Lebanon woke up to two time zones on Sunday amid a growing dispute between political and religious authorities over a decision to extend winter time by a month.
Acting Prime Minister Najib Mikati decided on Thursday to move the clocks forward one hour on April 20, instead of entering daylight saving time on the last weekend in March, as is usually the case. cases in Lebanon, Europe and other regions.
Although no reason was given for the move, it was seen as an attempt to win a victory among Muslims by allowing those who fast during the holy month of Ramadan to break their fast an hour earlier, around 6 p.m. instead of 7 p.m.
But Lebanon’s influential Maronite Church announced on Saturday it would disobey the decision, calling it “surprising” and saying there had been no consultation with other actors or considerations of international standards.
He said he would move the clocks forward on Saturday night.
Other Christian organizations, parties and schools have announced similar plans.
Meanwhile, Muslim institutions and parties looked set to stay wintery, deepening divisions in a country that saw a civil war from 1975 to 1990 between Christian and Muslim factions and where seats in parliament are allocated by religious sect.
Media companies and organisations, including two of Lebanon’s main news channels LBCI and MTV, said they would also switch to daylight saving time on Saturday night as calls for disobedience gained traction.
LBCI said in a statement that it would disobey Mikati’s decision as it would harm its work, adding, “Lebanon is not an island.”
Others have tried to adapt.
Lebanon’s national carrier Middle East Airlines said its clocks and other devices would remain on standard time, in line with Mikati’s decision, but it would adjust its flight schedules to keep in line with international schedules.
The state-run telecommunications duopoly sent messages to customers advising them to manually set the time on their devices on Sunday, in case the clocks had automatically advanced.
Many said the uncertainty and potential chaos were emblematic of decades of failing governance by leaders that led Lebanon to a 2019 financial crisis that the World Bank said was “orchestrated” by elites.
‘TIME MUSLIM OR CHRISTIAN?’
Mikati, a Sunni Muslim, announced the decision after a meeting on Thursday with Shia parliament speaker Nabih Berri, who repeatedly pushed for the change, according to video of the meeting published by Lebanese outlet Megaphone.
“Instead of it being 7 a.m., let it be 6 hours from now until the end of Ramadan,” Berri said, according to the clip.
We see Mikati answer that the change was not possible because it would cause “problems”, especially for the scheduling of flights.
” We can not. We can’t take it anymore, it’s difficult,” he said.
But later in the day, Mikati made the decision to stick with winter time.
His office said in a statement on Saturday evening that the decision was a “purely administrative procedure” that took “an odious sectarian twist”.
A spokesman for the Prime Minister’s Office said he had no immediate comment on the reasoning for the decision or the resulting backlash.
In a Beirut cafe on Saturday evening, a Reuters reporter heard a customer ask, “Are you going to follow the Christian or Muslim clock from tomorrow?”
Independent MP Waddah Sadek said on Twitter that the decisions were made without “any consideration for the consequences or the confusion they cause”.
Some Twitter users have shared an old recording of famous Lebanese composer and musician Ziad Rahbani talking about daylight saving time.
“Every year you put the clock forward one hour and you set us back 10 years,” he says, referring to Lebanese politicians.