Several days back, I was interviewed by a South Korean newspaper. They've published the interview in Q&A format. Here are a few selections from the article.
On your homepage, you write that "Religion is great, if only it is used as was originally intended." In the case of Lebanon on which you write, will you say that Hezbollah has taken the country hostage with a different version of the Koran? If yes, what is the original message?
Of course I believe that Hezbollah has taken the country hostage! Over the past few days, Lebanese have jokingly asked each other whether they have paid homage to their new military dictator!
As for my personal interpretation of religion vs. Hezbollah's, allow me to boil it down to the separation of religion and politics. I despise the "holier-than-thou" attitude. These people wear their religious garb, yet practice politics. When you criticize them, their supporters take to the streets and protest the fact that you insulted their religious symbols (a relatively new phenomenon in Lebanon, that has come about with the emergence of Hezbollah). These developments only serve to harden my position regarding the separation of state and "mosque" even more. It is clear that the image Hezbollah has for Lebanon is mutually exclusive with the vision I, and the majority of other Lebanese, have for our country.
How do you characterize Hezbollah? A resistance group, freedom fighters or a terrorist organization?
I classify Hezbollah as a Shi'a militia supported with funds and material from Iran, Syria and Shi'a who reside in Lebanon, the Gulf, Africa and all over the world.
At one point in Lebanon's history, there was a consensus to refer to it as a "resistance group." Today, that consensus has faded.
President Assad of Syria, who attributed victory to Hezbollah, said the crises helped create a new Middle East. Do you agree?
I think that Assad is an isolated and desperate president. Internationally and even in the Arab region, the man is a pariah! Of course, that scares me, because a desperate man can do very stupid things. However, whatever he said is simply false. Tell me what has changed! Do you see any differences? Okay... people are very emotional right now, but so what? Emotions are fleeting, and if nothing happens in the coming days and weeks, they will go back to business as usual.
Is it right to say Lebanon is back to where it was 50 years ago, as your prime minister qualified it? What do you think is the way forward now?
We did not go back 50 years, however we were taken back quite considerably. Lebanon's Council for Development and Reconstruction just announced that it will take at least a year to rebuild all the infrastructure and over $2 dbillion. Some estimates project 3 years -- and this is just infrastructure damage!
However, when we talk about Lebanon's economy, I am afraid that it all depends on political developments. A considerable number of factories were destroyed by Israeli bombs over the past month. These damages sum up to tens of millions of dollars in damage. The retail sector is, if anything, on life support, and the tourist industry can be characterized similarly.
It is safe to say that investors will only return if they believe that nothing similar to this war will happen any time in (at least) the near future. In order for them to be convinced, they will need to see a political settlement and a solution to the problem of Hezbollah's arms.
Check out the rest of it.
note: sorry about the mix-up. It turns out that the journalist who interviewed me was based in Finland.