities …) still considered as pioneers in their respective domains , and had a great influence in the process of building the independent identity of Lebanon , mainly in the educational system, judicial system …etc.

    2.this is an issue that, among others, was one of the fire accelerators in the civil war .
    mainly because “Arab” as an identity is still vague, and varies between Arabs themselves in each country . some consider Arabs who , those who speak Arabic. others consider Arabs , those who descend from the migration of certain tribes from certain regions of Arabia and settled in today’s Arab world. other address the issue from a religious and political point of view . specially with the movements calling for a united Arab nation in the previous century and the political conflicts that accompanied it.
    since the definition is not precise, the identity crisis will remain, since
    a- majority of Lebanese do not descend from the previously mentioned tribes , but are natives to this land … thus the Phoenician or Canaanite identification.
    b-religiously, when Arab is identified as Muslim , other religious groups feel intimidated and hesitate to accept the concept … they fear to be dissolved into a society of one color later and loose their heritage .
    c-politically , the word “Arab” was used for a long period of time as a synonym of a political agenda that contradicted the agenda of Lebanese social groups , mainly Christians , so it is hard still to shake that period in our history off .

    3.mainly , as i mentioned in 1 , cz schools and universities were founded by French catholic missionaries and adopted by the Lebanese church , so they spread in Christian areas , on the other hand , Muslim areas were under the influence of the Arab surrounding that was in his turn influenced by a British system .

    4.this is issue is subject to many factors , mainly the parents educational system, the surrounding , family expatriates .
    but the tendency all over the country now is towards the English system, specially with the globalization movement, the high number of new English universities in all areas in Lebanon, etc etc

    sorry for the long comment 😛

  8. agree with some of the above opinions. I’ll add the fact that most of the french schools are christian missionaries.
    – Jamhour, champville, frere mont la salle, besancon etc…
    for universities it’s half half (AUB, LAU vs USJ USEK )

    my 2 cents…

  9. Simon

    I’m gonna say it the way i see without any sugar-coats…

    It’s funny that no1 so far has commented on the “COOL” effect!
    you see it’s not cool, to the rich (christians/muslims), or those who live in the metropolitan areas, to speak Arabic. it’s backwards! French or English shows a higher status! (laughable but true)

    Personally i think it’s sad that little kids are taught to speak French or English before learning Arabic. It’s also sad to be a lebanese who doesn’t know how to talk arabic (such as ur french speaking friends).

    It’s an identity problem. The christians want to alienate themselves from the “backwards arab” (by refusing to be called Arabs, or siding always with the west, that has a lot to do with the French giving the Christians more rights than Muslims) And the Muslims have great respect and are proud to excel in Arabic considering it is the language of the Qur’an.

    Even though i was born and raised in Sydney, i believe i can read and speak fluent Arabic, but every year i go to lebanon, pple there refuse to back in arabic, always talking to me in english! (even though i’m talkin in arabic)

    You can write a book or research paper about this topic. Lebanese pple don’t believe in solidarity. Their lebanese identity always comes second to either being an Arab, Christian, or Muslim.

    I better stop here… (i guess not living in lebanon has it’s advantages, like the ability to judge 🙂 hehehe )

    Great question 🙂

    • Shop Talk

      Excellent points!

    • BeirutiAdventures

      You know I can really relate to what you said about being out of Lebanon, and noticing all the “strange things” about it. But one thing that striked my attention was that the some people think of it as “uncool” to speak in arabic because of status. My cousins will never be caught dead speaking arabic in public, its either french or english. Weird eh?

      • Simon

        No offense, but ur cousins are morons and ignorant!

        The only time you’ll catch me speaking english in lebanon is when i’m swearing my head off at some dooshbag for jumping infront of me while queuing in line, waiting to be served. I love making a scene 🙂 hehehe

    • BeirutiAdventures

      Morons are right… but I guess it’s something very common. I mean you are talking about people with personal drivers for themselves, and maids left,right,and center. Funny thing is, educated in all Arabic schools. LMAO. I was educated in non-Arabic schools my whole life, and damn rights I will speak my Libneneh loud and proud! 😀 You made awesome points!

      P.s. dont we all love making scenes? haha 🙂

  10. meinlebanon

    Thank you for contributing! Excellent comment..

  11. Ok I don’t see the french claiming to be “Gallois”.
    They were but they are french before anything else. I wish the Lebanese learned this from french.

