Research on violent spillovers in civil war has often exaggerated the potential for conflict contagion. The case of Lebanon is a counter-example. Despite the massive pressure of the horrific war in next-door Syria, it has, against all odds, remained remarkably stable – despite the influx of more than 1 million Syrian refugees and almost complete institutional blockage. This paper, based on ethnographic research and semi-structured interviews from Lebanon, studies the determination to avoid a violent spillover into Lebanon from the perspective of the country's Sunni Islamists. Recent trends in the scholarly literature have shown that Islamists are not inherently revolutionary, nor always dogmatists, and often serve many social purposes at home. The main argument is that the Syrian war has not been imported into Lebanon; instead, the Lebanese conflict is externalized to Syria. Lebanon's conflicting factions, including the Islamists, have found the costs of resorting to violence inside Lebanon to be too high. Even those Lebanese Sunnis who have crossed the borders to fight in Syria do so because of domestic reasons, that is, to fight against Hezbollah on Syria soil, where they can do so without risking an explosion of the Lebanese security situation. Sectarianism, in the sense of opposition to Hezbollah and the Lebanese Shia, is the main driver of radicalization for Lebanese Sunnis.
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Research Article| April 01 2017
Limiting violent spillover in civil wars: the paradoxes of Lebanese Sunni jihadism, 2011–17
Contemporary Arab Affairs (2017) 10 (2): 187–206.
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Tine Gade; Limiting violent spillover in civil wars: the paradoxes of Lebanese Sunni jihadism, 2011–17. Contemporary Arab Affairs 1 April 2017; 10 (2): 187–206. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/17550912.2017.1311601
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