A propagandist-in-chief's war on intellectual imperialism and pursuit of a resistance episteme

Posts Tagged: shia

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If the “Hizbullah stronghold” concept wasn’t bad enough, after today’s Hermil bombing , we can now add “pro-Hizbullah region” (see Lebanon’s Daily Star today) and “Hizbullah town” (the BBC before they amended their headline) to refer to predominantly Shia areas in Lebanon targetted by suicide bombers. Aside from the usual blaming of the victims—the Shia must pay for their support for Hizbullah, the classist undertones of this ShiaVille discourse cannot be discounted. No matter how much national unity and cross-sectarian solidarity the Lebanese attempt to muster with their “we are all Dahyeh” slogans, the media’s classist and borderline racist coverage of attacks on the Dahyeh suburbs or the underdeveloped Shia periphery of Baalbek, only serve to ghettoize the Shia as the witting “thug-life” victims of Hizbullah’s turf wars. It also feeds into that whole Saatchi & Saatchi, neoliberal “I love life” crusade practiced by the “why does Hizbullah have to mess with dem Takfiris in Syria?” camp. This is no less than a revival of the language of internal colonialism when the Dahyeh was known as the “Shia slums of Beirut” and/or “the belt of misery”. 

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My brilliant friend, Emily DB’s, comment for the Institute for Public Accuracy’s report "Why Isn’t Beirut Bombing Called Terrorist?" 

 “The stock phrase employed by western mainstream media that the bomb struck a ‘stronghold of the militant Hezbollah group,’ to quote the Washington Post, belies the fact that the area is dense and residential, and that the victims were civilians. This is akin to describing the September 11th attacks in Manhattan as striking ‘a stronghold of American bankers.’ It may be true symbolically, and also by crude motive of the bombers. But who are the victims and why were they targeted? They were civilians, overwhelmingly from the Shia sect, which make up Hezbollah’s base of support in Lebanon. Curiously, despite the fact that civilians were indiscriminately targeted, U.S. mainstream media did not refer to the bombing as a ‘terrorist attack.’

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My take on the EU’s blacklisting of Hizbullah’s “military wing” as terrorist organization in Nour Samaha’s AJE piece “Hezbollah: The EU’s new ‘terrorists’” :

“This is 100 percent related to Hezbollah’s role in Syria, the fall of Qusayr, and the defeat of the Syrian rebels,” Amal Saad-Ghorayeb….“The West understands the Syrian regime is not going to fall, and so this has pushed the EU to come out with this decision,” she said. “This is a PR war where they’re trying to brand Hezbollah as terrorists, and equate them to groups like al-Qaeda.” 

Hezbollah is seen as an important resistance movement by many Shias and others belonging to different sects in Lebanon, and European efforts to scare supporters away from the group will be futile, according to Saad-Ghorayeb.

“Hezbollah is a community, it’s a people based on a grassroots movement,” she said. “You can’t destroy this.”

“While there is the concern that any Shia who now supports Hezbollah either based in Europe or traveling to Europe will have to think twice, I don’t think this will push people away from Hezbollah,” she said. “Rather it will anger the Shia community.”

Both Sayigh and Saad-Ghorayeb agreed that logistically speaking differentiating Hezbollah’s military wing from other aspects of the organisation may be a cause for concern.

“The military wing is very clandestine,” said Saad-Ghorayeb, “no intelligence agency knows the names of the fighters to freeze their assets and deny them visas, so does this mean they’ll start penalising the families of martyrs or their relatives?”

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"We have entered a completely new phase. What is happening in Syria is very important and fateful, for Lebanon’s present and future. Let us not bury our heads in the sand and act like we live in Djibouti, we are here on the border [with Syria]. We have the courage to talk and the courage to act and we will therefore speak honestly as such a historic and sensitive moment requires us to.

Our political position was clear from the very outset: we said popular demands for reform were legitimate. And we said that this [Assad] government had its positive points, particularly regarding resistance and mumana’a (political resistance), and that it also had negative points and flaws, and that what was needed were reforms which could be fulfilled by way of a political dialogue, [whereby] neither side fires a shot at the other. And this is because we know what Syria means to Lebanon and the region and the Arab-Israeli struggle, and to resistance movements and to the Palestinian cause.

