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Saturday, January 21, 2006

Breaking Hizbullah's monopoly

One of the aspects of Hizbullah’s monopoly over the Shia opinion in Lebanon revealed itself on Thursday when Hizbullah’s secretary general Hassan Nasrallah lent his support to Sheikh Afif Naboulsi, a pro-Hizbullah scholar who issued a fatwa prohibiting any Shia from outside the party of God or Amal from joining the Lebanese cabinet.

While this problem is endemic in Lebanon, where sect leaders can approve or reject political appointees based on their loyalties, Hizbullah takes it further by using religion to safeguard and extend its monopoly.

Lebanese Shias, if they don’t subscribe to Khomeini’s version of Shia Islam and Hizbullah’s extremist doctrine, find themselves ostracized from Lebanese politics. This is a travesty, for none of the other parties in Lebanon require their members to be fundamentalist Muslims or Christians in order to engage in politics. I shouldn’t have to be a supporter of Hizbullah or even Amal before I can dream of a post in government. There should be no religious edicts limiting my political aspirations.

A lawsuit has been filed by a group of Lebanese, some of whom are Shia, against Naboulsi for “identity theft, threatening and terrorizing in an attempt to obstruct the practice of civil rights, instigating sectarian differences and portraying political disputes as disputes between religions and sects."

According to the Daily Star, the complaint was submitted to Beirut's first investigating judge, Magistrate Abdel-Rahim Hammoud. The 8 plaintiffs who signed the complaint said Naboulsi was not entitled to “issue a fatwa and prevent the Shiite citizens from practicing their constitutional rights.”

On 21 December 2005, and following the cabinet crisis that resulted from Hizbullah and Amal suspending their participation in the cabinet, Naboulsi made the following statement:
There are foreign attempts, which some local forces comply with, to put Amal and Hizbullah away and to bring new Shia representatives [into the Cabinet]. Consequently, we forbid any Shia political party to replace Amal and Hizbullah representatives.

We stress that the entrance of any Shia political party is illegal, because it does not represent the people… We address a precautionary fatwa to every Shiite politician, who tries to take advantage of the ministerial crisis.
The lawsuit againt Naboulsi was filed by Talal Husseini, Youssef Zein, Fares Sassin, Fahmiya Sharafeddine, Nada Sehnaoui, Mona Fayyad, MP Ghassan Mokheiber and Mohammad Farid Matar.

Nasrallah denounced it, claiming it was an "attack against Muslim Ulama, who freely voice their views and positions."

What Hizbullah and its secretary general are saying is that "freedom" is only for pro-Hizbullah religious scholars to issue fatwas legitimizing the party's monopoly. It is not for the community, which is being denied the basic right of free political expression. Since the Party of God does not believe in democracy, this is to be expected. However, this does not mean that Lebanese Shias should forfeit their rights and let fundamentalists speak for them.

This lawsuit marks the beginning of a lengthy process to reclaim the Shia voice.

Nasrallah denounced it, claiming it was an "attack against Muslim Ulama, who freely voice their views and positions."

It's not "views and positions", it's an edict tantamount to excommunication.

It's "views" to shut other "views" out.

The law suit is a great idea. Keeps this in the media and puts the meddlers on notice that you can't do this without consequence. Of course whether Leb Justice will have the guts to go all the way is another story.

(see Makhoul in L'Orient-LJ today Jan 21)
Keep fantasizing. Attacks on the Hizbollah and Amal have only alienated the Shia community from the Lebanese body politic.
Speak for yourself, anonymous, I know many Shias in lebanon who are are ashamed of what Hizbullah and Amal are doing. In any case, this forced alienation of some of the community was a direct result of Hizbullah's and Amal's unwavering support for Assad and now Ahmadinejad at the expense of Lebanese national interests.

And please "anonymous" people, find names to identify yourselves. It's hard to communicate with nameless people.
What bothered me about the article was:

The plaintiffs said Naboulsi was not a member of the Shiite sect's religious committee and hence could not issue a fatwa and prevent the Shiite citizens from practicing their constitutional rights.

So if he was, would things have turned out differently?
I so agree with you Kais, that these "anonymouses" better find names to identify themselves; I have the same problem on our blog.

I agree with you that I was shocked to hear that Sayyid Nasrallah was against the lawsuit; I really truely thought he would denounce such caliber of fatwas...but what happened was the contrary.
HA and Amal want to be free to criticize but not be criticized!
Obviously I am in total agreement with the intent of the pending law suit. But, and there is always a but, I have never , ever believed in the Machiavellian principle that the end justifies the means.
I am concerned that in this case the proposed remedy is not the most appropriate one because we need to move exactly in the opposite direction relative to the one that is proposed. It is a step backward when we seek to place restrictions on the freedom of speech as much as we might disagree with the speaker. So what would be my preffered remedy, to just guard the speakers inherent rights even to spew hatred but to count on the maturity and rationality of the public to disregard such speech. And please don't tell me that such suggestions do not work in Lebanon.

