Qunfuz

Robin Yassin-Kassab

Bad Signs

with 17 comments

Two things. First, Shaikh Yusuf Qaradawi. A ‘moderate conservative’ linked to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, Qaradawi has previously made positive statements about the need for Sunni-Shia unity, particularly in Iraq. At the Doha Inter-Islamic Dialogue Conference a couple of days ago he condemned the cleansing of Sunnis from mixed or Shia areas. “No one can tolerate such unspeakable hatred,” he said. “Sunnis are suffering more in Iraq. I had repeatedly called upon the Shia scholars and leaders in Iraq and Iran to intervene to stop this bloodshed.” He continued, “Iran has influence in Iraq. It can stop this violence and put out the fire that could destroy everything.” Then he went on to complain about Shia attempts to convert Sunnis living in Sunni majority nations.

Qaradawi was right to raise the issue of Shia death squads. He was wrong to keep silent about Salafi/ Baathist/ extremist Sunni terrorism. The Shia of Iraq put up with more than two years of massacres before they began to respond.

When the Shii shrine of the last Imam in Samara was bombed, Qaradawi commented, “We cannot imagine that the Iraqi Sunnis did this. No-one benefits from such acts other than the American occupation and the lurking Zionst enemy.” Perhaps he has a point. But it looks a lot like when Sunnis commit crimes Qaradawi blames America, and when Shia commit crimes, he blames the Shia, and Iran. His paranoia about Shia conversion squads is also suspect. 90% of Muslims are Sunni. It doesn’t seem that is going to change. Why shouldn’t Shia, or anyone else, express their beliefs in public? If some Sunni are ‘converted’ it will be because they are convinced by Shia ideas. What’s the problem? The Prophet said al-ikhtilaf rahma, or difference of opinion is a mercy. If the aim is to defuse sectarian tension, surely what is needed is Sunni scholars who will publicly condemn extremist Sunni intolerance, and Shia scholars who will publicly condemn extremist Shia intolerance.

Second, Lebanon. Yesterday opposition strike action and street protests degenerated into fighting and rioting in which three people were killed and tens injured.

The conflict is political. The opposition (which includes almost all the Shia, half of the Christians, and a few Sunni) wants a more representative government. It is demanding enough cabinet places to give it veto power over government decisions. This seems fair to me. Better still would be a reformed electoral system, so that the vote of every Lebanese is worth the same. Currently the vote of a Christian is worth more than the vote of a Sunni, and that of a Shii is worth least of all.

The conflict also centres on economics and class issues. This is why the General Labour Confederation backed the opposition’s call for a strike yesterday. The government has been dramatically raising prices of basic goods and selling national assets to international corporations. Government figures like Marwan Hamade are making huge profits from the deals.

It is doubtful that the Cedar Revolution was supported by the majority in Lebanon, and its PR was certainly run by American companies, but it represented a widespread demand for an end to Syrian military presence and political interference. This is no longer the issue. Michel Aoun was perhaps Syria’s fiercest Lebanese opponent, but he is now in opposition to the so-called ‘anti-Syrian’ government. After the government’s half-hearted support for the resistance during the 2006 Israeli onslaught, all the Shia ministers resigned from the cabinet. The Shia are Lebanon’s largest community. Sinyura’s government is not representative, but it refuses to budge because its Saudi, Israeli and American backers are telling it to stand firm.

I have made it clear where my sympathies lie. You can disagree, for political or economic reasons. As I’ve said, the conflict is political and economic. But it is increasingly being understood in sectarian terms. What do working class Sunnis have in common with millionaire businessmen like Hariri and Sinyura? Absolutely nothing, except the mirage of sectarian identity. This mirage is so strong in certain Sunni heads that it has made them obey their banker leaders and stand with the killers and fascists of Geagea’s Lebanese Forces against those who defended Lebanon from Israeli attack last summer. I understand why opposition protesters held pictures of Nasrallah and Aoun yesterday – these are Lebanese figures. But why were Sunnis waving pictures of Saddam Hussain in the street? Only because Saddam was Sunni. A Sunni who murdered Shia.