  12. This issue is only one in Lebanon. Christians can be found all over the middle east. They are proud to be arabs. Maronites didn’t originate in Lebanon but in Syria. (am i gonna get shot? what did i get myself into?)
    The main problem in Lebanon in my opinion, is the lack of patriotism.

  13. Youssef

    first i want to say sorry if i am repeating anything someone has already said.

    i want to touch on two subjects as far as how i see them.

    i attended two schools in lebanon. it’s not the usual thing to do since most people go to the same school for all 15 years, but it’s also not that unusual either.
    the first school i attended is Carmel Saint Joseph. I state the name just for some context. the school is run by french carmelites, which is basically a group of nuns. now some of the nuns were lebanese, some french and others syrian, but they all spoke strictly french to students and it was basically a french program school with a christian twist. But, out of the 900 students overall, only 50 were christian. and yes that’s 50 not 500. the other school i went to is part of the “mission laique francaise” which means there were no religious affiliations but it was still french and concentrated on the french bacc. i don’t have exactly numbers but i think a guess of only 1% of the students were christian is not a far off guess. which means out of the two schools i went to with a big focus on french, a very small minority was from the christian denomination. and out of everyone i knew, all the people who spoke french at home or added french words to their sentences were all 100% non christian.
    my example is a very small sample from the lebanese community. but my experience contradicts the statement of “christians speak french, muslims speak english”… and please pay attention to “my experience”. im not saying this is absolute fact, but this is the lebanon that i know, which is totally different than the lebanon other people experience.

    my other point is about the identity. are we lebanese? phoenician? arab? well lets look at each separately:
    lebanese: lebanon is a very young concept and identity. lebanon did not exist before 1943. and the concept of mount lebanon as an independent entity didn’t exist before the 1800s. my ethiopian friend claims that lebanon is mentioned in their bible as ‘lebanos’. but that’s definitely not in the same concept as what lebanon is today. so, anyone born before 1943 can not claim their strictly lebanese, because that wasn’t an option when they were born. and most people who have a problem with it will tell you it’s out of respect to history which is a big part of out culture. i for one would like us to just unite under the ‘i am lebanese’ mantra but i also understand the complexity of that claim and somewhat its inaccuracy.
    pheonician: “i am pheonician and i speake pheonice” that was my status (check twitter and facebook) a few months back. why? because i had parts of this discussion with some people that day and that was the satirical response that one of the people at the table gave me. yes, language is a big part of a culture. and yes, we don’t speak the language of the pheonicians. but we still maintain a lot of the cultural habits. that might not be evident in beirut for example, but many places in lebanon still maintain some forms of that culture. handmade art or products, trade, conning people out of their money, all traits that still exist in the common lebanese and all traits that we inherited from the pheonicians. but claiming that we’re pheonicians is not politically correct or even popular (in fact, laughable) in our current world.
    arab: the original arabs were the people that we call now ‘khaliji’. people from KSA, UAE, Qatar, etc. those are the arabs. people from syria, jordan, palestine and lebanon are ‘levantines’. people from egypt are ‘pharaohs’ or just basically egyptian. rest of north africa is african. the rejection of the identity of arab is not unique to lebanon. contrary to what some might say. and don’t take my word for it, this is based on many conversations ive had with many north africans. having the privilege to go to college in the US, i have befriended many egyptians, moroccans and tunisians. they all reject being called ‘arab’ and not for some childish reason like ‘they have oil, we don’t, they’re pigs we’re not’. the reason is clear in history. historically, none of these countries were arab states. the change all happened after the arabs/muslims went on a crusade of their own reaching spain. the spaniards were the most successful at fighting back, but they do now have some aspect of arab tradition is modern spanish culture. so being arab was imposed on countries west of iraq and ksa.

    so what are we? i can not really answer that question, because i personally was not raised to think ‘christian vs muslim’ because my father is christian and my mother is muslim. i was not raised to think ‘north vs south’ because my father grew up in beirut and my mom grew up in saida. i was not raised to think ‘lebanese vs non-lebanese’ because my parents raised me to love first, hate never. but by living in lebanon, going through all the shit lebanon has been through, i didn’t grow apart from lebanon like some people did, i grew more attached to my country and to my lebanese identity. i am proud to be lebanese not because someone forced me to (a bit more history, lebanon was created by the western power countries to artificially group people together, people like the christians and the druze in the mountains. so lebanon was created for the purpose of artificially uniting people who were different, but it actually created more cause to isolate and separate the different groups), but because of my experience on this land and with eseits people. i shed tears, sweat and blood for the 10,452 km2 piece of land and for its ~4M people. so i view it simply as, i am a citizen of the world, but of lebanon first and foremost.

