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Mediation And Society: Conflict Management In Lebanon (Studies On Law And Social Control) [NEW]


The purpose of this essay is to explore and analyze non-Western modes and rituals of conflict reduction in Arab-Islamic societies. The necessity for such a study also stems from the dearth of available works relating conflict management and resolution processes to indigenous rituals of reconciliation. There is a need to fathom the deep cultural, social, and religious roots that underlie the way Arabs behave when it comes to conflict reduction and reconciliation.




Mediation and Society: Conflict Management in Lebanon (Studies on law and social control)



Religious beliefs and traditions are also relevant to conflict control and reduction, including the relevant resources in Islamic law and tradition? Different causes and types of conflicts (family, community, and state conflicts) need to be considered, as do indigenous techniques and procedures, such as wasta (patronage-mediation) and tahkeem (arbitration). The rituals of sulh (settlement) and musalaha (reconciliation) are examples of Arab-Islamic culture and values and should be looked at for insight into how to approach conflict resolution in the Middle East. Finally, there is the need to consider the implications of these issues and insights for practitioners and policy makers. To what extent is an integration of Western and non-Western models of conflict reduction and reconciliation possible?


Conference participants were initially uncomfortable with and suspicious of the theory and techniques of Western conflict resolution. Mixed feelings were expressed about the applicability of conflict resolution in the Lebanese social context. A Christian banker who was educated in the United States noted that conflict resolution theory was initially forged in labor management relations in the United States and that later it was applied to business and then to community relations and academia. He raised an important methodological question: “How can a theory which is supposed to be dealing with definite, programmed, institutionalized relationships deal with the unprogrammed, informal, and random relationships characteristic of social and political contexts in a totally different society?”


A Muslim academic and social activist declared that a better concept would be “conflict management” because “it is impossible completely to solve conflicts; the existence of conflicts goes together with human existence.” He raised the related point that conflicts were interrelated, the resolution of one conflict was contingent upon the resolution of other conflicts. “The crisis of Lebanon and the Middle East are the best proof of what I am saying,” he concluded.11


Sociologically, the peoples of the Middle East remain famous for their loyal attachment to their families, distinctive rituals of hospitality and conflict mediation, and effective and flexible kin-based collectivities, such a s the lineage and the tribe, which until quite recently performed most of t he social, economic, and political functions of communities in the absence of centralized state governments.16 Family in the Middle East is dominated by the powerful role patriarchy plays in decision-making.17 The father’s authority in his family is an integral p art of the more general authority system. Patriarchal authority maintains not only the genealogical cohesiveness of the family but also the cohesiveness of social life. This patriarchal pattern of power is made concrete and takes shape in the primacy of the zaim (leader) of the family. The zaim controls and defends the cohesiveness of the family inside the group as well as in the relationships between the family and other families. The zaim acts as the family referee and sanctions conflicts that erupt within his family, while controlling the solidarity and support within and between family members. He acts as the family’s ambassador towards outsiders. Given that every village is made up of many families, each family is headed by a zaim. The heads of each family form the assembly of the village zuama’.18


The Middle Eastern rituals of sulh (settlement) and musalaha (reconciliation) are alternative and indigenous forms of conflict control and reduction. The sulh ritual, which is an institutionalized form of conflict management and control, has its origins in tribal and village contexts. “The sulh ritual stresses the close link between the psychological and political dimensions of communal life through its recognition that injuries between individuals and groups will fester and expand if not acknowledged, repaired, forgiven and transcended.”31


