Wednesday, April 06, 2005

The Shiite "Reservoir" Is Marginalized

Two days ago, I was on the airplane heading from beloved Lebanon back to the "ghirbe" and in my hands a ruffled Al-Nahar...a last attempt at squeezing every printed Arabic word from its pages...

I came across this insightful piece of news I would like to share with you some of its contents:

Ahmad Al-Ass'ad, the head of the Tayyar Loubnan Al-Kafa'at, answered to all those claims speculating that the recent events taking place in Lebanon are in truth a conspiracy against the Shia community. He asked whether persons from his sect should be judged based on who they follow and what political group they subscribe to or judged based on their merits and capabilities. He claimed that a handful of Shiite "icons" are benefitting from the current circumstances, while the true creative reservoir of Shiites are being marginalized.

He continued by asking: "Are we afraid of disarming the resistance?" He believes that the true battle with the Israeli enemy is not only a military struggle, but rather educational and cultural. He then questioned whether Hizbullah still needs to retain its arms once the Sheba'a Farms are freed. He asked, "To defend Lebanon, shouldn't it be the army who is in charge of such a duty?" He claimed that in reality the army was never given the opportunity or chance to truely defend its land.

I must confess that what Al-Ass'ad said truely impressed me, because I believe that many in the Shia community subscribe to such thoughts. It is wrong of us to take the path of simple generalizations....

"Nobody knows how many rebellions, besides political rebellions, ferment in the masses of life which people earth."


Solomon2 said...


Raja said...

Hey Doha,

its good to have you back on the blog again!

I agree with Ahmad As'ad's argument. However, I also think that the same is true of almost all sects in Lebanon. I just thank God that Jumblatt is on my side in this battle, because if he wasn't there'd no one else who could represent me in the Lebanese political system (don't even mention Arslan... He's just Jumblatt's "Minime"... a good laugh; that's it!)

When this conflict started, I actually prefered the political divisions. There were those who were for and those who were apprehensive against Syrian withdrawal. It was very clear that members from all sects could be found in either camp - eventhough it was obvious who the "political heavyweights" were.

Today, on the other hand, the political conflict has turned into one that is unabashedly sectarian! You basically have those claiming to represent the Shi'a population on oneside, and almost everybody else on the other (even those who would, in other circumstances, agree with Hizballah's policy-position).

The turning point: Hizballah's demonstration in Solh Square - one of the stupidest political moves on behalf of that organization ever since the beginning of the crisis.

Solomon2 said...

Raja, sectarian may not be the best thing. The Founding Fathers of the U.S.A. were Christian deists.

The post I promised is now up. (I had clicked "Save as Draft" instead of "Publish").

Question: When you write your essays, do you cite material gleaned from the Internet in your Bibliography, along with the books?

reem said...

to answer you question: yes you need to mention your internet source in your bibliography, ie address of website and other relevant things such as author, etc(and sometimes the date the website was published, and when you accessed it, especially if it's not an obvious website)

Raja said...

Solomon, I am afraid it is as not simple as you make it out to be. With the exception of Seyyed Nasrallah, I seriuosly doubt whether any of the Lebanese politicians actually believe in God!

In other words, the issue is not personal beliefs... it is a concsiuos decision pertaining to "rules of the political game."

In the United States, the major political dividing lines are the 50 states. In Lebanon, on the other hand, the major political dividing lines are the 10 or so sects.

Lebanese, to put it mildly, are not religious people! People do things "because they are made to think it is the right thing to do." In other words, because the people around them are doing it - I guess you could call it 'peer' pressure.

In Lebanon, religion and sects are political identity cards more than anything else. People say I am Sunni, or Shia, or Maronite or Druze, because they want to identify themselves with a larger collective that they feel protects their individual interests!

Had religion not been so politicized, I hypothesize that it would be a much more discrete phenomenon than we are whitnessing today.

BTW, as Doha pointed out, the fact that America's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are perceived as a broad "war against Islam" is not helping at all! That rhetoric seems to have been subdued recently, but we'll have to watch and see if it comes back up again.

Solomon2 said...

I'm not sure that they need to believe in G-d. It may be sufficient for Founding Fathers to possess and invest their personal honor, or have the means to invest tribal honor. Such people can invoke it in the document, sign on the dotted line, and change the "rules of the political game", as you put it. (The fact that the United States today comprises 50 states and two major political parties is irrelevant to such an analysis.)

