Muhamad Mugraby is a Lebanese lawyer, human rights defender and president of the Center for Democracy and the Rule of Law. He wrote this article for THE DAILY STAR.

By Muhamad Mugraby, There is little doubt that Lebanon has no future as an independent and democratic political entity without the establishment of, and full respect for, the rule of law. The question is: Which rule of law? A rule of law on the legal tradition which Lebanon borrowed from Western Europe, which may be referred to as the "civil rule of law," or a rule of law based on Lebanon’s pre-statehood and original tradition of Islamic law, which could correctly be called the "Islamic rule of law?" The failure of the civil rule of law to take hold would make it inevitable for the Islamic rule of law to take over.   Among the most elementary requirements for the civil rule of law which Lebanon had to observe is the development of a body of statutes sanctioned by a legitimate legislature, constitutionally established (i. e. a duly elected parliament). This task has been mostly fulfilled by borrowing and Arabizing text from French law. But so far many other necessary requirements have not been met, such as, by way of illustration:

A. The existence of one legitimate constitutional government, recognized by the people as legitimate and sovereign, with all three branches constituted as per the constitution: the executive (Cabinet), the legislative (Parliament) and the judicial (courts of law), governed by law and accountable in accordance with the law with honor and integrity.

B. Equality under the law with no discrimination for reasons such as religion or gender, already provided under Article 7 of the Constitution.

C. Equal application of the law, which requires consistency in interpretation of the rules and in their application to citizens.

D. Respect for human rights, particularly in the prevention of arbitrary detention and all forms of torture, safeguarding the rights of defense and avoidance of denial of justice.

Lebanon’s dismal failure on all these fronts flagrantly and flatly contradicts its subscription, in its statute book, to the West European legal model. Hence, a full and candid diagnosis is urgently called for.

It would not be an exaggeration to recognize that the entire modern political history of the Republic of Lebanon revolves around the open issue of maintaining Maronite Christian political supremacy, or at least parity, vis-

Louis IX promised protection to the Maronite patriarch and his flock similar to that accorded to the French themselves. The French king was declared a saint by the Catholic Church after he led three unsuccessful crusading campaigns into Egypt, Palestine and Tunisia, with the last of his crusades ending with his death.

The Crusades came to a final end with the defeat of the crusaders in Tripoli in 1289 followed by their defeat in Acre in 1291. In the ensuing battles in the hills around Tripoli with certain Maronite forces formerly allied with the crusaders, Maronite Patriarch Antoine himself was killed. It was unprecedented that a leader of the Christian clergy was killed by Muslim soldiers.


The Republic of Lebanon stands on territories that were, for several centuries, part of the Ottoman Sultanate, and before that, from the seventh century AD, of many Islamic kingdoms commencing with the three historic Caliphates of the Rashideen, the Umayyads and the Abbasids. The French claimed the Ottoman territories of Syria, including those that were to become the State of Greater Lebanon, pursuant to a secret pact they had concluded with Britain on May 16, 1916, called the Sykes-Picot Agreement, defining the way the two countries wished to distribute among themselves the Ottoman territories of the Middle East after the expected defeat of the Ottomans in World War I. In short, the agreement allotted Iraq and Palestine to the British and Syria and Lebanon to the French. The Sykes-Picot Agreement was in sharp conflict with the pact that the British had with the Arab Kingdom of Hijaz led by Prince (later King) Faisal, a kingdom that fielded military forces that fought the Ottomans on the British side. So Faisal entered Damascus and established his government there on the faith of the Arab-British agreement. He accepted the declaration of loyalty from Beirut and Baabda, the seat of the autonomous Sunjuk of Mount Lebanon, and his flags were raised both in Beirut and in Baabda.

The Sykes-Picot Agreement was revealed by Lenin following the Bolshevik Revolution, and it became a matter of time before the true intentions of the allies, France and Britain, were tested. When Faisal refused to relinquish Damascus peacefully, the French Army, led by General Henri Gouraud, defeated the Arab army at Maysaloun, on the outskirts of Damascus, on July 24, 1920, and, the following day, entered the city triumphantly. The French general promptly visited the tomb of Saladin and announced to the dead Muslim hero that his people, known to the contemporaries of Saladin as the "Franks," were indeed back. After securing Damascus, Gouraud returned to Beirut where, on August 31, 1920, he issued a decree declaring the annexation of the occupied Welayat of Beirut, including most of South Lebanon and part of the Bekaa, the Welayat of Tripoli, including Dinnieh and Akkar, and parts of the Welayat of Damascus, being the Qada of Bekaa, the Qada of Baalbek, the Qada of Hasbaya, and the Qada of Rashaya, to Mount Lebanon. The following day, September 1, 1920, Gouraud issued another decree declaring the birth of "Greater Lebanon" from all those territories. On September 29, 1923, France received a League of Nations mandate over Syria and Greater Lebanon. In 1926, Greater Lebanon was renamed the "Republic of Lebanon" under the constitution of May 23 of that year.

Fall of the Ottoman Empire

The peoples of the Middle East were deeply wounded with the resounding defeat of the Ottoman Army at the hands of the British, and the routing of King Faysal’s Arab forces at the hands of the French, and were further profoundly insulted by the treachery of the British. Gouraud was a reincarnation of a sort of Louis. Saladin, Kurdish by ancestry, was a native of Baalbek and an all-time Muslim/Arab hero. But now he was being derided in his grave with the remarks of the arrogant French general who believed that he was in Beirut and Damascus to fulfill the mission of the Crusaders. From there on the destiny of the Republic of Lebanon was heavily influenced by the conflict between Western influence, successively led by France, Britain and the United States, and Lebanese aspirations for real independence in harmony with Lebanon’s natural Arab/Islamic environment.

Gouraud Declares ‘Greater Lebanon’

When General Gouraud was making his announcement of Greater Lebanon, he had Maronite Patriarch Elias Hoayek on his right side. It is true that on Gouraud’s left side was the mufti of Beirut, Mustafa Naja. But the mufti’s presence was little more than d