Monday, April 04, 2005

more of what we need least

I bumped into an interesting article in the Dailystar that basically referred to the resurgence of "oh I am Muslim, so I deserve to rule the world" political parties. Mustapha, Doha, what do you guys think of this? Do you think that the environment in Tripoli is conducive for these people to actually gain some legitimate political leverage; like maybe get elected to parliament? Or is the current secular leadership strong enough to hold their ground (i.e. Safadi, Fatfat, Ahdab, etc....)?

The names refered to in the article are:

- Harakat at-Tawhid al-Islaami
- Bilal Shaaban
- Sheikh Hashem Minqara
- Jundallah
- Sheikh Kenaan Naji
- Al Mukawama al Shabiyya
- etc....

A very interesting (and depresing) quote from the article is:

- Shaaban lamented the Syrian intervention of 1976 into Lebanon to help the Maronites who, he asserts, would have otherwise fled to Cyprus or Latin America.... and suggests that Muslims call for Islamic rule based on the Sharia, without which no government can be legitimate. (I believe those quotes came from the now-deceased father of Bilal, but still...)

Another interesting quote that highlights the claim some opposition members were making, which basically asserted that Syria was releasing armed deathrow inmates into Tripoli is:

- Sheikh Hashem Minqara became pro-Syrian after being released from Syrian prisons in 1998 following 13 years of captivity and created a pro-Syrian wing of the movement.... (hmmm, I wonder why he became pro-Syrian all of a sudden...)


These guys are the kind of "politicians" that give Arabs and Muslims a bad name! They practice lowest-common-denominator politics (i.e. Demagoguary), and as I mentioned in one of my previous posts, appeal to the basest instincts of people. It is my deep suspicion that they are being encouraged by Syria to at least become a disruptive element in Lebanese politics. I hope that Tripolitans are politically mature enough to give them no opportunity to become anything more than the equivalent of a Fascist group on the margins of mainstream politics. In the current environment of political sectarianism, all Lebanese communities have the responsibility for moderation. The last thing we need are extremists!


Mustapha said...

A few years ago, i walked out of a Friday sermon in a Tripoli mosque and never came back again.

It was a few months after the September 11 attacks, and the fire-breathing cleric was basically seething about how the security people in the airport wanted to search his all-covered "7arim" -derogatory term for 'women'- for weapons, so he swore that he'd rather not travel and drove back, he then proceeded to praise "sheikh" oussama bin laden, he then criticized the then prime minister Hariri for the removal of religion courses in public schools and replacing them with art appreciation courses (he was fuming: they want my daughter to be a Ra'aasah! -vulgar term for dancer-). He topped it all with making fun of the Beiteddine Festival and claiming that the singers where "barking like dogs" (I think he was talking about Jose Carreras).

What he is saying is not a surprise, the surprise was the fact that i was the only one that was offended and walked out.

Still, are such positions electable?

I asked my uncle, a regular mosque-goer, of why he tolerated this. I think he spoke for everyone when he answered: I just go to pray, I don't listen to what these guys say.

Moreover, the seculars in Tripoli are the ones with the money, Safadi and Mikati are some of the richest people in lebanon, and like everywhere else in the world, Tripoli has a silent majority that just wants to make a living and want to elect people who can get the streets cleaned and the water running.

In short, i put all my money on zero Islamist being elected.

The Beirut Spring

Anonymous said...

Maybe you and Mustapha have not been back to Lebanon in a while. This is the new Lebanon; everyone complained about the pre war Lebanon. Well this is what the new Lebanon looks like.

I'm afraid as a non-Muslim to WALK in the streets of Trablous! The islamists run that city, and chances are they will make great strides during this election (never mind once elected they will work to destroy the very democracy that got them elected). This is not my vision of Lebanon.

Mo said...

I live abroad, and each time i go back to lebanon and cross by people i knew in beirut i find more and more people who are in the "praise Ben Laden" philosophy. I think it's more flagrant in cities like Saida (where alcohol is banned from stores!!!) or Tripoli.
And i think now the syrians are out, it will give islamist groups more and more power (since they are not controled anymore). I hope the people will know where their interests are (nobody on earth can promise you paradise in the after life).

