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Various views on the Lebanon conflict from around the Muslim world

23 July 2006

The Israel-Hizbullah conflict has revealed a deepening rift within the Muslim world between those who desire peaceful coexistence with the non-Muslim world and those who espouse a radical agenda for Islamist superiority and dominance.

Views supporting Hizbullah

All over the Muslim world, Islamists have been organising demonstrations in support of Hizbullah and against the passive stance of their own governments. In many Arab states, Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood type dominate professional syndicates and they have been active in denouncing their own governments’ attitudes and in calling for anti-Israel action.

Reports from around the Arab world reveal that Hizbullah is riding a wave of popularity at the street level because of its confrontation with Israel which is seen as heroic and as restoring Arab and Muslim honour. Posters of Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah feature prominently in demonstrations against Israel and in support of Hizbullah. These demonstrations also support the radical Iranian position on the development of its nuclear weapons and on the total destruction of Israel.

Calls to cancel peace treaties with Israel

Jordan: The Association of Jordanian Writers launched a campaign to collect a million signatures on a call to cancel the 1994 Peace treaty between Jordan and Israel.

Egypt: The Muslim Brotherhood in alliance with several opposition parties issued a call to cancel the Egyptian peace treaty with Israel and stop the supply of oil and gas to Israel. They called on all Arab countries to cancel any ties they might have with Israel.

Support for Iran and its nuclear bomb

At an Egyptian Lawyers Council conference, the chairman praised Iran and its President Ahmadinejad, and expressed his desire it would own a nuclear bomb. The hundreds of delegates responded with cheers and with cries of “long live Ahmadinejad”.

Saudi intellectuals oppose their governments’ policies

Seventy-three Saudi intellectuals and thinkers expressed their rejection of their governments’ cautious position, and asked Arab governments to make every effort to stop the Israeli attack on Lebanon and on the Palestinians.

Anti-Hizbullah, anti-Iran and anti-Shi’a views

The deep fear of Sunni regimes at the growing Iran-led Shi’a power in the Muslim world (the growth of the “Shi’a Crescent”) plays an important part in these disagreements. For the first time some Muslim statesmen and journalists dared break the previous automatic endorsement of all anti-Israel activities to denounce the rash and irresponsible Hizbullah action.

In spite of knowing that the“Muslim street” in their countries instinctively supports all anti-Israel and anti-American activities, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan held Hizbullah responsible for escalating the situation and for its lack of coordination with the Lebanese government. A Saudi cabinet statement declared that by acting on its own without consulting its government, Hizbullah had allowed Israel to exploit the situation and attack Lebanon.

Tariq Alhomayed, Editor-in-Chief of the London Arabic daily Asharq Alawsat, which generally represents the official Saudi line, states in an article on 20 July 2006, that matters of war and peace cannot be left to irresponsible non-state actors to decide upon. These groups spark off dangerous armed conflicts and then call on other Muslims to save them from the results of their folly.

“Those who want to manage the conflict with Israel should be responsible for it, especially as Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah’s statement portray him as the only Arab leader, since he says he is not asking anyone for help. This also applies to Khaled Meshaal [a main Hamas leader based in Damascus]! Be responsible for your actions. Just as you have created the problem, solve it!”

In the same paper on the same day, Mshari Al-Zaydi, a Saudi journalist and expert on Islamic movements, poses the question “whose war is this?” and answers it by stating that this is a war instigated by Iran and Syria to establish Iranian Shi’a hegemony in the region. It was started to divert attention from the approaching start of the international trial for the murder of Rafik Hariri (the assassinated former Prime Minister of Lebanon), as well as from the international attention on the Iranian nuclear programme. Iran is launching a massive attack on the Sunni Arab world, using Hizbullah as its proxy and even gaining control of the Palestinian Sunni radical movements, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad:

“Hezbollah . . . did Iran a huge favor, as it maneuvers with the United States and Europe and attempts to use all its cards in the region, including Hezbollah, which is supposed to act in the interests of Lebanon - supposedly. We are facing a gigantic Iranian assault on the Arab world, in Iraq where Iran has become the number one player, even at America's expense, according to the Iraqi politician Saleh al Mutlaq, and in Lebanon, where everyone knows how far-reaching Iranian influence is, through its local representative, Hezbollah, since the party's weapons, finances, ideology, media and military training are all Iranian!”

“The latest characteristic of this onslaught is Iran's increasing influence on the Palestinian scene and its power over Hamas and Khaled Meshaal, after it seized control of Islamic Jihad in Palestine. Meshaal has been transformed into a ‘Sunni Hassan Nasrallah’ in every aspect. Following the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers, both men adopted extremist stances sought to direct the crisis by mobilizing the people and appearing inflexible. Hamas and Hezbollah are therefore walking the same path, set by Iran.”

“Iran is invading the Arab world and burning everything in its path. With the Arabs standing idly by, Iran seeks to impose its control over the region and spread its influence over Iraq, in an attempt to create a fundamentalist Arab Shi’a entity in Iraq, to support the world's sole Shi’a country. It also wants to influence Lebanon through Hezbollah, in order to keep a frontline with Israel.”

Some examples of anti-Hizbullah sentiments in Lebanon

In Lebanon itself, the Prime Minister, Fuad Seniora, alleged in an interview to the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sierra that Hizbullah had created a state within a state and that it was doing the bidding of Syria and Iran. However he acknowledged that the Lebanese state was too weak to disarm Hizbullah, and that “the entire world must help us disarm Hizbullah”.

Walid Junblatt, long time leader of the Lebanese Druze community and Head of the Progressive Socialist Party, complained that the Hizbullah raid on Israel was an outrageous way to drag Lebanon into war, and that Hizbullah was being used as a proxy of Iran and Syria.

Danger of increased radicalisation in Muslim world and the likely effect on Christians

The fighting in Lebanon is contributing to the ongoing long-term process of radicalisation in the Muslim world. One result of this radicalisation is the spread of the radical Islamic view of indigenous Christians in Muslim states as permanent enemies of Islam and as allies of the Christian West and of Israel. Around the Muslim world Islamist radical preachers are likely to manipulate the news from Lebanon to whip up crowds and turn them against the local Christians. The conflagration in Lebanon is sure to further weaken the security of Christians in the Middle East and contribute to their accelerated emigration from their historical lands.