Despite our modest capabilities as a party, we have strong and good ties with regional players. I was personally involved, along with my brothers [in Hizbullah], in brokering a political dialogue and a political resolution between President Bashar al-Assad and the opposition. And I witnessed how President Assad accepted while the opposition refused. All along, the Syrian leadership was willing to sit at the negotiating table and pursue a dialogue, and it accepted substantive political reforms. But to this day, the opposition continues to reject dialogue as it did from the outset, in the [vain] hope that the regime would collapse within a few months. This was based on the assumption that whoever is backed by the US, the UK, France, Italy, Germany, Europe and Arab oil states and Turkey etc. will necessarily triumph within a few weeks or months. They miscalculated.

An alliance of all these states I just mentioned soon emerged, led by the US which has the first and final say [in everything] . The British, French, Italians, Germans, Arabs, Turks, all work for the Americans. And we all know that Israel also supports this axis because the American project in the region is first and foremost an Israeli project. Al-Qaeda and takfiri groups joined this axis, and they were offered money and all kinds of facilities from all corners of the globe.  Doors were opened for them and they entered Syria. Nobody can convince us that the tens of thousands of takfiris and extremists who reject everyone that doesn’t subscribe to their thought, stealthily entered Syria…And an international war against Syria was waged, a media, political, diplomatic, economic and financial war, and the arming and funding and deployment of tens of thousands of fighters from all over the world. Tens of thousands of fighters from all over the world don’t seem to bother the so-called “Friends of Syria”, who met in Amman a couple of days ago, but they considered the intervention of a small group of Hizbullah [fighters] as foreign intervention.

To be honest, we didn’t intervene until a month ago….We used all our contacts with Islamic and national forces, as well as with states, to no avail; nothing but the downfall of the regime, whatever the cost. I know that there were reasonable proposals for a solution which were accepted by the Syrian leadership. These proposals were rejected by regional states because they cannot bear the idea of this regime remaining in power, even if Syria is going to be destroyed in the process.

We don’t accuse everyone [in the opposition], there are people who don’t have [American/Zionist/Arab oil] connections, and they are logical and have a vision, their demands are just, they are willing to engage in dialogue for their natural rights, and we respect these rights. This is part of the Syrian opposition. And there is another segment of the opposition which is employed by the CIA and the Pentagon and this or that intelligence service, and they don’t have any say in decision making. This is the external opposition. On the ground, [there are] the armed groups, [in] the areas from which the state withdrew, or was made to withdraw, and which is now under the control of armed groups. Does the external opposition have any control over these groups? They want to go and debate in Geneva; will they able to hold any sway over these armed groups? The West, the Arabs, the intelligence agencies and the media, and you and I know this truth: the largest force and dominant trend within the ranks of the armed forces is the takfiri trend. Those abroad have no influence over any of them.

And this trend started to dominate the Syrian opposition and it was funded and armed by several Arab states and regional countries and these states not only want to get rid of the Syrian regime, but of these   [takfiri] groups as well, so they facilitated their departure. But what they didn’t realize was that there would come a day when they will return home after earning this combat experience and experience in slaughter and killing….The case is no longer a popular revolution against a regime, it is no longer an issue of reform [because] the man [Assad] was ready to reform.

We regard the control these groups have over Syria, and specifically over parts of Syria bordering Lebanon, as a grave danger to Lebanon and a grave danger to all Lebanese. It is not only a danger to Hizbullah, or to the Shia of Lebanon, it is a danger to Lebanon and the Lebanese and the Resistance and communal coexistence in Lebanon. If these groups control areas bordering Lebanon they pose a threat to Lebanese Christians and Muslims, and when I say “Muslims” I means Sunnis, Druze, Shia and Alawites. I don’t just mean Shia, it is the Sunnis who are first and foremost in danger. The proof of this is Iraq. The same groups fighting in Syria today are an extension of a group there called “the Islamic state of Iraq”. Just ask Iraqi Sunnis how many of their Sunni clerics and Islamic party leaders this group killed; leaders who didn’t follow it. How many mosques in Anbar, Fallujah and Mosul, not merely Shia mosques and Christian churches? This organization boasts of carrying out 4 000 or 5 000 suicide attacks in Iraq. Most of these operations have targeted Iraqis of all sects, religions and ethnicities.