I have a Lebanese friend who says he’s given up talking politics with other Lebanese. Tony says that after the civil war ended people began to talk about ideas, about left and right policies, about globalisation and imperialism, about economics, about democracy and rights. For a few years it felt to him that sect would never again be a basis for political discussion. But in the last months that has changed. An idea is judged by the sect of the person expressing it. It feels, says Tony, like the war years.

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Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

January 24, 2007 at 10:50 am

17 Responses

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  1. You can thank Assad and Nasralla for causing all the sectarianism in Lebanon and fueling it big time to destroy civilization there.

    Why when Syria was ruling everything was ok but now they talk about political representation or misrepresentation.

    Qunfuz you are one of those people that should be aware of what is going on instead of believing few actors who are destroying the region and you are giving them moral and legitimate support just like the people who fueled the lebanese civil war in the past

    Check out my latest on freesyria.wordpress.com

    Fares

    January 25, 2007 at 12:13 am

  2. Fares

    We know from previous debates that we do not agree about Hizbullah. In this case, I can only say that your opinions are simplistic to say the least, and are not supported by the facts. Lebanon has been racked by sectarianism for at least one hundred and fifty years – for long before Asad or Nasrallah were born.

    In recent months Druze chieftan Junblatt wins the prize for making the most vicious sectarian comments. He’s now anti-Syrian to the extent on calling for America to invade Syria. In the past he worked for the Syrians. The Sunnis holding pictures of Saddam Hussain, and the christians of Aoun and the christians of Geagea fighting – this is all Nasrallah’s fault?

    I didnt say that everything was alright when Syria ruled Lebanon. Please dont put words in my mouth in order to win the argument! I think Syria did a lot of good in Lebanon as well as a lot of bad. It certainly didnt sort out the sectarian electoral system, however, and yes, it exploited sectarianism in its dealmaking. Syria is a dictatorship. I oppose it, as you know. However, I recognise that Syria’s foreign policy is genuinely popular with Syrians, and my dislike of the regime doesn’t make me support equally criminal but pro-Western regimes.

    Your phrase about ‘destroying civilisation’ is ugly, and reminds me of Bush. Your side is civilised, and the people you disagree with are barbarians?

    qunfuz

    January 25, 2007 at 5:35 am

  3. What’s happening in Lebanon is indeed a political, class based struggle. There is also another dimension which I feel you haven’t added, this is the broader struggle taking place in the Middle East between the West’s “moderate” poodles, and Iran and Syria. The billions being thrown to Lebanon now show how crucial a focus point this country has become. As for Fares referring to “civilization” in Lebanon, I think As’ad Abu Khalil said it best on his blog that Lebanonese and “civilization” are furthest apart as could be from each other, look at how they treat their maids.

    One final point on Sheikh al Qaradawi, I did actually see that interview and noticed the same things, but feel perhaps you are being slightly unfair to him. The groups killing civilians seem to me to be al Qaeda inspired or Wahhabi based groups and these people are far from listening to Qaradawi or any other scholar with similar views. True however, more needs to be done by Sunni’s to reach out to Shia kin but all this is a side effect to the American occupation of Iraq and not a cause in itself for the strife.

    PS. Does anybody see parallels between Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra of Thailand leaving his country for a conference during a time of extreme tension and Siniora? Rule number one of politics: Always be there!

    Wassim

    January 25, 2007 at 4:15 pm

  4. Qunfuz and Wassim, you are both very honest and national people.

    But I guess you guys prefer to see people fighting each other in Lebanon and call that popular Syrian foreign policies and Wassim you prefer people dying in Lebanon so some idiots don’t treat their maids badly, what kind of logic is that.