*: George E. Irani is Visiting Assistant Professor in Political Science at Washington College. Between 1993 and 1997, he was a faculty member in Political Science at the Lebanese American University (formerly Beirut University College, where he taught courses on conflict resolution, and was one of the founders of the Lebanese Conflict Resolution Network (LCRN). In 1997-1998, he was a Jennings Randolph Senior Fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace. This paper is based on the research he conducted at USIP on rituals of reconciliation in the Arab-Islamic traditions. Back.Note 1: See Muhammad Abu-Nimer, “Conflict Resolution in an Islamic Context: Some Conceptual Questions,” Peace and Change, Vol. 21, No.1 (January 1996), pp. 22-40. Back.Note 2: The author was introduced to conflict resolution and trained to teach and apply its skills by Dr. Merle Lefkoff, an experienced facilitator based in New Mexico. Back.Note 3: This world view is in line with a utilitarian philosophy which pervades intellectual debates in the United States. Back.Note 4: For further details, see Paul Salem, “ A Critique of Western Conflict Resolution from a non-Western Perspective, ” in Paul Salem, ed. Conflict Resolution in the Arab World (Beirut: Lebanon: American University of Beirut, 1997). Back.Note 5: Western processes of conflict resolution range across a continuum that include situations in which parties have most control (communication, collaboration and negotiation) to situations where parties have least control (mediation and arbitration). Back.Note 6: Laura Nader, “Conflict: Anthropological Aspects,” in David L. Sills, ed. International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, Vol. 3 and 4 (New York: The MacMillan Co. and The Free Press, 1968), p. 236. Back.Note 7: For further discussion of victimization and its central role in the perpetuation of conflicts, see Joseph V. Montville, “Psychoanalytic Enlightenment and the Greening of Diplomacy,” in Vamik D. Volkan, Joseph V. Montville, and Demetrius A. Julius, eds., The Psychodynamics of International Relations, Volume II (Lexington, Massachusetts: Lexington Books, 1991). Back.Note 8: See Abraham H. Maslow, Motivation and Personality, Third Edition (New York and London: Harper and Row, 1987). Back.Note 9: In his influential book, Getting to Yes, Roger Fisher writes that interest-based negotiation, has four basic elements: 1)separate the people from the problem; 2) focus on interests, not positions; 3)invent options for mutual gain; and 4) insist on using objective criteria. For further details, see Roger Fisher and William Ury, Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In, Second Edition (New York: Penguin Books, 1991). Back.Note 10: The author, together with his wife, Laurie E. King-Irani, organized the conference in Lebanon. Funded in part by the U.S. Institute of Peace, this conference was the first organized discussion of the applicability and relevance of acknowledgment, forgiveness, and reconciliation to conflicts in Lebanon and the Middle East. Back.Note 11: These comments can be found in George Emile Irani, “Acknowledgment, Forgiveness, and Reconciliation in Conflict Resolution: Perspectives from Lebanon,” in George E. Irani and Laurie E. King-Irani, eds. Lessons from Lebanon (forthcoming). Back.Note 12: ibid. Back.Note 13: There are no official figures regarding the number of Lebanese kidnapped and “disappeared” during the ar. Recent figures published in some Lebanese media sources mention the number of kidnapped Lebanese o be around 17,000. Most are unaccounted for and presumed dead. Back.Note 14: As of this writing, only one warlord, Dr. Samir Geagea, head of the Maronite-Christian dominated militia of the “Lebanese Forces” (now dissolved), was put on trial and is serving a life sentence in jail. Back.Note 15: Michael Meeker, Literature and Violence in North Arabia (Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 1979), p. 7. Back.Note 16: For further details see Laurie E. King-Irani, “Kinship, Class and Ethnicity: Strategies for Survival in the Contemporary Middle East,” in Deborah Gerner, ed. Understanding the Contemporary Middle East (Lynne Rienner Publisher, 1999). Back.Note 17: A thorough groundbreaking analysis on the role patriarchy plays in the Middle East can be found in Hisham Sharabi, Neopatriarchy: A Theory of Distorted Change in Arab Society (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988). Back.Note 18: Ibid. Back.Note 19: For a thorough analysis of Egyptian and Arab politics in general see the work of the Lebanese-American scholar, Fouad Ajami, The Arab Predicament: Arab Political Thought and Practice Since 1967 (Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 1981). Back.Note 20: In Iraq, Saddam Hussein and his family, from the Sunni Muslim village of Takrit in north-central Iraq, have dominated Iraqi politics since the early 1970s. The same applies to Syria, where President Hafiz al-Assad’s minority Alawi community holds all reins of power. Both Saddam Hussein and Hafez al-Assad are now grooming their sons to take over power in their respective countries. Back.Note 21: Meeker, op.cit. p. 19. Back.Note 22: See my The Papacy and the Middle East: The Role of the Holy See in the Arab-Israeli Conflict (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1989). Back.Note 23: Regarding the legal status of non-Muslim minorities, see Antoine Fattal, Le statut legal des non-Musulmans en pays d’Islam (Beirut: Imprimerie Catholique, 1958). Back.Note 24: Michael C. Hudson, Arab Politics: The Search for Legitimacy (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997), p. 58. Back.Note 25: Halim Barakat, The Arab World: Society, Culture, and State (Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1993), p.77. Back.Note 26: Bassam Tibi, “The Simultaneity of the Unsimultaneous: Old Tribes and Imposed Nation-States in the Modern Middle East,” in Philip S. Khoury and Joseph Kostiner, eds., Tribes and State Formation in the Middle East (Berkeley, California: University of California Pres, 1990), p. 147-149. Back.Note 27: See Hazem al-Ameen, “Beirut: The Arab Women’s Tribunal Symbolized in an Angry Body,” Al-Hayat, March 6, 1998, p.24. Back.Note 28: Edmund R. Leach, “Ritual” in David L. Sills, ed. International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, Vols. 3 and 4, (New York: The Macmillan Co. and the Free Press, 1968), pp. 520-526. Back.Note 29: Anthony Giddens, Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in the Modern Age (Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 1991), p. 204. Back.Note 30: For an excellent analysis of the legal system in the Arab world see the book by Nathan J. Brown, The Rule of Law in the Arab World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997). Back.Note 31: Laurie E. King-Irani, “Rituals of Reconciliation and Processes of Empowerment in Post-War Lebanon,” in I. William Zartman, ed. Traditional Cures for Modern Conflicts: African Conflict Medicine, (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publisher, 1999). Back.Note 32: For further details see Nizar Hamzeh, “The Role of Hizbullah in Conflict Management Within Lebanon’s Shia Community,” in Paul Salem, ed. op.cit. ,p.93-118. Back.Note 33: M. Khadduri, “Sulh” in C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, W.P. Heinrichs, and G. Lecomte, The Encyclopedia of Islam, Volume IX, (Leiden, Holand: Brill, 1997), p.845-846. Back.Note 34: Ibid. Back.Note 35: For further details on Jordanian bedouin rituals of reconciliation see Mohammad Abu-Hassan, Turath al Badu’ al-Qada’I (Bedouin Customary Law) (Amman, Jordan: Manshuraat Da’irat As Saqafa wa al-Funun, 1987), p. 257-259. Back.Note 36: King-Irani, op.cit. Back.Note 37: For further details on the basic principles of sulh as applied in the Galilee, see Elias J. Jabbour, SULHA: Palestinian Traditional Peacemaking Process (Shefar’Am, Israel: House of Hope Publications, 1996). Back.Note 38: Surah 1:178 in The Holy Qur’an, Text, Translation and Commentary, Abdullah Yusuf ’Ali, New Revised Edition (Brentwood, MD: Amana Corporation, 1989). Back.Note 39: Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1958), pp. 200-201. Back.Note 40: King-Irani, op.cit. Back.Note 41: Thomas Butler, “Blood Feuds and Traditional Forms of Peacebuilding in the Old Yugoslavia,” Unpublished paper. Quoted by permission of the author. Back.


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