A week ago there was an election in Pakistan. You know what is problem with takfiri thought? They accuse others of apostasy over the most trivial matters, not merely for ideological or sectarian reasons, but for political reasons too. Whoever participates in the parliamentary elections is also an apostate; [shedding] his blood becomes permissible….This is the takfiri mind. He doesn’t differentiate between Sunni, Shia, Muslim, Christian, it makes no difference…They killed people at polling booths in all Iraqi provinces. How many people were killed in Pakistan a week ago? And most of those killed in Pakistan, in electoral campaigns and polling booths, were Sunni Muslims and Sunni clerics. The Pakistani Taliban killed them because they consider participation in the parliamentary elections as apostasy.  In just 4 countries—Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Somalia—there were many more Sunnis killed than other Muslims or Christians.

Tunisia and Libya are suffering from this [takfiri] scourge today; those states which created and exported this scourge suffered from it. And we have been promised here in Lebanon that this scourge is coming our way. This is the danger. This mind does not accept dialogue…it has no priorities or common denominators. All it does is declare others apostates for the most trivial reasons, and it sanctions their killing. What future can there be for Syria amidst these groups and this mind? What future for Lebanon? What future for Palestine? What future for the people of this region?

We do not approach the problem from the perspective of Sunnis versus Shia as some have accused of us doing. Our approach is that all Muslims and Christians are threatened by this mind and trend and thought, which is creeping its way into our region. It is financed by America and supported by America, because that is the only means America has left at its disposal with which to destroy the region and restore its hegemony over us.

From the very start, people in the Syrian opposition declared that once the regime would collapse within 2 or 3 months, they were coming after us in Lebanon, before we had even articulated our political position. They burnished their credentials with the Americans and Israelis, [assuring them that] “we are ready to take revenge from the resistance which was victorious in 2000 and which thwarted the New Middle East project in 2006. We are ready, just support us.” And from the start, they kidnapped Lebanese pilgrims in Azaz and they began attacking Lebanese in the Qusayr countryside in order to displace them.

I have three points I want to make. This is the first development, and that is the domination and control by the takfiri trend. If it does take control, then the future of Syria and Lebanon and the region will be a very difficult and dark one.

Second, Syria is no longer an arena for popular revolution against a political system, but an arena for the imposition of a political project led by America and the West and its regional tools. And we all know that the American project in the region is an Israeli project through and through.

Third, Syria is the backbone of the resistance and a support for the resistance and the resistance cannot sit idly by while its back is being broken. We are not stupid. Only someone stupid would watch the death, siege, and conspiracy closing in on him without lifting a finger. Only a stupid person would do this. A reasonable, responsible person lives up to his obligations in full. If Syria falls into the hands of America, Israel, the takfiris, and all of America’s tools in the region, the resistance will find itself under siege, and Israel will invade Lebanon, in order to impose its terms on the Lebanese people, and in order to revive its aspirations and schemes. Then, Lebanon would return to yet another Israeli era. If Syria falls then Palestine is lost and the resistance in Palestine is lost, Gaza, the West Bank, and Jerusalem will be lost.

There are two sides in this conflict: the first is the American/western/Arab axis which links the takfiri currents with one another on the battle field. [Takfiris] who rip chests open, behead people, dig up graves and destroy the past, a past which is 1400 years old. For the entire duration of this past, the followers of different faiths coexisted, and mosques, churches, shrines and mausoleums remained, and this diversity remained under the rule of various governments, most of which were Sunni governments….

And on the other side is a state or government which has a clear position on the Palestinian cause , on resistance movements and on the Israeli scheme, and which has always made clear its intent to engage in dialogue and a political solution and enact reforms.

Hizbullah can never belong to the same front which includes America, Israel and those who rip chests open, behead people and dig up graves. You can take any side you want, but Hizbullah can never belong to a front which wants to destroy all our achievements and squander all the sacrifices and make us slaves of America and Israel once again in a renewed Middle East project which we had previously defeated with the blood of thousands of martyrs…. By means of our position, we are defending Lebanon, Palestine and Syria.

In any case, we have been subjected to a formidable media and political campaign on account of our position, even when we were still silent, even when we had not yet intervened. The intent behind this media barrage, this media and psychological hegemony, for the past two years, was to prevent us from uttering a word of truth, and to make us subservient to this scheme. Whether we intervene in Syria or not, the media campaign against us is unrelenting. Millions of dollars have been poured into this campaign.

Our classification as a terrorist group is not new. There are people inside and outside Lebanon who aspire to have just one regional leader mention them by name. In our case, the leader of the greatest world power went to Israel and from day one repeated “Hizbullah, Hizbullah, Hizbullah”. We are happy [about this], not sad, that Europe sees that we are capable of changing the equation. This is something we take pride in. Go soak your terrorism list and drink its water.