    I have one question for you guys::: Why are you so interested in Lebanese politics and not for example Syrian politics who leave people STARVING AND IN A BIG PRISON.

    What does Iran and Syria offer you at the end??? some empty slogans? and what does the west want from you that he does not have already???? please see the big picture and see where these regimes that pretend to stand up to the west will take you and the region at the end!

    Fares

    January 26, 2007 at 8:14 pm

  5. Qunfuz,

    I have always found Qardawi’s pronouncements uneven and sometimes even contradictory. I agree that Sunni and Shia scholars should forcefully condemn the insane violence instead of fanning the flames of paranoia on both sides with their silence.

    As for Lebanon, I think Hizbullah is to blame for the current mess. Hizbullah cannot have it both ways. It has to be either a political party or an armed resistance movement. How can you be the only political party with a standing army and expect to engage other parties on an equal footing without being coercive or intimidating? Hizbullah behaves like they are a state within a state and Nasrallah, even today, is making thinly-veiled threats against the government.

    I fully agree that the supporters of the opposition have just economic and political greivances (as I pointed out in my last post). This does not, however, justify the use of “any means necessary” to achieve their goals. Lebanon, is a working democracy with established institutions, albeit very imperfect and corrupt. The opposition should use its political and popular clout to advance its cause from within the system.

    Hizbullah would have gained untold political capital if, after the summer war and the entry of the UN forces, they would have turned their arms in or allowed their fighters to be absorbed into the Lebanese army. Since they have refused to do that, one cannot but wonder what their real agenda is.

    Abu Kareem

    January 27, 2007 at 1:48 am

  6. Abu Kareem – I think that strikes and demonstrations are legitimate protest actions from ‘within the system.’ In Europe such actions are considered legitimate and not subversive. Hizbullah (and Amal and Aoun’s people) are not using ‘any means necessary.’ Both sides are to blame for the fighting and rioting, but from what I read Hizbullah is being the best disciplined.

    After the war Nasrallah said that Hizbullah’s weapons would be integrated into the Lebanese army once there is a representative government. So let’s have a representative government and call Hizbullah’s bluff. If, once there is a representative government, Hizbullah does not integrate its weapons into the army, it will lose a huge amount of support. But I am sure it will. Nasrallah has always kept his word.

    Again to compare with the European democracies, if between 40 and 60% of the people were campaigning to change the government, and especially after a major political event like the summer war, there would be new elections. If the government is sure that it has the support of the majority, it doesn’t have to give a veto-wielding share of the cabinet to the opposition, it just needs to hold new elections. Why doesn’t it?

    Hizbullah’s unwillingness to put its weapons under the command of the current unrepresentative government is understandable. Fares seems to think that Israel already has everything it wants from Lebanon. I disagree.

    Fares – no I don’t want to see the Lebanese fighting. That’s what my post was about. I am interested in Syrian politics. I have talked about it and criticised it on this blog. I’m not Lebanese, but I talk about Lebanon for the same reason I talk about Iraq, Palestine, the US, Iran and Saudi Arabia, because I wish to express an opinion.

    qunfuz

    January 27, 2007 at 6:46 am

  7. Abu Kareem – I think that strikes and demonstrations are legitimate protest actions from ‘within the system.’ In Europe such actions are considered legitimate and not subversive. Hizbullah (and Amal and Aoun’s people) are not using ‘any means necessary.’ Both sides are to blame for the fighting and rioting, but from what I read Hizbullah is being the best disciplined.

    After the war Nasrallah said that Hizbullah’s weapons would be integrated into the Lebanese army once there is a representative government. So let’s have a representative government and call Hizbullah’s bluff. If, once there is a representative government, Hizbullah does not integrate its weapons into the army, it will lose a huge amount of support. But I am sure it will. Nasrallah has always kept his word.