    • Kawthar

      Hello Youssef

      Just to clarify your facts… Khaliji people are definetly not what you can call the real Arabs, just look some of them and you will see that they look south Asians or African. Kuwaitis are mostly Persians-Iraqi people, Omanis and Yemenis are mixed with Eastern Africans and Saudis, as being on the holy land for the Muslims, has been mixed with so many different ethnicities that they aren’t the Arabians of yesterday.

      About Moroccans, Algerians, Tunisians, they are Maghrebian peoples, saying they are Africans is not totally true, not totally false either. It would be like saying Lebanese, Jordanians, Saudi are Asians… because you guys live in West Asia, so does it make you Asians? Saying that all Maghreb people rejects “Arab identity” is definetly not true, we are Western Arabs (Arabs from the Maghreb Al Aqsa), the only thing is that we have our own specific culture and customs when it comes to Islam we are Sunni from the Malekite tradition, and we have a much more secular way to practice. The people you met in college rejects that identity because they are in the US and because of lot of us got saure comments concerning everything happening in Middle East. But I don’t care about that, I consider myself as an Arab-Amazigh (Berber) girl. Morocco is a country that existed for over a 1000 years, and it was the road to Andalusia, so we blend for centuries with Arabs, we got Berberized Arabs, Arabized Berbers. Because all the “Arab” countries today are mixed-race of various semitic ancestries (Kanaan, Phoenicians, Aramean, Berbers, etc…) and because we have one language (ARABIC) declined into many varieties of dialects (MAGHREBIAN, LEVANTINE and GULF).

      So what are we? We are mostly MOROCCANS, ALGERIANS, TUNISIANS, EGYPTIANS, LEBANESES, SYRIANS… this is how we are supposed to start thinking, as a country… and we have to respect all the different components of our countries (SHIA vs SUNNI, CHRISTIANS vs MUSLIMS, MUSLIMS vs JEWS) and then we can relate to each other because of our bonds. I think the problem in the Arab world is since most the countries are “new” with arbitrary boundries, the people don’t have a strong sense of nation within the countries, like in all African countries where French placed boundaries regardless the ethnicities… therefore SUDAN, RWANDA and other genocides.

      • Youssef Chaker

        im just going to answer briefly because it’s an old post and i don’t want to get into this right now, so here it goes:
        * you gotta remember that when i said the khailiji people are the ‘real’ arabs, im thinking back a few centuries ago. before all of the areas in the middle east and north africa became so mixed.
        * my friends that i mentioned were born and raised in their respective countries, not the US and some were there just for a couple of weeks so had no reason to denounce their arabic ties of fear of anything.
        * north africans are africans, and lebanese and syrians are asians if you speak in terms of which continent they come from. if you want to talk about race then the whole classification is incorrect to begin with. is african supposed to mean black? then are all white south africans not africans? or is asians just supposed to mean chinese and japanese?
        * when i said ‘they all reject …’ i meant the people i talked to, i didn’t mean to make it a generalization of all north africans. so if you don’t reject it, that’s great. but there are those who do, and i believe you don’t speak for every single person who comes from that region to assert that my comment was incorrect.

        anyway, in essence we agree. I was merely attempting to explain the wide variety of views about this and why. but like i said in my comment in the last sentence. i am a citizen of the world. every person, animal, vegetable or rock concerns me. thinking in borders is ridiculous in my opinion. there is no reason why we are divided according to imaginary lines. but as long as the world is run this way. i will identify as lebanese.

      • Kawthar

        – “my friends that i mentioned were born and raised in their respective countries, not the US and some were there just for a couple of weeks so had no reason to denounce their arabic ties of fear of anything.” yes I am talking about these persons in the US, if you go to France or even in Morocco, people don’t say they aren’t arabs. The whites in South Africa are mostly British and Dutch people who immgrated there and lived and barely mixed due to apartheid. And if you say African, you think black as when you think Asian, you think small eyes.

