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Lebanon in Disarray as Disagreements over Daylight Savings Get Worse

Lebanon awoke on Sunday in two different time zones due to disagreement over daylight saving

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LEBANON: Due to an intensifying disagreement between political and religious leaders over the decision to extend winter time by a month, Lebanon awoke on Sunday in two different time zones.

Instead of beginning daylight savings time on the final weekend in March as is customary in Lebanon, Europe, and other regions, interim Prime Minister Najib Mikati decided on Thursday to advance the clocks one hour on April 20. 

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Sunni Muslim Mikati made the announcement following a meeting with Shi’ite parliament speaker Nabih Berri, who urged the change repeatedly, according to meeting footage released by Lebanese source Megaphone.

The move, which allowed people to fast during the holy month of Ramadan and break their fasts an hour earlier, at roughly 6 p.m. instead of 7 p.m., was not explained, but Muslims perceived it as an effort to gain the upper hand.

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The largest Christian church in Lebanon, the prominent Maronite Church, however, declared on Saturday that it would not follow the decision, claiming that there had been no consultations or consideration of international standards.

As this was happening, Muslim institutions and parties seemed determined to stay, escalating divisions in a nation where parliament seats are apportioned based on religious sect and which experienced a civil war from 1975 until 1990 between Christian and Muslim forces.

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Companies and media outlets, such as two of Lebanon’s primary news stations, LBCI and MTV, declared they would also observe daylight saving time on Saturday night. The national airline of Lebanon, Middle East Airlines, announced that while its flight schedule would change to comply with international timetables, its clocks and other equipment would remain in the wintertime.

Customers received warnings from the state-run telecom duopoly, which advised them to manually fix their devices’ time on Sunday in case the clocks had advanced automatically.

The Muslim or Christian time period

Mikati was heard telling Berri during their discussion that his request couldn’t be fulfilled because there would be “issues,” especially with aircraft scheduling. Later that day, though, Mikati made the choice to remain in the winter.

Neither the decision’s justification nor the response that followed could be immediately addressed, according to a representative for the premier’s office.

Christian interim Justice Minister Henry Khoury urged Mikati to backtrack on the decision in a statement late on Saturday. This was the first protest from within the cabinet, where political allegiances typically follow sectarian religious lines.

At a time when Lebanon is already dealing with numerous difficulties, Khoury claimed that the judgement “violated the idea of legitimacy” and had led to divisions in Lebanese society and along religious lines.

Decisions were taken “without any care for the implications or confusion that they cause,” independent MP Waddah Sadek stated on Twitter. Some users on Twitter shared an older tape of eminent Lebanese composer and musician Ziad Rahbani talking about daylight savings time.

He addresses Lebanese politicians, saying, “Each year, you advance the clock an hour, and you set us back ten years.” You shouldn’t simply focus on the hour, but also on the years.

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