    Again to compare with the European democracies, if between 40 and 60% of the people were campaigning to change the government, and especially after a major political event like the summer war, there would be new elections. If the government is sure that it has the support of the majority, it doesn’t have to give a veto-wielding share of the cabinet to the opposition, it just needs to hold new elections. Why doesn’t it?

    Hizbullah’s unwillingness to put its weapons under the command of the current unrepresentative government is understandable. Fares seems to think that Israel already has everything it wants from Lebanon. I disagree.

    Fares – no I don’t want to see the Lebanese fighting. That’s what my post was about. I am interested in Syrian politics. I have talked about it and criticised it on this blog. I’m not Lebanese, but I talk about Lebanon for the same reason I talk about Iraq, Palestine, the US, Iran and Saudi Arabia, because I wish to express an opinion.

    qunfuz

    January 27, 2007 at 6:48 am

  8. Qunfuz,

    An organized blockade of the whole country with truckloads of earth and burning tires, hizbullah operatives with clubs forcefully turning people away from the airport and enforcing the strike by intimidation is not peaceful legitimate protest in my book. What was done would have been illegal in a European democracy.

    I blame everyone for their lack of restraint in the subsequent violence. Certainly, the sectarian baiting and name calling was rampant on all sides.

    On the issue of the arms, you either have the rule of law or you don’t have a legitimate viable state. First of all, Hizbullah should have been disarmed like every other militia in Lebanon. What self-respecting state would tolerate an armed militia doing pretty much what it pleases in a large part of the country. Moreover, Hizbullah cannot unilaterally decide that the government is not representative and using their arms as leverage to get that changes. That’s coercive.

    As pristine as you think Hizbullah’s intentions are, the model of having an armed militia functioning autonomously within a country with unelected leaders accountable to no one is a recipe for disaster. We have many examples in our region: the Lebanese civil war, the multiple competing militias in Palestine and Iraq.

    Abu Kareem

    January 27, 2007 at 12:54 pm

  9. Abu Kareem – You’re right. The blockade went too far. Particularly in a country like Lebanon, where it reminded some people of being beseiged.

    Hizbullah has not unilaterally decided that the government is unrepresentative. Amal and Aoun agree. Even some Sunnis agree. It’s not unilateral, therefore. I suspect that a majority of Lebanese would like a new government. I may be wrong. If the government would allow elections, we’d find out.

    I dont think Hizb is like every other militia in lebanon, because it was the only militia that played a national role. It fought Israel, and pushed Israel out of the South. At various times it has had cross-sectarian support for this reason. It is not only the most effective military force in Lebanon, it’s the most effective military force in the Arab world. I think that’s important, and I don’t want to see it diluted.

    qunfuz

    January 27, 2007 at 7:09 pm

  10. Qunfuz,

    Two Syrians saying for you

    “Dikk il May bitem May”, the water stays water

    “Il Ird Bi3eyn Ummo Ghazal” the monkey is a dear in his mother’s eyes.

    So you’d rather have Lebanon destroyed so that some idiots in HA kidnapp or kill Israeli soldiers? or launch few missiles to kill Palestinians in Haifa??? or Nasera?

    HA can’t librate any land and the proof is Shibaa farm. They can deter from attacking, ooops no they can’t since Israel destroyed Lebanon last summer and they hurried to any cease fire they can get. HA is a big excuse to keep instability in Lebanon, and it should be removed. PLO was your hero if you were in the 80s and they got out too…enough shoving Lebanon into your fight agaisnt Israel. Israel will be just like another tiny states if arabs ceased to pretend to fight it.

    Arabs should focus on improving their lives instead of destroying it merely for power.

    enjoy this post

    Michel Kilo is Still in Prison after 255 days

    Fares

    January 27, 2007 at 8:54 pm

  11. and one more thing…why when people are cornered to admit wrong, they admit it then move to another argument.

    BE FRANK ABOUT YOUR OBJECTIVE OR WHAT YOU WANT. Don’t use twisted language please.