They accused us of sectarianism. This is nonsense.  In Lebanon, Palestine and Bosnia Herzegovina. Maybe this is the first time we talk about this issue. We fought in Bosnia and lost martyrs, in defense of whom? In defense of Muslim Sunnis in Bosnia. There are no Shia in Bosnia. All the hardships that we endured and will continue to endure for the sake of Palestine. Nobody can accuse us of sectarianism. Our position on Iraq was clear. Our position on all events is clear.  Attempts to undermine our will and morale and [that of] our martyrs’ families, have failed.

I want to tell you something, [in response to] the completely unfounded words which were written these past two days. Go and meet the martyrs’ families and listen to what these honorable people have to say. None of what I am about to say has been reported in the media before or even in internal meetings….I am one and a half years late in saying this. The martyrs’ families are saying the same grand words they said during our previous confrontation [with Israel]….We don’t have to force our youths to go to battle. Not once in these past 30 years have we forced anyone to do so. There has been such a huge surge in the number of mujahideen and cadres [who want to fight in Syria]… we have banned many from fighting….We are not merely ready to declare jihad, all it takes is a couple of words and you will find tens of thousands of mujahdieen heading for those battle fronts. We do not allow an only son to go to battle unless we have permission from his parents. Now, there are only sons whose parents send me signed documents [granting permission]. Their sons come and tell us my parents have allowed me to go, and when our brothers ask these youths if they forged the signatures, their parents come and ask us to send their only sons to battle. I have now instructed our brothers not to allow them to do so even upon their parents’ request.

You do not understand this resistance or its support base, or its environment, or its culture. You haven’t understood it for the past 30 years nor will you understand it, because you always misunderstand it.

We have entered a completely new phase now, which began these last few weeks.  This new phase is called immunizing the resistance and protecting its backbone, and immunizing Lebanon. I am not asking anyone to share this responsibility with us. As with all previous battles, this battle is ours, we are its men, we are the ones who will turn it into a victory…

As I told you at the beginning of the July War in 2006: oh honorable people, oh mujahideen, oh heroes, as I promised you victory in the past, I promise you victory once again.”   

 

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An op-ed today in al-Akhbar referred to Israel as  “the enemy” in Arabic. Although use of this term to describe Israel was once very common in Arab popular parlance and in local media, its use in this context has significantly decreased since the Syrian uprising.  Once a term reserved almost exclusively to Israel, the concept of the enemy from without has been fast replaced by the enemy from within in both pro-government and opposition circles. While government supporters can hardly be faulted for depicting the Zionist-normalizing, NATO-loving FSA as an “enemy” force, especially given its proxy status and military links with Syria’s strategic enemies, as well as its intent to destroy Syria as a state, it is both morally inexcusable and intellectually indefensible for Syrians and Arabs who profess enmity towards Israel, to use this term to describe the Assad government or Hizbullah or Iran, all of whom have paid a high price for confronting the Israeli enemy both politically and militarily.

The danger of such labeling can hardly be overstated in this case; the link between power and language has been well documented by the likes of Michel Foucault and Edward Said. As these thinkers have noted, language creates not only knowledge, but reality itself. The resulting discourse, which becomes internalized by its subjects shapes their assumptions, values and cultural habits. In short, it changes and re-fashions their political identity and beliefs.

To be more accurate, this discursive onslaught began in 2005 when the Lebanese became divided over whether Syria or Israel was their real enemy, with some March 14 politicians referring to the Zionist entity as “our neighbor”. But irrespective of this semantic divide and March 14’s collaboration with Israel during the July war as Wikileaks documents later revealed, not once did Hizbullah refer to the opposing camp as “the enemy”,” and settled on terms like “ our opponents/rivals” and “the other camp”.  Compare  this to the Syrian opposition camp today, whose leading “intellectuals” and activists in the Arab world have no qualms about speaking of the “Shia enemy” or the “Iranian enemy”, or cheering on the FSA who issue empty threats to attack Hizbullah and assassinate Seyyid Hassan Nasrallah.

By redefining the concept of the “enemy”, both the Syrian uprising and to a lesser extent, its US- engineered counterpart in Lebanon, have succeeded in reversing decades of Arab political socialization, whereby those who prioritize resistance to Israel and the US are mocked and dismissed as old-school anti-imperialists, or more disparagingly by Third Wayers like Bassam Haddad, as “Fumigating Anti-Imperialists”.

