A liberal Shiite dignitary defies Hizbullah:


Pierre Akel

While Lebanon’s ongoing crisis has enjoyed prominent media coverage all over the world, no one seemed to notice that Hizbullah, which received up to 3 billion US dollars from Teheran, in the aftermath of its July war against Israel, had never enjoyed the allegiance of Lebanon’s important Shiite Intelligensia. Rather, the most outspoken opponents of Hizbullah’s adventurism had come from the heart of Lebanese Shiism. Even when the Shiite party started its own daily journal, it had to put it into the hands of a Christian editor, seconded by an ex communist Shiite journalist.* However, the liberal Shiite mufti of South Lebanon (so-called Hizbulland land) is a case apart. Not only as a holder of a prominent position in the Shiite establishment, but also as one who had been at the heart of the religious movement that gave birth to Lebanon’s fundamentalist party.


The liberal Shiite Mufti of South Lebanon, Sheikh Ali el Amin revealed that members of Hizbullah’s Shura Council (Hizbullah’s equivalent of a « Central Committee » in communist parties) had been his students at the Hawza religious school in Beirut, during the 1980s. While denying that he had been one of the founders of Hizbullah, Amin said, in an interview on « al-Arabiya » TV channel, that he had broke with Hizbullah in protest for the party’s kidnappings of foreign nationals (mostly US, French, and UK citizens) during the mid 1980s and that he had asked Shiite « marjaa”s (grand ulemas) to take a strong stand against such operations. In protest at the lack of such a stand, Amin reveals that he put an end to his teaching functions and left Beirut to South Lebanon. Amin’s revelations could be the first hint at dissent inside the Shiite religious establishment regarding the hostages crisis which poisoned the next half of the 1980s.

Sheikh el Amin had taught at the Nedjaf Hawza (religious school) in Iraq before moving to Iran in the aftermath of Khomeini’s revolution. According to him, the group that founded Hizbullah came from the teachers and students at the Hawza were he taught Faqh and basics of Shiite Islam. Sheikh el Amin confirmed that he had been very close to Hizbullah’s three successive leaders: Abbas el Moussawi (assassinated by Israel), Sobhi Toufaili and Hassan Nasrallah. (Sheikh Sobhi Toufaili claims he had lost his position as leader of Hizbullah when he stood up against Iranian hegemony on the party and because he did not adhere to Khomeini’s Wilayati Faqih theory.)

Sheikh Amin did not confirm rumors about his intention to promote a liberal Shiite current in Lebanon. However, he firmly condemned Hizbullah’s transformation from a «cultural » to a «military » movement vowing allegiance to Iran. A few days before al-Arabiya interview, Sheikh el Amin had been one of the speakers at the huge rally which gathered at Beirut city center to commemorate the assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri two years earlier. His speech was an additional signal of his firm commitment against Hizbullah’s attempts to seize power in Lebanon.

« No Divine Victory »

Contrary to Shiite public opinion which had rejoiced at the hanging of Saddam Hussein, the Shiite mufti expressed his disgust at the «unacceptable » circumstances of Saddam’s hanging.

Elsewhere, he mocked Hizbullah’s claim of a « Divine Victory » against Israel’s army in last July’s war. Hizbullah’s propaganda machine had inflated Israel’s army inability to put an end to its rocket attacks on Israeli towns to the extent of claiming a « Divine Victory » which, later, justified its attempted, failed, Beirut putsch. Mufti el Amin’s comment was: « how could we claim victory when Israel’s army was still occupying a number of our villages »?

What about the future? According to Sheikh el Amin, Lebanese Shiites are still largely « moderates ». Whereas Hizbullah and its « Amal » allies could represent 40 percent of Shiites, the large majority remains committed to political moderation and to Lebanon’s independence and multi confessional democratic system.

On Iran’s attempts to mobilize Arab Shiites to support Teheran’s policies, Sheikh el Amin had the following to say: « we would like to see Iran victorious in its war on ignorance, poverty, aggression and underdevelopment. But, in every country, confessional allegiances should not be at the expense of national loyalties. To tell you the truth, we have nothing to do with Iran’s political strategies ». Adding: « The Iranians would never enjoy the allegiance of all Lebanese shias, but even if they did, would it serve Iran’s interests to win them over only to lose the trust of the whole Islamic world? Does it really serve Iran’s interests to be viewed by awe and distrust by Muslims all over the world? »


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