Faith knows no religious boundaries

Category: Middle East, World Affairs Topics: Lebanon, Occupation Views: 3934

With its victory over Israel - a sampling of the Israeli press providing ample acknowledgement of this victory and ample evidence of the gloom into which Israel has been plunged - Hezbollah and its leader, Hasan Nasrallah, now take their place among the immortals.

To go no further back than the 20th century, Hezbollah now takes its place with - to name but a few - the defenders of Gallipoli, Stalingrad and Leningrad; the German army while retreating from Russia (even in retreat the Germans fought superbly), the People's Liberation Army during the Long March, Fidel's guerrillas during the Cuban revolution, the Vietcong and Vietminh during the war against the United States and the Israeli army in the 1967 war when it brought the armies of Egypt, Jordan and Syria to their knees in six days.

It must have felt great to be an Israeli in 1967. That war changed, it almost seemed eternally, the strategic calculus in the Middle East. After the second Lebanese war, Hezbollah can lay claim to changing the strategic equation. The myth of Israeli invincibility lies shattered while American arrogance and folly have been dealt a severe blow. American influence in the region stands degraded.

The god of war, as we have already noted, makes no distinction between different faiths. Enough for him if commitment to one's cause is sincere and wholehearted. And it helps if the cause is also just. "Brute force bereft of reason," as Horace warned long ago, "falls by its own weight. Power with counsel temper'd even the gods make greater. But might which in its soul is bent on all impiety, they hate."

Throughout history, this has been the winning formula: force tied to reason and justice, and, of course, tenacity, imagination and boldness. L'audace: fortune favours the audacious.

In the last hundred years the Muslim world has produced only two outstanding politico-military figures: Mustafa Kemal and Hasan Nasrallah, the one almost irreligious, the other steeped in the spirit of Islam. (Although it is another matter that Turkey today enjoys extremely close relations with Israel, an aspect of Turkish policy incomprehensible to most Muslims.)

In short, to each his/her own faith. The only condition is it must be made of the purest material.

Christians who have fought some of the most terrible wars in history - the two world wars being largely intra-Christian conflicts - of necessity cast their faith in Christian terms just as the Samurai does it his own way and the Vietcong rode on the wings of nationalism when they took on the might of the US.

It is therefore only natural for Muslims to express their faith in Islamic terms. The very first thing whispered into the ear of the new-born Muslim child, whether in a religious household or one where religious rituals are not all that strictly observed, is the sound of the azaan, the call to prayer.

Just as the names of the apostles have a special significance for Christians, the names, say, of Omar and Ali, caliphs of Islam, are wired in a special way into the consciousness of a Muslim. When we are in pain we invoke Allah's name, even those of us otherwise not much given to religious observance.

Hasan Nasrallah's speeches are peppered with religious references. He invokes God's help all the time. Hezbollah, however, is not a religious sect. It is a political organisation the central tenets of whose ideology are intensely and purely political. What does Hezbollah seek? Social justice for the people of Lebanon - which means schools, hospitals and the right to a decent life - and freedom from foreign domination, in this case Israeli and American domination.

It does not seek the establishment of a theocratic state, which is one reason why its support amongst the Lebanese population transcends and goes far beyond the bounds of the Shia community.

Robert Pape, author of a well-received book on "terrorism", says in the Guardian, "Contrary to conventional wisdom, Hezbollah is principally neither a political party nor an Islamist militia. It is a broad movement that evolved in reaction to Israel's invasion of Lebanon in June 1982. At first, it consisted of a small number of Shias supported by Iran. But as more and more Lebanese came to resent Israel's occupation, Hezbollah, never tight-knit, expanded into an umbrella organisation that tacitly coordinated the resistance operations of a loose collection of groups with a variety of religious and secular aims."

Hezbollah conducted a campaign of suicide bombings against American, French and Israeli targets from 1982 to 1986, including the famous bombing which killed about 280 American Marines and forced the Americans out of Lebanon. There were 41 such bombings in all. Researching for his book, Pape says he was shocked to find that "only eight (of the bombers) were Islamic fundamentalists; 27 were from leftist political groups such as the Lebanese Communist Party and the Arab Socialist Union; three were Christians, including a woman secondary school teacher with a college degree. All were born in Lebanon."

"What these suicide attackers - and their heirs today - shared," he concludes, "was not a religious or political ideology but simply a commitment to resisting a foreign occupation." (I have said above that Hezbollah's ideology is intensely political. In my view, which could be mistaken, resisting foreign occupation is a political aim. In any event, I was trying to draw a distinction between the religious and the political.)

But the justness of a cause means nothing if not accompanied by dedication and commitment. I may be the world's greatest idealist but of no use to anyone if incapable of action; or if I am guilty of double standards, holding up one yardstick for myself and a different one for others.