Ultimately it is up to the citizens to either heed such speech or disregard it. The fact that the government objects should never be an issue. No government should have the right to dictate my thoughts.
I have always advocated proportional representation.

Supposing that HA is 60% of the opinion, there's still 40% left.
Takfir was a monopoly of the Sunni fundamentalists until now. HA just joined the club.
The problem ghassan is that this is not a matter of "speech." This is not an opinion. This is a clerical edict. In other words, just like you don't want the government to dictate your views, no cleric should have the power to publicly dictate, based on religious law (again, not just opinion), how people should conduct their non-religious political life! There's a big difference between a cleric supporting Hizbullah, and a cleric legally banning political participation if it doesn't follow his line. That's vilayet e-faqih territory. That has no place in Lebanon (although I'm sure some ignorant idiot is bound to make some remark about sectarianism. The anticipation as to who that idiot will be is thrilling!)
Yes Doha, you know, after reading Helena Cobban's "informed" commentary on Hezbollah, I was irrevocably convinced that they were a "secular democratic" force! You know?! I'm simply shattered... You know, cause Helena assured me that they "barely use the word God" in their rhetoric, so what more proof did I need to be absolutely sold on their profound democratic secularism?! I mean, come on! Really. But I guess, now that this came up (and I heard that they worked with taklif shar'i during the elections. Does that count as "secular"?), I'm confused. Hell, now I'm hearing from this Lebanese blogger fellow named Tony that Helena Cobban is an absolute moron who knows squat about Lebanon and Hizbullah, and just writes cheerleading garbage and sells it as "expertise." I don't know... I'm lost...
how much does a fatwa bind people's liberty?

because if it does so, perhaps we need to press charges against many ulamas/sheikhs who have been issuing fatwas..
the latest i read about was from egypt where one sheikh issued a fatwa calling a marriage dissolved if a married man and woman see each other completely naked.

or a fatwa ordering the believers to vote for one group against the other.

I will be the first to admit that I am not very well versed in Islamic jurisprudence. I have always assumed that the clerics are entitled to issue Fatwas (religious edicts) and it is up to the public to either agree with such edicts or not. This is not a sectarian matter, as you well satate. What if the Catholic Church is to issue a statement equating the use of contraseptives with mortal sin and even go as far as suggest that no catholic who practices artificial birth contro; should be allowed to join the governong body of the state. I trust that the Papcy should be free to make such a laughable demnd but I don't believe that the government should tell the church how to run its affairs. I hesitate to use this over used expression but if we are to sanction such an action by government then we would be on our way to a slippery slope.
"What if the Catholic Church is to issue a statement equating the use of contraseptives with mortal sin and even go as far as suggest that no catholic who practices artificial birth contro; should be allowed to join the governong body of the state. "

Ghassan, it would be rightfully denounced as inacceptable invasion of the church in the political sphere. And it stands for all the sects.
Of course the church in that hypothetical case must be denounced but it must not be prosecuted in a court of law!!!
Ghassan, you're comparing apples to oranges. In most European countries, there is separation of church and state, and even if the Catholic Church were to threaten ex-communication, their threat will have no bearing on the government or the people for that matter. Also, we have to avoid the pitfall of comparing Islam to Christianity, and in our case, wilayat al-faqih Islam.

In Hizbullah's world, the rule is such that only the faqih has the political authority to rule Muslims. In this, there is no place for presidents, ministers or temporal powers. That's why allowing Hizbullah to take part in elections is dangerous as long as they espouse this ideology. And that's the context in which to read this fatwa. Regardless of the standing of Naboulsi, when Nasrallah supports it, it becomes near-law in the minds of the religiously conservatives. If tomorrow Khamenei, the wali al- faqih, issues an edict declaring it a sin to criticise the Syrian regime, rest assured Lebanon will descend into civil war. Naboulsi's fatwa is a prelude to something like that. And last I checked, sects in Lebanon have authority only over personal status matters and inheritance (though not all by choice), not politics. You can argue that other religious figures in Lebanon interfere in politics as well, but it is not at this alarming level, which is unconstitutional and dangerous for the future of the state.

This worries me and I am not even Christian.
I respectfully suggest that I am not mixing apples and orange
:-) :-).
The example that I used about the Catholic church would equally apply if we are talking about Martians. A position is right or wrong independent of the parties that it applies to. I do share your very well founded and deep concern about HA. I don't maintain a personal blog but you might have noticed over the months that I have been one of the earliest and most vocal critic of HA.Actually I would even suggest that my positions vis a vis HA are radical in the sense that HA is ingongrous with the demovratic L:ebanese project that many are hoping for. As a result I believe that HA must not be courted because it canot act against its founding principles.
But I digress. My point is that inspite of my total disagreement with HA and the contents of the Fatwa I will do anything to defend their right to issue it. If the public choses to be gueided by this Fatwa then that is a reflection on the values, mores and maturity of the public. It is not for government to tell me police my thought. Government is there to protect my rights and not violate them. If I am an adult ,then I can think for myself.
Ghassan -

