The association published a book called "Islam Is Our Message" for the subject of Islamic education, which is included in all school grades. The book has become the most common in schools belonging to the Shia sect as well as in non-religious schools located in Shia-dominant areas. There are no equivalent books in schools belonging to other Muslim sects.

Naim Qassem, currently the second in command of Hezbollah, is a founding member of the Islamic Religious Education Association. His relationship with the association these days is undisclosed, yet it is obvious Qassem still plays a major role, having sponsored many of its events.

At Khamenei and Khomeini′s service

Hassan graduated from Haret Hreik's Al-Mustafa, where he spent his entire school career. The extracurricular activities were not out of the ordinary, while its education level was relatively high, he says. As for the religious education, Hassan said there was one hour per week dedicated to the subject of religion and another to studying the Koran.

Hassan points out that the children of Hezbollah's martyrs who are enrolled in Al-Mustafa schools are exempt from tuition fees. He also said flags of Hezbollah are plenty inside the school premises along with photos of Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his predecessor Ruhollah Khomeini.

Maytham, another Al-Mustafa graduate, said the school's board called on students in 2007 to take part in protests organised by the March 8 Alliance against the government of then-Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. The school also provided buses to transport the students to the venue of the demonstrations.

Hezbollah supporter protesting against the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora (photo: AFP/Getty Images)
Mobilising against the political foe: one graduate of the private Al-Mustafa school, admits that the school's board called on students in 2007 to take part in protests organised by the March 8 Alliance against the government of then-Prime Minister Fouad Siniora

By the early 1990s, more Islamic educational institutions were emerging, including the Islamic Organisation for Education that is directly affiliated to Hezbollah. It started in 1993 by establishing four schools in different areas, before expanding to 17 schools in Beirut, Bekaa and the south. It has also built a school in the Iranian city of Qom.

Other educational initiatives

Among the educational institutions that appeared during this period of time were the schools of the Association of Islamic Charitable Projects, also known as Al-Ahbash, a Sunni sect organisation. The association established its first school, The Islamic Culture High School, in 1991 in Beirut before other branches were inaugurated in Akkar Governorate, the city of Tripoli, Barja town and Bekaa Governorate.

Meanwhile, the educational and political activities of Salafists in Lebanon remain limited, thanks to a sustained official crackdown on the extremist views many of them adhere to. They established a handful of Islamic studies institutes, many which have since closed. Generally speaking, compared to other groups across the political spectrum, their influence is negligible.

Article 10 of the Lebanese constitution stipulates that "education is free" as long as decency is observed. There may be no disturbances to the public order, nor may religions or sects be insulted. It also affords different sects the right to establish their schools.

Ultimately, the Islamists have managed to reach large segments of Lebanese society through the education system. Publicly-funded mainstream education remained unavailable in many areas of Lebanon until recently and it still lags behind the private schools in terms of educational standards. According to a report released by Statistics in Focus, 66 percent of Lebanon's students attend fee-paying schools.

Hassan Lama′a

© raseef22 2018

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