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From Coexistence to Conflict

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Date Submitted:
01/28/2010 01:28 AM
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From Coexistence to Conflict

in 19th Century Mount Lebanon





Mount Lebanon has been a troubled region throughout much of Lebanese history. Through most of the 19th century, the Maronite and Druze inhabitants of the Mount Lebanon region had successfully coexisted in an intricate inter-sectarian system. True to the words of Leila Fawaz, “Lebanon was at peace, as it had been for most of its history.” Excessive foreign intervention, however, caused the status in Mount Lebanon to move from coexistence to conflict, which ultimately led to the civil war of 1860.

The first step that led to the emergence of inter-sect rule in Lebanon was the gaining of autonomy by local rulers. Fakhr al-Din al Maani was the first prince in the region, and he was awarded that title and responsibility by the Ottomans as a reward for his loyalty to them. Prior to Fakhr al-Din, Lebanon did not have an autonomous ruler; it was fully controlled by the Ottomans. The Maanis, however, were not only supported by the Ottomans, but by the local citizens as well, and this common support for a single ruler helped bring about inter-sectarianism. The Druze-Maronite inter-sectarian system gained its roots during the reign of Fakhr al-Din II, who raised the Maronites to the same civil status as their Druze counterparts. This equal status allowed both sects to live peacefully among each other. Fakhr al-Din’s reign soon came to an end though in 1635, when the Ottomans, who had control over Lebanon at the time, captured and executed Fakhr al-Din for trying to expand the area under his control. By upsetting the balance between local and Ottoman rule, Fakhr al-Din brought about the end of his reign as prince. After two insignificant rulers, the princedom fell to the Shihab family, which would rule the Mount Lebanon region from 1697 to 1842.

During the long reign of the Shihab family, the Maronites had slowly started to gain power as the Druze began to weaken. The...
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