Freedom of speech is limited, even in most of the "free" countries. A slightly tangential analogy is slander. Am I free to insult someone without basis? There has to be some control to set social bounds, and thus it must be with fatwas.
Another thougt occured to me after my last post. I have always tried very hard to take stands that do not commit the common fallacy of selective indignation.As hard as it might be at times, I want my opponents to enjoy the same protections that I demand for myself. If I am not mistaken you are a resident of DC in the US and an example that is in a sense parallel to the subject at hand is the stand of the ACLU to defend the right of the KKK to hold its demontrations and spread their despicable messages.
When the Lebanese forces ask the elementary schools in Northern Lebanon to close monday so that the children
would go to the so called "Freedom Tent" one wonder!
Who is better Geagea or Nasrallah.
It seems Geagea learnt nothing during his 11 years of seclusion.
Once a dictator always a dictator.
A Maronite dictator is not better than a Shiite or Alawite dictator.
Don't ask for a link.It was all over the news and also reported by General Aoun himself.
There is a common saying that my rights stop where your nose begins. No one disagrees that one should be prohibited from yelling fire in a theater, the resulting stampede will be the end of many. But in this case there is no slander. Let me elaborate. Over the past four years or so I have given dozens of poublic lectures, writen tens of op-ed pieces and made many presentations at conferences in which I have been very critical of the imperial designs of the BUsh adminstration and its neo-con architects. In each of these cases I have urged my audience to never vote for Bush and to make it a point to promote democratic values. Did I commit slander? Did the public listen to my adice? Did I have an inherent right to voice my opinion? No,No and yes.
I don't think that the guy should be prosecuted (and I think that there's no case against him). These fatwas are religious edicts that are not legally binding under the Lebanese law. He didn't usurp the state's authority or attempt to enforce his opinion on the others in an illegal manner.

That is for the theoretical part. The thing is that given Lebanon's religiousity, a fatwa is a quasi-legal edict in practice. I must add that I am very, very disappointed (but not surprised) by the fact that the Shia superior council didn't criticize this edict.
"wali al- faqih"

Is it wali or vali? I thought that the expression was farsi.
"When the Lebanese forces ask the elementary schools in Northern Lebanon to close monday so that the children"

Yes pal, they 'ask'. They didn't force anybody, and they didn't accused their opponents of being sinners.

First, I understand what you're saying and I agree with your ideas on freedom of speech. As a resident of this country, I worship the freedom of expression it allows me.

Having said that, civil rights are as precious as freedom of expression. A fatwa is more than an expression, it's a call for action. And the action here is obstructing the civil rights of Lebanese citizens, in particular the Shia, who have the right to be cabinet members regardless of their political or religious affiliation. I think that's the issue here. I too believe that Hizbullah has the rights you mentioned, but fatwas, though not binding to Muslims, especially in the context of Hizbullah's ideolgy, have the effect of physical bullying. It would be like the KKK sending hooded people to prevent black Americans from riding buses. Or you sending thugs to polling station to prevent people from voting for Bush, which I know you won't. :)

But you did get me curious. You don't have to answer this, but anything I might have read by you? abukais@gmail.com :)
Ghassan and the gang. 2 questions

1) Someone "disobeying" this fatwa might end up before a religious court controlled by these guys. Does that change any of your answers?

2) Ghassan where do you stand on the Salman Rushdie fatwa? (Is that a free speech issue?)
Kais, I'm glad that you finally posted on this issue although I mentioned it on your blog few weeks ago. I was afraid that it would pass un-noticed on the Lebanese blogosphere. Anyway, better late than never. Keep up the good work mate.
Ghassan, there is one big difference between you and and a Fatwa backed by Hizbullah, you have no force behind it so it cannot be perceived as a threat. After all the ultimate example of Fatwas is Sistani in Iraq. When he issues a fatwa everyone freaks out, he is very much aware that it is not simple freedom of speech but rather of political import, so he is very circumspect. whereas you on the other, as you yourself say have no real impact on the world. It is kind of like the difference between someone on a blog saying let's wipe out israel, and the president of Iran. One is just stupid crap and the other is scary.
This lawsuit marks the beginning of a lengthy process to reclaim the Shia voice.

Knowing that it comes from a bunch of venoumous hate-mongering right-wingers, I won't bet on that.

And why not talking about breaking the monopoly of Hariri royal Saud's family? Jumblat? Aoun?

OMG, silly me responding to such a hypocrite using the biased one-eyed look to things!

Have a little respect to the 'masses' instead of figuring them as collectively brain-washed sheep by Hizbullah's agenda. This is plain shallow Kais. Look for some reasonal reason! Instead of this rubbish.

AbdulKarim said...
...I was afraid that it would pass un-noticed on the Lebanese blogosphere

What difference does it make??!! Not that mentioning it on some self-rightous claimer's site would move the masses and make a new monopoly! Not with such meaningless theory. Theory??
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