The anti-Islamic film, “Innocence of Muslims”, which has notoriously been filling the newsfeeds of social networking sites for the past two weeks, has not only sparked violent protests across the Middle East, culminating in the killing of US Ambassador Chris Stevens and ten Libyans, but also opened up the proverbial can of worms concerning Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah’s ill-reputed position on the uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East, otherwise known as the Arab Spring.
On Monday 17th September, the Secretary General of Hezbollah, made a speech to thousands of Beirutis for the first time in four years. He called upon Muslims to (peacefully) protest against the “great shaytan [Arabic for devil] that is the USA”, to pressure Obama to have any viral video clips of the film taken down and to punish those involved in slandering Islam and the Prophet Mohammad. Agreed, his stance was moderate in comparison to Steven’s murderers, or the Egyptian thugs who threatened to burn down the American Embassy in Cairo. Moreover, you can say that a de facto religious-political figure could not possibly keep his arms crossed concerning inflammatory and arguably purposefully provocative blasphemy. Perhaps, Nasrallah believed that peaceful protest was simply the correct response, whilst many others contend there should have been more of a rationalised and intellectual response to the shoddy video – or none at all, after all a low-budget film merits a low-budget response; silence.
Either way, whatever the reaction, the video has clearly pressed a thorn into the hearts of Muslims, both East and West, and if this is Nasrallah’s way of expressing his distaste, then so be it, you may not agree with it, but all he was asking was for Muslims to make a stance against years of anti-Islamic propaganda oozing from Western countries. Moreover, he didn’t take the opportunity to exacerbate Lebanese sectarian tensions, quite the opposite; he stated that Lebanese-Christians should not be targeted and the Christian faith should not be attacked. Quite sadly however, Nasrallah is an ageing warrior, long gone are the pan-Arab chants labelling him as the “Nasr [Victory] of 2005”, due to his unpopularity in the past year amongst Arabs for supporting the Bahraini protests but not the Syrian protests, as well as his ties to the Iranian regime. Essentially, it’s also arguable that he is using the anti-Islam film as a rubber dingy to keep him afloat in the turbulent seas of the Arab Spring by igniting a new “common cause” and mass wide-spread support.
More to the point, his endorsement of Bachar Al Assad in line with both the Syrian Revolution and the recent anti-Islam film has taken a turn for the worse. Recently, videos were leaked of Shabiha forcing people who were essentially prisoners of war to say the Shahada (the Islamic declaration of faith) replacing the name of God with that of Bachar Al Assad. The sordid theological implications of this clearly do not need to be expanded on, however, if Nasrallah can launch an anti-American campaign for an amateur video, which was only “anti-islamified” in post-production, what has he got to say about Muslims practically obliterating the core tenant of Islam?! Nasrallah claimed his Syrian cronie simply did not know/had no control, and fair play, how could he have known? Anyone who is currently up to date with the political situation in Syria will testify that Assad’s men have fragmented into different command units, as have the rebels, which is why we are getting atrocities committed on both sides, making it difficult to praise, or support either party. Should Assad be as accountable as Nasrallah says Barack Obama should? Surely Obama didn’t know either? Especially if it’s some low-budget mish mash, which after the next fortnight will be metaphorically shelved away into the annals of YouTube and the like. The atrocities committed by the Assad regime and the status of Bachar as Commander in chief aside, it is difficult for any political leader to keep tabs on the activities of all his militants, even if it is government personnel, it is very difficult for us mere subjects working outside the Ministries of Defence to ascertain what orders are dished out.
However, Nasrallah should not be so blinded with nationalism, sectarianism or whatever “-ism” you wish to add, that a respected man who once was the face of the Middle East’s struggle against Zionist imperialism, falls into the pit of hypocrisy and insincerity.
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