Give malice no quarter

File - Lebanese soldiers check damage inside the Virgin Mary church in the predominantly Christian city of Zahle, Sunday, March 27, 2011. (AP Photo)

The news that an extremist group Thursday issued a wide-ranging threat against Christian places of worship in Lebanon has been met with the right kind of response by the authorities, namely skepticism.

The group, which calls itself the Free Sunni Brigade of Baalbek, certainly has a presence online, but there is little firm information in terms of its actual membership or clout on the ground.

Its threat to destroy symbols of Christianity in the Bekaa Valley and rest of Lebanon should not be ignored altogether, and the authorities are diligent enough to maintain their already-in-place security measures at places of worship, both Christian and Muslim.

The group, it should be noted, has recently claimed responsibility for a terror attack in Iran, and vowed to seize the Shiite village of Brital in the Bekaa Valley, statements that only add to the general climate of skepticism.

In recent years, there have been dire predictions about wide-scale violence pitting Lebanon’s Sunnis against its Shiites, but despite a string of terror attacks, these apocalyptic scenarios have not come to pass. Perhaps we are now seeing a similar attempt, to stir up tensions between Muslims versus Christians.

While tension exists, it’s for obvious political reasons, and the political and spiritual authorities do have a fine line to walk. They must avoid giving such shadowy threats more significance than they deserve, without letting down their guard against such tiny groups who think they can ignite a general conflagration.

Lebanon is a country of minorities and it has withstood repeated attempts to sow division; the smartest response is to deprive fanatics of any kind of tool that can play into their hands.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 04, 2014, on page 7.




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