The difference between a politician, and a statesman

MP Aswad later explained his charge to include all ministries that are headed by Muslim ministers. He accused them of being engaged in an anti-Christian plot.
by Bassem Ajami

5 January 2019 | 15:36

Source: by Annahar

  • by Bassem Ajami
  • Source: Annahar
  • Last update: 5 January 2019 | 15:36

People gather in front of the Parliament Building, after Lebanese security forces removed roadblocks and barbed wire barriers surrounding the commercial district, which for years had been choked off by security measures, in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018. (AP)

BEIRUT: Last week, MP Ziad Aswad made a very serious accusation. He said that the ministry of finance is targeting Christian owned companies for tax purposes while turning a blind eye on Muslim owned companies.

MP Aswad later explained his charge to include all ministries that are headed by Muslim ministers. He accused them of being engaged in an anti-Christian plot.

But MP Aswad did not provide any evidence to support his sweeping accusations. Instead, he challenged the ministry of finance to disprove them.

Yet the burden of proof is on him and not on the ministry of finance.

And this is an allegation that is easy to prove if correct.

All that MP Aswad needs to do is produce a list of, say, five companies owned by Christians, compare it with another list of Muslim owned companies, and check if their tax obligations match. The two lists must be of companies engaged in the same line of business.

Having made the accusations, one assumes that MP Aswad has already done his homework and based his allegations on facts.

But MP Aswad has thus far failed to support his serious allegations. This leads one to believe that he is trying to agitate sectarian divisions for political ends. A tool popular with Lebanese politicians.

However, MP Asawd is no ordinary politician. He belongs to the block of President Michel Aoun, and he heads the committee to fight corruption in his party. One thus may assume that his views reflect those of the president. This is especially so since the president did not comment on MP Aswad's sweeping accusations.

In the absence of any supporting evidence to his allegations, the only conclusion one may reach is that MP Aswad is playing the sectarian card, and he is doing it from the bottom of the deck.

Still, the fact that MP Aswad belongs to the parliamentary block of President Aoun makes his accusation even more serious, whether proven or not.

If proven to be true, it means that the president is keeping quiet on a gross violation of the rights of Christians. If not, it points to a presidential role in invoking the sectarian card for political ends, something that President Aoun has vowed to combat on several occasions.

Of course, MP Aswad is not the only politician to use sectarian issues to advance his political fortunes. It is always easy to use religion to win popular support. It is much easier than seeking such support by addressing issues that affect the daily lives of all Lebanese, such as healthcare, education, unemployment, and housing.

An ordinary politician uses an easy way to win popularity. A statesman, on the other hand, chooses the other, harder, way.

Mr. Ajami is a freelance researcher, writer and contributor to The Arab Weekly, London. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Annahar.

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