Lebanon was divided. In recent days, politicians have suddenly decided to postpone the change to summer time by a month. The main Christian church in the country disagreed and ordered the clocks to be changed. Major TV stations did not agree to this either. But already the Muslims stayed in winter time. The airlines also listened to the government.
In struggling with a whole litany of crises Lebanon religious and political divisions that have been deepening for years have just gained a completely new, even absurd dimension.
Prime Minister Najib Mikati decided on Thursday that the change from winter to summer time will take place in his country on April 20, and not, as it used to be – like almost 70 countries around the world – on the last weekend of March.
Longer winter time, shorter fasting
Prime Minister Mikati, a Sunni Muslim, announced the decision after meeting with Shi’ite parliament speaker Nabih Berri, who had repeatedly pressed for a one-month extension to daylight saving time.
The agency refers to a video recording of the meeting published by the Lebanese Megaphone portal. “Instead of moving the clocks to seven o’clock, make it six o’clock until the end of Ramadan,” Berri insisted in the video.
While no official reason has been given for the decision, it is seen as beneficial to practicing Muslims. Thanks to it, during Ramadan, the month of great fasting in Islam, the faithful will be able to break the fast an hour earlier, around 6 pm instead of 7 pm, the agency notes.
During Ramadan, Muslims worship the revelation of the Koran to the Prophet Muhammad. Strict fasting during the day during this time is one of the five most important principles of Islam – along with the shahada (statement of faith), prayers, almsgiving and the pilgrimage to Mecca. Strict fasting – abstaining from food and drink, as well as smoking and sexual intercourse – is obligatory from sunrise to sunset for healthy believers who are 10 years old.
One country, two time zones
Lebanon’s influential Moronite Church – the country’s largest Christian community – meanwhile announced on Saturday that it would not comply with Prime Minister Mikati’s decision. Church authorities say no consultations have been held on the matter, and staying in winter time until April 20 is a departure from international standards.
The Moronites announced that on Saturday evening they would move the clocks forward one hour, sticking to the current schedule. Other Christian organizations, political groups and schools have announced they will do the same, Reuters reported.
Media companies and organizations, including Lebanon’s two major news channels LBCI and MTV, also said they would enter daylight saving time on Saturday night. The LCBI issued a statement saying that it would not comply with the prime minister’s decision as it would hamper the work of the station. “Lebanon is not an island,” it said.
The Lebanese national airline Middle East Airlines has decided the opposite – that, according to the decision of the government, they will stay during the winter time. The carrier also announced that it would adjust the flight schedule in such a way as to comply with international schedules.
In this way, on Sunday, Lebanese people woke up de facto in two different time zones. For Muslims, it is still winter time, and Christians – summer time.
This very unusual situation further deepens the divisions in the country, exhausted by many years of civil war and internal conflicts, struggling with a powerful economic crisis, the effects of regional humanitarian disasters, or dramatic explosion in the port of Beirut.
Lebanon officially recognizes 18 religious communities – four Muslim, 12 Christian, Judaism and the Druze religious group. As the BBC explains, it is this religious diversity that makes the country an easy target for external interference, as evidenced by the Iran Shia Hezbollah. Since the end of the civil war, the political leaders of each religious community have maintained their power and influence through a system of protective networks protecting their interests.
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