About the dedication of Hezbollah's leadership, suffice it to say that Hasan Nasrallah's own son died fighting the Israeli army in Lebanon in 1997. An exchange of bodies took place a year later. The late Eqbal Ahmed (who also wrote for this paper) wrote this for the Al-Ahram weekly at the time:

"Sayed Hassan Nasrallah entered the hall in solemn dignity accompanied by Jawad, his teenage son. He stopped before each coffin and offered the Fatiha (the Muslim equivalent of the Lord's Prayer) until he reached the one marked 13. He beckoned to an aide and spoke to him in a whisper. The aide summoned two workers of the Islamic Health Association, a Hezbollah outfit. They opened the coffin exposing a body wrapped in a white shroud. Sheikh Nasrallah's eyes closed, his lips trembled as he offered the Fatiha. Slowly, he bent over and tenderly stroked the head of Hadi Nasrallah, his eldest son who was 18 when he died in battle on 13 September (1997). Jawad, the younger son, stood still and pale next to his father. A deep silence fell on the room while (Hasan Nasrallah's) right hand rested on his son's chest."

Is such a leadership easy to defeat? When Israel attacked Lebanon on July 12, Israeli defence minister Amir Peretz said that Hasan Nasrallah would never be able to forget the name of Amir Peretz. More likely it is Peretz who won't forget Hasan Nasrallah's name.

Islam has many faces in the world today: the face of compromise, defeatism and collaboration, the Islam of the Excellencies who preside over the destinies of the Muslim world, autocrats at home and American satellites abroad. The Muslim masses have had enough of these cardboard figures. There is then the Islam of Hasan Nasrallah and Hezbollah, the Islam that stands for justice and resistance.

This is not 'radical' Islam. When the US is uncomfortable with anything or when something runs counter to its interests, it uses the word 'radical' - and now increasingly 'terrorist' - to denounce it. This is the true Islam.

Its constituent elements are simple: democracy, that is rule by the people, not by hereditary emir or power-grabbing general; social justice or egalitarianism which means schools, hospitals and equal opportunities for all; and resistance against American domination, either direct as in Iraq or indirect through America's surrogate, Israel.

This is the true path and Hezbollah has held up the torch to it. Not for a long time has the Islamic world been stirred by such profound feelings.

Ayaz Amir writes for the Dawn newspaper from Pakistan.

  Category: Middle East, World Affairs
  Topics: Lebanon, Occupation
Views: 3934

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Older Comments:
What a silly person you are John, shilling for Israeli terror. The fact remains that it is Israel which could not its objectives of re-invading Lebanon and setting up a puppet regime. You are in denial that Israeli terrorists got the snot kicked out of them despite their military superiority.

What a funny article. You call the recent incident by Hezobollah a victory? Hezobollah did not achieve its goal of its wish to have a prisoner swap with the Isrealis. Many parts of Lebanon is laid waiste. And now you see that Hezobollah is the souce of pride? Did Hezobollah occuy any land that Israel already occupies in Lebanon? Did they occupy any terrority of Palestine? All what you think Hezobollah did to achieve victory was Hezobollah hit a few missiles into Israel, and killed a few Israeli soilders. So that is victory to you. Actually what Hezobollah achieved that all of Lebanon did suffer from their stupid actions of kidnapping a few Israeli soilders, without first consulting the Lebanese Government or Lebanese Army.

It is a sad, but true fact that the majority of American citizens/residents believe what our government and media tell us about the Islamic world is the absolute truth. The fact is that those who do not reach out for outside sources of news are mislead to believe that the Islamic world is the enemy of the West, which is could not be farther from the truth. What such individuals are not told is that Islam is a peaceful religion, and that Islamic nations are being invaded (directly or indirectly) by the West for the sole purpose of world domination. My only wish is for those who have bought or are still buying into the idea of "radical or terrorist" Islamic nations would educate themselves about the Islamic faith and the West's foreign policy toward Islamic nations. Our world is in true danger, and it is irresponsible of us to just stand by and let the power-hungry leaders run the show.

The author displays an inadequate sense of history. To allude to the idea that the recent cross-border conflict between Israel & Hezboolah is akin to Stalingrad or any of the other events mentioned is absurd. What occurred in Lebanon was a failure for both sides, neither achieved their goals. To pretend otherwise is to repeate the failures of the past and lay the gorundwork for another catacylsmic disaster.
While Hezbollah and their friends are celebrating the "Victory", the Israelis are learning the lessons and remedying the faults. By the next battle they will have devised a way to victory, while we are still basking in the glow of our self-deception.
Remember not one inch of Palestine was recovered, no prisoners released, the IDF wasn't driven out and vast amounts of Lebanon were destroyed.
And what happens when the Israelis win the next battle, we will stand there frozen in shock unable to understand why we have lost (again!).
Let's learn from the Jews this once. Let's not fire off our guns into the air, but sit quietly and examine every element of this conflict. Yes, Hezbollah held the IDF back in some places, but it was only a small part fo the IDF and the reports are that they fought for days with hardly any food because of logistics failure.
That we call this a victory is a sad statement about ourselves. We are so desperate for any symbol of success that we will adopt even the pathetic achievements of a murderous private army. Allah forgive us and lead us from our stupidity, or can this be another lesson for Muslims that we refuse to learn?

I agree with this article.Muslims and all God fearing people should be afraid of their Creator only.They should stand up for truth and justice even if it is against themselves.Remember, none of us leaves this world alive.There is no super power except Almighty God.Be afraid of no one except Him.

you should go to lebanon and see for yourself the commitment, patriotism, and loyalty of this hero.