        So I answered when you said “people from KSA, UAE, Qatar, etc. those are the arabs, people from syria, jordan, palestine and lebanon are ‘levantines’. people from egypt are ‘pharaohs’ or just basically egyptian. rest of north africa is AFRICAN”). The people from KSA, UAE, Qatar, are Khaliji (or Gulf people), the people from the Near East are Levantines and the people from Egypt are Egyptians and the people from the North Africa are MAGHREBIANS. That was the correct way to say it, if we are Africans, they there’s no Levantine, nor Khalijis but Asians. We can’t classify per continent, specially when Africa and Asia are linked with Egypt. The term “Arab” is refered for the whole Arabic speaking region which goes from Mauritania to Bahrain. And are considered Arab (and not Arabian) the Arabic-speaking people who relate to that except certains linguistic minorities.
        “i will identify as lebanese.” that’s normal as I identify as a Moroccan. But the question is

        Does being lebanese means that you aren’t Arab? Because I don’t see the difference between Arabs and let’s say Hispanics (including Spain). People having differents political structures, histories, but sharing languages and some cultural features… Because you can’t say that Syria has nothing in common with Tunisia or Lebanon with Morocco.

      • Youssef Chaker

        from the first few lines it is obvious that you are not interested in listening to what others have to say, you only are interested in shoving your opinions down other people’s throats. So while you think that you know everyone’s feelings and thoughts and have this wonderful gift of telling why and what people say. I will tell you this, simply put, you are WRONG. My friends did not say what they did say for the reasons you mentioned. PLain and simple, whether you want to accept that fact or not is irrelevant and obviously not your concern. So be it…

      • Kawthar

        Yes and from the last few lines you wrote it is obvious that you aren’t open in debating either (and I do listen what you have to say, I just disagreed when you spoke about North African… which I am allowed to do since I am one). So thank you for this educative exchange of ideas and for your very proper way to answer. And because I am not Lebanese doesn’t mean I can’t express myself on this matter.

        So simply put, according to you, I am WRONG…
        according to me, you are RUDE.

        Have a nice day

        say. I will tell you this, simply put, you are WRONG. My friends did not say what they did say for the reasons you mentioned. PLain and simple, whether you want to accept that fact or not is irrelevant and obviously not your concern. So be it…

  14. I live in Ghana, a country that was colonized by the British. Next to us is Cote D’ivoire, a country colonized by the French.

    In Ghana they sell loafs of bread on the streets. In Cote D’ivoire, they sell baguettes.

  15. Pat

    Maybe a simple inferiority/superiority complex can explain 1 and 2 ?

  16. mariam

    All the comments above are generally true.

    There is the cool factor, theres a historical factor, theres a cultural and political factor and theres an education factor. None of what was said above in my humble opinion is wrong. The Lebanese identity is a very complicated one because it doesn’t have a set boundary.

    With that said, I have no idea who I am then 😛 because in Canada we have an identity problem too!

  17. i think that acceptance is the most important in lebanese Society. it has nothing to do with relgion We are christian and i sent my son to a English school when we lived in Lebanon (he speaks fluent arabic french and english).
    and Lebanon is nooothing like France. i’m sure some people would like to think so…but i dont see the comparision. they are as much alike as Lebanon is with USA.
    for me…i dont care if someone considers themselves, Phonecian or Arab or Mediteranian…all i care is were all Lebanese.

  18. Shop Talk

    What a lovely post 🙂 You know… when moving back here 10 years ago, I thought the same things and had some answers but never ever got such good answers as I did today so thank you.

    As for the “Cool” effect discussed. What’s up with the frenchies shunning the Egyptian old films and music greats like Abel Halim Hafez and Oum Kalthoum. I love them and was raised up to them, even in the States. But when I tell certain people that here (mainly nouveau riche) I get an appalled reaction and a “yiiiiiiiiiiii laaaaa Aznavour and Enrique Macias s’il tu plait”.

  19. We already talked about this today, but I’d like to comment anyway. I may be repeating what people have already said, so sorry about that.
    I think the fact that Lebanon was under the French mandate has highly affected it. Even our laws are inspired from French laws (even if they now need a major update). Take USJ for instance, if you study law there, the first year you start learning about French law before you start taking Lebanese law (note- I am not sure if this is still the case, but it was when my sister was a law major there). However, we are still somewhat less influenced than Algeria or Morocco, in my personal opinion.
    Another thing I’d like to point out is that I can see why you would think Christians are French educated whereas Muslims are more likely to be English educated, but it isn’t 100% accurate. The school I went to is a French school and the students’ backgrounds weren’t really that diverse, and not many of them were Christians.
    I honestly think that “prestige” has a lot to do with speaking French all the time, more so than English. It’s another form of expressing the Lebanese “snobisme”. I tend to see that the people who speak English most of the time are not expressing their social status, but more so that they are westernized/modern/americanized (again, merely opinion, not fact).
    I do agree that it’s sad how the focus in schools is on French/English and not Arabic, it needs to be integrated more, especially in foreign schools. However, I am kind of biased regarding the French educational system. I like the system and the methods they use in their education, I like that they’re strict and consistent. If I had kids, I would send them to French schools, but that’s merely for the education they provide. I cannot say for certain that this is what motivates Lebanese parents to do it.