    Why don’t you just say, I don’t care about Lebanon’s prosperity, I want it like Khamenei said to be the central front of battle agaisnt the Zionists. Just like you probably want Iraq to be the central front to fight the americans.

    Meanwhile thousands or millions die in silly useless wars, just like the internal fight in Gaza, everyone calls the other an agent and the people are busy fighting each other.

    Fares

    January 27, 2007 at 8:58 pm

  12. Dear me, Fares, you are becoming hysterical. Please try to debate in a measured way, using arguments instead of insults. Please address yourself to what I say rather than what you imagine I say. Take Abu Kareem as an example. He disagrees with me, and makes good points to support his position. If you are such a great democrat, engage in debate democratically, calmly.

    To which I responded. I didnt use ‘twisted language.’ I agreed with his first point. Then I addressed his next point. What’s wrong with that?

    As you keep putting words into my mouth I have to keep making denials. No, I dont enjoy seeing Lebanon destroyed. However, I don’t believe that the Hizbullah hostage-taking caused the summer war, any more than the attempted assassination of the Israeli ambassador to London in 1982 was the real reason for the siege of Beirut. I’m not alone here. There is a near-consensus of expert opinion on this. The co-ordination of Washington and London with Israel is only one sign of it. Rice called the war the birth pangs of a new middle east. In other words, the objective was the same as 82, for Israel and the US to establish an order in Lebanon which favours them. This has nothing whatsoever to do with democracy.

    I also disagree that Hizbullah was hurrying to get a ceasefire. Nasrallah accepted whatever the Lebanese government wanted to sensible political reasons, and for the sake of Lebanese unity. But at the end of the war (not the beginning) it was Israel and the US which were desperate for a ceasefire. They’d done their massive bombardment, and it had had minimal effect on the resistance. As Israeli ground troops poured in they became bogged down, taking significant casualties, unable to move beyond border villages.

    The fighting in Gaza is tragic and infuriating. Of course the foolishness of the Palestinians themselves is most to blame. But in this case too do you expect the Palestinians to give Israel whatever it wants – to stop being Palestinian perhaps? And dont you think that perhaps the Gaza conflict has something to do with the Abrams plan for – a Gaza conflict? With the US-Israeli-Jordanian transfer of weaponry in the last month to Abbas’s ‘presidential guard’?

    qunfuz

    January 28, 2007 at 5:17 am

  13. Fares you seem to me one of those people who would gladly collaborate with the occupation rather than exist. I hate to see Lebanon this way and I would never be as low as you describe me, you do a great injustice by judging me.

    The difference between me and you is I recognise the devastation in Lebanon was man-made. It was Israel with American support that did that, not Hezbullah. Israel is not a God-like natural phenomenon that would inevitably strike us with righteous fury for being behaving badly. There is an occupation, there is a project for resisting it and the moral onus is on Israel first and foremost, not Hezbullah and not Syria and Iran. I know you are upset about Lebanon but you are shooting the messengers! The real enemy for me has always been Israel.

    Wassim

    January 28, 2007 at 10:49 am

  14. You guys never learn from the past…it is too bad. Arabs deserve what is happening to them…so when Assad hurries up and try to meet with Israelis he is good but when I say enough internal fightings then I am a collaborator…

    Mabrouk Takhaloufkoum and Mabrouk 3leikum Ahzab Al Kharab: Baath, Allah and Hamas who are the real collaborators and history will prove me.

    Fares

    January 28, 2007 at 6:01 pm

  15. your usual high standards of logic and politeness are on display here, Fares!

    qunfuz

    January 28, 2007 at 9:21 pm

  16. Qunfuz,

    This article is very good reading from an Ex HA or Amal

    http://www.metransparent.com/texts/youssef_bazzi_how_to_take_beirut.htm

    Fares

    January 29, 2007 at 10:45 pm

  17. Fares

    February 8, 2007 at 7:55 am


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