  The Arab Spring may not be a revolution in the economic or political sense of the term, but it has achieved a semantic revolution which, if left unchecked by counter-hegemonic forces, will lead to the full intellectual and political colonization of the Arab mind and the Arab identity. 

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It has become increasingly apparent that the war on Syria has not merely succeeded in sowing sectarian discord among the Arab public at large, but has even infected the reasoning of once progressive, secular, Arab intellectuals.

Take founder of Electronic Intifada Ali Abunimah as an example. Last week, Ali tried to sanitize the FSA of its sectarian crimes by blaming anti-Alawite hate speech on Twitter on “pro-Assad trolls”.  This week, Ali has gone one step further in his defense of rabidly anti-Shia, sectarian takfiris by condemning all those who disseminated a fatwa [mis]attributed to Shia-bashing, Saudi Wahhabi cleric Muhammad al-Arifi  who later denied ever issuing it.

The fatwa in question permitted Syrian rebels to engage in temporary marriages with Syrian women over 14 for the sole purpose of sexual gratification—a religious edict which is easily believable considering Wahhabi misogyny and Arifi’s record of morally repugnant social and political positions which Ali himself notes in his piece. For example, in one such instance, Arifi brands Shia as “treasonous villains”.

Viewed against this background and given that the fake tweet uses an identical Twitter handle as Arifi’s original account and an identical profile pic, reporting the fatwa can hardly be portrayed as an unforgivable sin at a time when mainstream media has done nothing but manufacture entire news reports and narratives about Syria, with an even flimsier grounding in reality.

Yet, despite Ali’s admission that Arifi “has openly engaged in sectarian incitement against Shia Muslims”, Ali seems intent on whitewashing the takfiri cleric by devoting an entire article and numerous tweets to dissociating the nefarious figure from the fake tweet—as though it were significantly worse than his other odious rulings and statements.

More disturbing still, is the Islamophobia accusation Ali levels against all those who circulated the offensive tweet. Ali suggests that Iran is in cahoots with Israel in spreading Islamophobia when he links his EI piece on the subject to the following tweet:

“Zionists, Islamophobes, Hindu nationalists, US progressives and Iran come together to spread Islamophobic trash.”

Ali makes a similar allegation in his piece : “Progressive news organization AlterNet has fallen for and disseminated a story, pushed by Zionist, Islamophobic and Iranian outlets, claiming that a prominent Saudi cleric issued a religious edict authorizing sex-deprived fighters in Syria to rape women there.”

Aside from the absurdity of lumping Iran together with Israel in ANY campaign, Ali’s branding of a nation which identifies itself as the Islamic Republic of Iran as Islamophobic, is equally, if not more, absurd.  In so doing, Ali seems to be adopting Saudi media discourse which uniformly attempts to depict Iran as harbouring an anti-Sunni agenda, as well as a Wahhabi discourse that seeks to de-Islamicize Iran as a heterodox version of Islam . This attempt is further revealed by Ali’s assertion that Iranian tv outlets, namely Press Tv, reported that Arifi’s fatwa legalized rape, as indicated in the above excerpt. When distinguishing media which misinterpreted the fake tweet as a license to gang rape from those that didn’t (Ali informs readers that “the term “gang rape” does not appear in the New TV report”), he neglects to list Press Tv as an outlet which did not use these terms in its report. In fact, if one follows the Press Tv link to the fatwa story which Ali himself provides, all that can be found is a faithful translation of the fatwa and non-sensationalist headline “Militants can marry Syrian women: Wahhabi cleric in Saudi Arabia.” 

I wonder what Ali’s next campaign will be, perhaps to justify Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi’s exhortion to: “fight all those working with the regime, whether they are combatants or civilians or religious scholars or the ignorant”? 

No matter how ardently Ali will struggle in future to appease his pro-opposition fans with his takfiri-washing, the rest of us know full well the difference between Islamophobia and Salafi Takfiri-phobia. While the former targets Sunnis and Shias alike and does not distinguish resistance actors like Iran, Hizbullah, Islamic Jihad, and al-Qassam Brigades, from  Salafis, Syrian jihadis and Wahhabis,  the latter exclusively targets mainstream Sunnis, Shia and Christians; in other words, the overwhelming majority of Arabs and Muslims. Ali’s efforts would be better spent defending our people rather than those who seek to divide and destroy our region and who surely will not countenance secular progressives like himself. 

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