ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

Back to Paper Details

The mobilisation campaigns within the religious field in Tripoli (Lebanon) in the aftermath of the Hariri assassination

Tine Gade
Norwegian Institute of International Affairs
Tine Gade
Norwegian Institute of International Affairs
Open Panel

Abstract

This paper aims at analysing the collateral effects of the Syro-Lebanese post 2005 political crisis within the religious field in poor Sunni areas in Northern Lebanon. After the Syrian withdrawal in April 2005, the political opportunity structure changed significantly, from heavy repression to a sentiment amongst youth, activists, and regular Lebanese that “there was no way back”, signalling hope for profound changes in the political and legal systems and social values, beyond the question of Syrian withdrawal. Using the French sociologist Michel Dobry’s notion of a political crisis as our independent variable, we analyse its impacts on the scope and orientation of the contentious collective action in Northern Lebanon – i.e. a set of mobilisations and counter-mobilisations between 2005 and 2010 – which created and sustained the political crisis. With the Syrian withdrawal in April 26, the routine conjuncture of repression that had existed since the consolidation of the Pax Syriana in 1990 fell. Actors lost their sense of stable reference points. How did different grass-roots movements exploit the perceived security vacuum generated by the political crisis to launch private actions of their own? To tackle this question, we examine how actors within the religious field exploited the post 2005 political crisis in order to regain a margin of manoeuvre, re-assert the autonomy of the religious field vis-à-vis the political one, and forge direct links with financial donors in Gulf countries. Lebanon is an interesting case study because the presence of a non-state army, Hezbollah, whose capacities are far stronger than those of the state, has made the Lebanese state lose its monopoly of the legitimate use of force. The case of Tripoli shows that it is not only in the South and in the Palestinian refugee camps that “pockets of insecurity” exist. The strength of the group, associated with the Lebanese Shia community, has generated fear, jealously, and imitation amongst Lebanese Sunnis. The case of the Tripoli Islamist movements cooperating with mainstream Lebanese politicians shows that within a heterogeneous social movement (united against Syria) very different interests and motives can co-exist, whose actors may not share an idea of the legitimate range of actions. In conclusion, having analysed the effect of the Syro-Lebanese political crisis upon the activity of the local religious field, we draw comparisons with the multi-sectorial mobilisations that have taken place in other Arab countries very recently, in the context of processes of delegitimation, such as in Egypt, Yemen, and Tunisia.