Nor do "the people" have to be especially religious themselves. But they must hold those who profess religious belief and honor accountable. This is much easier to do when there is no foreign interference.

As for the "political identity card" issue, you are describing a society that is peaceful yet fractured along political, social, and legal lines. My prescription is talk, talk, talk, at the grass-roots level to establish common ground and grow new leaders, if the current ones don't take up your lead. The trick, of course, is surviving the attempts made to mow down such new leaders by tyrants and wannabe tyrants.

As for the perception of America: It seems strange that by following such a pro-Muslim policy - in Afghanistan since 1979, Kuwait in 1990, Bosnia since 1999, Afghanistan since 2001, and Iraq since 2003, the U.S. is tarred as engaged in a "war against Islam". Is it not more accurate to say that America is engaged in wars for Islam?

Raja said...

I'd like to correct myself: In the United States, the major political dividing lines are not the 50 states. Maybe during the era of the American civil war, states were the big dividing lines, today though, things are different.

Political dividing lines in the states, and in most countries are very complex; however, there certainly is a broad similarity: ISSUES!

You will find divisions based on:

1. macro-economic policies
2. the proposed budget
3. social security, and other safetynet issues
4. trade
5. immigration
6. abortion
7. taxes
8. minimum wage
9. health costs
10. foreign policy

And the list goes on and on.... All political entities that aspire to gain power must have "defined and clear" positions on these issues. Remember: John Kerry lost because he was portrayed by the Republicans as being too vague or not have a clear and stable position "on the issues."

This is what we dearly lack in Lebanon! Even Hariri (RIP), failed in really communicating his policy objectives to the people! We all knew where he was leaning, and the broad direction he wanted to take the country to - BUT THAT WAS IT!

If we are to enrich politics in Lebanon, I believe that "issues" need to become the center of the discourse.

I'm sorry but,

1. the Arab-Israeli conflict
2. the Palestinian refugees
3. poverty
4. and corruption

are simply not enough!

Brian H said...

It has been said that the civil war in Lebanon was a battle between militias, not groups. I think this viewpoint is worth cultivating!

Anonymous said...

nope Brian.

Anonymous said...

...inclusion never transformed extremists into pragmatists, as Europe's history makes clear...

What European History Can Teach Lebanon

ThinkingMan said...

Great! so, why don't we hear more opininions like that from more Chiites? Their voices seem to be hijacked mostly by Hezbollah who I keep hoping...does not represent the majority of Chiites voices.

Raja said...


I get the impression from some Shi'a friends that they respect Hizballah, and Iran. I am not so surpirized considering the alternative they have to Hizballah.

"Secular" leaders have proven to be corrupt, brutal, incompetant, etc.... Unfortunately, it is these people who represent the Modern world in the countries they rule.

When Westerners wonder why Arabs have become repulsed by modernity as manifested by Western civilization, they should look at the Arab political elite. Most either subscribe to the Western paradigm, or are propped up by the United States or some other Western nation.

My sincere hope is that what has been happening lately in Lebanon, and even Iraq, signals a real shift in US strategy towards the region. Enough with Dictators!

ThinkingMan said...

Raja- I think the US is focusing where there is more or less a cleaner slate or a more propense environment for change; i.e. Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon. So, with us, at the strategic levels, what they want is very simple: 1) let go of the Syrian (and Iranian) influence is all its form, 2) let the Lebanese show how democratic they can make that country.
I think they are hoping that success becomes contagious to other places; and I agree that the U.S. shouldn't be protecting corrupt dictators and kings while pushing democracy in other places; but they are doing it one step at a time. And they understand that they have to go to the source of all this; i.e. the bad apples Syria and Iran.
I'd love for us to debate our differences in a context free of all interventions and influences, but one of the key questions will remain: do we all want a modern state, or are we going to even clash over that basic definition?

ThinkingMan said...


re: "Headed by Cultural and Media Affairs Director Juliette Woor and her assistant Kenneth Jones, the American officials held an hour-long meeting with the head of LU's English department, Dr. Hassan Hassan, before Hizbullah educational mobilization officials began gathering students to protest their presence.
Commenting on the motives behind the student's protest, one participant said: "If the nature of the [delegation's] visit is cultural, then we can manage without the culture or help of the Americans as it is the government's duty to provide the library of our faculty with books and academic references."

These comments are such a disgrace and a backward way of thinking. Ok, so what's the model then: Iran? Would they accept books from Iran?