    The bottom line is, the Lebanese do have a major identity crisis. Whether you consider yourself phoenician, speak and live French or American, they are trying to move away from the label Arab, which has conservative or backward connotations, into something else, whatever it is. You can also see it in the many times we say things such as “Lebanese are better than [insert name of Arab country here]” or that Lebanon is the best country in the middle east.,

    I don’t know why I commented, we already spoke about all of this a few hours ago. 😛

  20. Uxsoup

    French language comes from the mandate and all the missionaries.

    My muslim cousins (blood cousins) are all english educated, the christians are all french. coincidence?

    As for the whole phoenicians/arabs debates.

    It is PURELY political/religious. Phoenicians existed here, neanderthal folks were discovered in Lebanon/Phoenician area


    what phoenicia is:

    Who are the Arabs?

    DNA tests on Lebanese Muslims/Christians

    and google this “The National Genographic Project Dr. Pierre Zalloua”

    Is there a difference between phoenicians and arabs? (history/language/race/culture)
    The short answer is YES.

    Whoever says other than that just loves denying scientific facts and getting all religious and hocus pocus.

    Are Lebanese pure arabs/phoenicians?

    Short answer, HELL NO

    We are mixed races, of Arabs/Phoenicians/Europeans… Again, it’s PURELY political and religious when it comes to people claiming they are Arabs or Phoenicians.

    ’nuff said.

  21. Pingback: Who are the Lebanese And What Is Lebanon? « Seif and his Beiruti Adventures

  22. Armigatus

    1 . A lot of Lebanese have family in Strasbourg or in Lyon, hence the strong ties with the culture.
    I personally attended a French school, and learned Math-Physiques-Chimie-Biologie in the French language, rather than Arabic (or Lebanese). We also learned a lot about the geography of Algeria (an integral part of France once), but very little about Gebran Khalil Gebran. I also still count in French
    L’Orient-Le Jour, C-33, Paris Match, TV5, … Why would we forget a language spoken by 500 millions around the globe?

    2 . When people confused Arabism with Islam, the non-Arabs naturally felt excluded, and looked for an identity of their own, and hence ‘Lebanese’, or ‘Phoenicians.’ Snobbism is another reason.

    4 . It is said that those who learn the French language first find it easier to learn English later, than the other way around.

  23. Zuzana

    This is somehow a very belated reply and I would think that you have found your answers by now. However, I thought you might find it useful to listen to the lecture by Akram Khater – “Phoenician, Lebanese or Arab: Crafting a Christian Identity in the Middle East” at the John Hope Franklin Center, North Carolina – he gives a very insightful explanation about creating Christian identity in Lebanon – and it will answer all your questions above and more! You can listen to it for free on iTunesU

  24. Pingback: I've been doing some research... - Page 4 - Cameldog Mixed Martial Arts Forums

  25. Nabil

    Brothers and Sisters!
    Hi everyone! The issue that you’re dealing with is not as complicated as you’re seeing. The truth about what identity to choose with all the aspects that it entails such as certain customs and lifestyle is closely related to the religion based culture that some Lebanese people feel they belong to.

    If you can see, even though some of the Muslim population learn either French or English as a second or third language. In most cases this doesn’t affect their religion based culture because culture in Lebanon in particular is largely influenced by religion whether we agree or not.

    Since the Christian community here in Lebanon has in general close ties notably with France (because of the French mandate and the foreign missionaries). It’s normal to find most Lebanese Christians adopt the western lifestyle in general.

    Most Muslims tend to adhere themselves to the Arabic nations rather than the western ones because they represent for them similar customs and traditions let’s say (they neither eat pork nor drink alcohol) and they have the same religious feasts. So based on that it’s natural to find a conflict regarding the Lebanese identity especially that the government is a heterogeneous force and that any change in the constitution would require a general agreement.

    Truth be told, Lebanon would never have a clear and accurate identity unless one of its political components have a dominance over the rest.

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