It was as if I had gone to sleep and woke up in an Orwellian ‘1984’, for a few days after the passing of Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, we witnessed casualties within the media, and in the political spheres. Charged with misspeak and thoughtcrime, Octavia Nasr (Former CNN Senior Middle Eastern Editor) and Frances Guy (British Ambassador to Lebanon) suffered the wrath of the Ministry of Truth in their respective circles.
A tweet and a blog post that offended some, and went against the ‘official line’, and Poof! Just like that, in the ‘free’ society in which we live in, the views of two women disappeared off the face of the earth. The role of the media as an independent entity which serves as a check and balance, highlighting the wrongs committed by government and institutions has been curtailed significantly in recent years. Powerful groups in and out of governments have managed the media in a manner which suits the interests of powerful figures and institutions.
Now back to Fadlallah. I agree with Nasr, minus one huge error. While Nasr was saddened by the passing of Fadlallah, she inaccurately identifies his as one of Hezbollah’s giants. Fadlallah was indeed a great man, a Hezbollah giant however; he was not. The West’s one eyed view of the Middle East, which has proved so fatal in foreign policy decisions in recent years, depicted this man as a member of a group listed as a “terrorist” organisation, or more typically an organisation which does not suit American interests in the region. Nelson Mandela was only removed off the terrorist list in 2009. Fadlallah was deemed to be such a danger to US imperialism in the region, that Washington, in accordance with their Saudi friends, arranged a car bombing to assassinate Fadlallah in 1985. Fadlallah escaped, 80 innocents did not. Act of terror? Ironically, Fadlallah had stopped to talk to answer a woman’s question on his way to give his Friday sermon at his local mosque.
Fadlallah, was a man of immense jurisprudence and unrivalled learning. He was a champion of women’s rights. His staunch support of resistance against an occupier, proved most telling in the West’s labelling of him as a terrorist. Fadlallah was a key figure in the Lebanese resistance during Israel’s invasion of 1982: “One must face force with equal or superior force,” he wrote. “If it is legitimate to defend self and land and destiny, then all means of self-defence are legitimate.”
Fadlallah’s various fatwa’s gave women more rights within society, they denounced domestic violence and varied from forbidding female circumcision and honour killings to allowing women to wear nail polish while praying.
Yet, what was more profound was his disassociation from Hezbollah and Iran. When Fadlallah declared himself a marja – the highest religious authority in Shia Islam – he was not recognized by either Tehran or Hezbollah, since the latter considers the Iranian clerical establishment its spiritual guide. However, this, once more, was not noted in the Western press. Their own lineal mode of analysing the Middle East shone through most obviously here; the link was made: Cleric, Islamist, Shia, Hezbollah, Iran, Terrorism. The opportunity is available to Iran to seize the vacuum left by Fadlallah’s death within Lebanon’s Shia community. Nasr was right; this is the death of a giant.
Within the media, moderates, extremists, Arabs, Muslims and Christians are all lumped together, and there is an inherent failure to understand the nuance of Arab thought. A binary exists; you are either with America or against them. Any critique of Israel is an attack on America. Say something in support of an enemy of Israel, then it can and will be held against you. There is no salvation. Octavia Nasr, Helen Thomas and Frances Guy exemplify this.
It is thus fitting to end with a similar story: A Defence minister come Prime Minister of a country in the Middle East, who was held responsible for overseeing and ‘bearing personal responsibility’ (Kahan Commission) for the massacre of thousands of refugees, fell into a coma in 2005. Despite this, Jack Straw, British Foreign Secretary paid tribute to him: “This man is a man not only of great political courage but of astonishing physical courage and resilience as well.” Jack Straw was neither reprimanded, fired nor made to retract his statement. The difference? This man was an Israeli, not an Arab; he was a supporter of US Imperialism. This man was Ariel Sharon. Perhaps Orwell was right.
Views expressed in articles are the author’s and do not represent Comment Middle East
Latest posts by CME (see all)
- “Terrorist, plain and simple”? The misleading strategy behind the “terrorist” tag. – October 6, 2015
- Letter Smuggled out of Egyptian Prisons: Esraa El Taweel Speak – July 14, 2015
- We must not forget Abu-Salim – July 7, 2015