We have no idea if we are going or not. This is the road to the airport as of this morning. It continues to be blocked by Hezbollah as an expression of their power along with the demand for more. The political situation is far too complex for any Westerner to figure out, though I read a lot! One interesting source is the British reporter living in West Beirut. He’s not a fan of American policy, but has a lot of insight into the life. Read him here at http://www.independent.co.uk/news/fisk/
Today’s New York Times has two articles that give a perspective on the very conservative side is Islam. One is "Love’s Rules Vex and Entrance Young Saudis," a portrait of romance in Saudi Arabia. It’s here and tells of young men marrying women they’ve never seen prior to the wedding along with their commitment to protect their women. It shows well the strengths and challenges of the society.
The other is a reminder that under strict Islamic law, Barack Obama is Muslim because his father is Muslim. It’s here. His mother’s Christian background is irrelevant. His own decision to become Christian and live his particular version of Christianity only makes him an apostate Muslim. His conversion with its connotations of rebellion and treason against Islam is the worst of all crimes that a Muslim can commit, worse than murder. Under this strict Islamic law, the sort promoted by Hezbollah, he should be executed. That same strict interpretation prohibits punishment for any Muslim who kills any apostate, and effectively prohibits interference with such a killing. If he were to become president, it could complicate relations with conservative Muslims as they become aware of his conversion.
One point of significance of Lebanon continuing to be a multi-religion democracy is that it is the only Arabic speaking country were a Muslim background believer can study in a Christian school. Christians have a lot of freedom to practice their religion in many Muslim nations, but open conversion is not one of those freedoms. In more strict areas, it risks ostracism and in some cases death. One well known example was in Iran in 1994. Pope John Paul II and others won a Christian convert a last-minute reprieve, but the man was abducted and killed shortly after his release. This is extreme, but a real risk in these areas.
There are as many varieties of Islam as Christianity, ranging from very liberal, to quite secular, to very mystical, to fundamentalist. It’s no more fair to judge one group by what another does than to judge all Christians by the practices of fundamenalists who refuse to take their sick children to physicians. But Hezbollah is a conservative movement. Their victory in Lebanon would make major changes in the freedoms Christians have observed for centuries in this beautiful place.