I just had a question to Raja, when you say "The last thing we need are extremists!", what would you call a group like, say the LF?
Just to know!

Anonymous said...


I cannot understand your correlation between the LF and extremism. The one group in Lebanon with a proposed system that acknowledges and respects the other is labeled extremist? Their wartime posturing and maneuverings might have been extremist but the same can be said about all other participants. When you look at their political programs, their thinkers and their philosophy it becomes apparent that they are the most liberal, the most democratic and the most inclusive. It is only under their program that my rights (all aspects of such rights) are protected.

Raja said...


If the war taught us anything, it ought to be that moderation and mutually beneficial coexistence is the only way for us. Every single one of us are members of communities that have at certain points in time strived to dominate Lebanon. None of the attempts succeeded; and the price we all paid was extremely high!

What I don't like about these entities propping up all of a sudden is that their ideology is inherently rigid, exclusive, and narrow. There is no place for political entities such as these in a consociational democracy (whatever the religious creed or sect).

Doha said...


I must confess, and many will agree, that after the Tawhid in the early 1980s spread a wave of veiling among women, religiosity has increased in Tripoli in the past couple of years. More people attending mosques and more women getting veiled. Tripoli, as many cities and towns far away from Beirut the center, has not been prospering in any shape or form the past ten years, except for a couple of areas. Moreover, after the September 11 events, many common, conservative Tripolitans believed that Islam is under attack...analogous with the whole "clash of civilizations" notion.

These givens definitely lead to increased religiosity. MPs like Safadi and the late Hariri, were not able or given the opportunity to genuinely leverage their resources to invest in Tripoli. We all know that Tripoli's traditional politician, Omar Karami, among his other allies, tried to actively undermine such attempts. When Tripolitans are given the chance to earn a living, by increasing job opportunities, and bettering economic and business prospects in the city, we'll see a shift away from the rising phenomenon of fear and fatalism.

Raja, you forgot to mention Al-Ahbash, another Islamic political group that has a considerable clout in several neighborhoods in Tripoli. They've been, more than the groups you mentioned, active during the post-civil war Parliamentary elections and usually forge alliances with other factions in Tripoli. I believe that in a democratic environment, it is healthy to have parties running and representing a large spectrum of our society; I also believe that any extremism is watered-down if we have a true democracy.

However, I did hear a rumor when I was back home that some Islamic groups have been armed as of recently....

I hope this information helps Raja. Let me know what you think.

Charles Malik said...

I have heard rumors about Islamic groups armed as well.
I think it is an over statement to say that a Christian does not feel comfortable in Muslim cities. I take my Christian friends to my hometown, Baalbak, all the time. As much as people there eschew alcohol publicly, just open the side cabinet.
However, it is much different for Muslims in Christian areas. When my muhajiba friends walk through Ashrafieh, Gemayze, or Metn they get ridiculous stares. In fact, often times people stare and ask other people to stare. Smiles drop from faces and entire cafes (Starbuck's Sassine) go silent.
I admire the LF for all of the social work they did for their own people during the war. Geagea was an atrocious leader, but there was a lot of angst after the Chouf was cleared of Christians.
Now, the LF is just trying to make sure that Christian needs are met. They recognize the rights of all other sects as well. They may be very rightwing, but part of it is because they - and most of the Christians - have been oppressed for the last 15 years.

Raja said...


I encourage you to take a walk in Tripoli... it's a beautiful city, and has really nice restaurants and cafes like Cafe Najjar. The lunatics are usually a minority of the population, and they win when they isolate the different communities from each other!

The stupidest thing I find among a lot of Lebanese is how we look at each other like we're friggen aliens, sometimes! We all take ourselves too damn seriously!

Anyways... maybe if we spend more time with each other (or more time exchanging views) things will get better.

Raja said...

seriously, what the hell does it matter to me that you think Mohammed or Jesus are your prophets? How will it affect me in this life? In our next business transaction? or in a lecture that you're going to be giving about electronics?

Are you gonna hold me to it, because I'm going to hell when I die? Why not entertain me and pretend that you don't give a damn since I'm going to hell anyways?!?!?

Really... We waste our time caring about useless things in Lebanon.

It's all nonesense!