Lebanese Culture


According to the CIA World Factbook, 54% of Lebanon is Muslim and 40.5% is Christian. Christian denominations in Lebanon include Maronite Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Melkite Catholic, Armenian Orthodox, Armenian Catholic and Protestant. There is also a small Jewish population. The Muslim population is split evenly between Sunni and Shi’ite denominations. An additional 5.6% of the Lebanese population is Druze; however, many Muslims do not consider the Druze faith to be entirely Islamic and thus reject its followers as part of the Muslim populace.

Among Lebanese-born people living in Australia, the 2011 Census showed that 43.9% were Muslim, 36.6% were Catholic Christians and 9.4% were Eastern Orthodox Christians; 7.6% belonged to a different sect of Christianity or a different religion.

Religion provides social identity in Lebanon – in fact, citizens’ identity cards specify their religion. There are 18 different religious sects recognised within the Muslim and Christian religions. Each is considered to represent a significant Lebanese community. Parliamentary representation is organised to reflect these partitions in society, and so seats are apportioned according to the dispersion of religion. The ratio of Christians to Muslims in Parliament used to be kept at 6:5. However it is now at 1:1. Eight seats are reserved for Druze representation. This government structuring is said to prevent any religious community being privileged over others.

With a division of faiths recognised in the population and government, the legal system is not uniform for all citizens. Much family law (e.g. divorce, custody, inheritance) is administered by religious courts as Muslims and Christians abide by different standards and proceedings.

Some Lebanese people do not actually practise or observe a religion, yet identify with one given its role in the judicial and governmental systems.

Druze in Lebanon
The Druze faith is an ethno-religious Islamic-based faith. Its followers believe in the origins and Abrahamic foundations of Islam. However, it varies from conventional Islam in that it does not follow the practice of the Five Pillars of Islam. Druze people do not fast during Ramadan or necessarily make the pilgrimage to Mecca. They also incorporate some different philosophical elements into their thinking and beliefs.

The Druze consider themselves to be descendants of a select group of ‘inaugurated’ people. Therefore, people are born into the religion and traditionally no conversion is allowed in or out of the faith. They may try to protect their religion by living in isolated communities or praying as Muslims or Christians to blend in. However, this secrecy and caution of the religion’s sanctity is dissipating in contemporary Lebanon.
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