The end of the Lebanese Civil War (1975–90) brought a renewed insistence on the coexistence of Muslims and Christians. The “formula of Christian-Muslim coexistence” would seem to circumvent any injunction for the separation of religion and the state along “Western European” lines—for example, laïcité as state ideology—and to allow for religion to mark the state in one shape or another, without that entailing the legal grounding of the state in sharia as is prevalent among Arab states. It would seem an appropriate compromise between two different visions of the state, visions that are bound with the different experiences that Christians and Muslims have had of the circumstances and processes in which the modern Lebanese state was formed. “Muslim-Christian coexistence” would make it possible to deal adequately with religious difference and some of its more destructive political consequences. But, is it the case that the principle is as exclusive of the secular as it appears? In this article, the author argues that Christian-Muslim coexistence is a distinctively Lebanese articulation of a secular sensibility, one that privileges certain ways of being Muslim or Christian, ways that would require Christians and Muslims to constitute themselves, or be constituted, as proper legal subjects.

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