Nasrallah, Fadlallah and the ‘islamic state’

Hassan Nasrallah and Michel Aoun had a 4 hour long joint debate on Aoun’s OTV in which Nasrallah repeated for the nth time that Hezbollah is not an Iranian copy and does not wish to install an islamic state in Lebanon. This should be obvious, if only because the shia, even though they are the biggest minority group in Lebanon, still only make up 40% at most of the population, and many shia, moreover, are not very religiously inclined. They have always made up the bulk of the Lebanese communist and socialist movements (back when such a thing still existed in this country). Besides Hezbollah, there is still Amal, for example, which is a secular (although hardly a socialist) party, and which, if you count the number of flags and posters in shia areas, is not exactly small or insignificant compared to Hezbollah. It would hardly be feasible – i.e. take a major civil war and a full-out repressive dictatorship – to impose an islamic state even just on the shia, let alone the sunni, druze and christian populations of Lebanon. And it would absolutely destroy Hezbollah’s real popularity among the non-shia groups. Another factor is the fact that Lebanese shia are in general no more (or less) socially conservative than other Lebanese. Many of them are influenced by the highest religious authority in the country, grand ayatollah Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah. Look at some of the fatwas he issues – they certainly raise some dust among the more conservative shia and muslims in the world:

– ‘A woman can respond to physical violence inflicted on her by a man with counter-violence as a self-defense measure’

– ‘The belief that it is disgraceful for the man to manage household tasks is derived from the social culture and not from Islam. Personally, I think that no woman would be obliged to bring her social life to a standstill just because she is being occupied with her children.’

One of the general principles in raising children is that parents should not consider their child as part of their possessions. Instead, they should consider him God’s trust that Allah . . . has put in their hands. This is done by loving the child, listening to him and respecting his mind.’

Or consider what he writes on his website right now about the traditional ritual of ashura:

‘Tatabier is a term that means inflicting significant harm in one’s body whether by hitting the head or other parts of the body and whether in a violent way or by using sharp tool (usually swords). Such an action is usually done to express grief for what happened to Imam Hussein (a.s.) and his family and companions. It is prohibited because it involves hurting one’s body whether it leads to death or not. It is even prohibited all the more if it hurts the Shiite school of thought and makes one look down at it. Owning to these considerations, it could not be an Islamic ritual or part of the Hussein ceremonies.’

The 72-year old even challenges the traditional prohibition on female islamic judges. Of course, he is not accepted by all shia, even in Lebanon, if only for political reasons (and of course, money…):

“Mostly his fatwas are on the side of modernity and progress,” said Fawwaz Traboulsi, a Lebanese historian and journalist. “He’s very influential, and he’s got a lot of money.” His most liberal rulings and attempts to distance Lebanese Shiites from Iran’s policies have angered some Shiite clerics close to the Islamic militant group Hezbollah and its leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah. Fadlallah was once Hezbollah’s spiritual leader, but now the two camps compete for donations from wealthy Shiites, who traditionally have given more money to him. “There’s a real rivalry with Nasrallah, who has become both a military and religious leader,” Traboulsi said. “Many conservative Hezbollah clerics are reacting against Fadlallah’s rulings.”

Yet they do agree on some basic points: ‘Fadlallah remains a staunch critic of Israel, once describing the Jewish state as “a conglomerate of people who come from all parts of the world to live in Palestine on the ruins of another people.“‘

(Note 8/2/2008: the above link is to but I found out now that they just took over the original article by Borzou Daragahi that appeared in the LA Times on 6/2)


2 thoughts on “Nasrallah, Fadlallah and the ‘islamic state’

  1. I found your blog on google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the good work. Look forward to reading more from you in the future.

    Kacin Alexander

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