Sunni disunity concerning Hezbollah

July 22, 2006 at 8:13 pm (International community, Iran, Islamism, Israel, Middle East, Religion, The West)

Courtesy of “Saudi Wahhabi Sheik Issues Fatwa Against Hezbollah; Rally Planned in Cairo” of Vital Perspective, “Leading Saudi Sheik Pronounces Fatwa Against Hezbollah” by Eli Lake of The New York Sun (article archived in case link becomes inoperational; please let me know if this happens) reveals an interesting division within the Muslim world regarding Hezbollah’s actions.

The most pertinent fact is that Hezbollah is a Shiite militia supported by two Shiite regimes (the Nusayri Shiite regime of Syria and the Twelver Shiite regime of Iran). Although Muslim states are not so concerned about Syria and its Nusayri Shiites, they are concerned about Iran and its Twelver Shiites. Iran is notorious for encouraging Shiites outside Iran to revolt against their Sunni rulers, often going so far as to supply Shiite militias with arms, weapons, and money. Iran has done this a number of times with Saudi Arabia’s Shiites – who are persecuted/oppressed and live in one of Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich zones (but don’t receive any of the financial and political benefits that ought to come from this fact). This is one reason why Saudi Arabia staunchly opposes Iran and why relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran are not good. (This political Sunni-Shiite opposition reflects the very real and tangible popular Sunni-Shiite divide within the world of Islam.)

According to Eli Lake’s article, a prominent Saudi cleric has issued a fatwah against Hezbollah condemning not only Hezbollah and its tactics but condemning also anyone who supports Hezbollah in any way whatsoever. The actual logic behind this is that any support for Hezbollah is, by proxy, support for Iran and its program of establishing and supporting Shiite militias.

The danger of Shiite militias to other Muslims can be seen in Lebanon itself. Because of Hezbollah, Syria and Iran still have a say and still wield considerable influence within Lebanon. Hezbollah is a condiut for Syrian and Irani power and influence in Lebanon. This essentially keeps Lebanon, to a degree, a hostage to Syria and Iran. If Hezbollah is removed, Syrian and Irani power and influence would also be removed (as would be any support for Syria and/or Iran within Lebanon), making Lebanon truly autonomous and sovereign. In essence, Lebanon is still hostage to Syria and Iran because of Hezbollah. Such tactics are strenuously opposed by many Muslim states ruled by Sunnis because this is precisely what Iran is trying to establish in their states: Iran wants to usurp Sunni authority through Shiite militias and organizations.

This opposition to Hezbollah and its activities can be a major boon for Israel in the current Arab-Israeli War. For one thing, it means that many Sunni-ruled states would love to see Hezbollah fall, if not eradicated. None would go so far as to express support for Israel’s anti-Hezbollah efforts, but none would try to effectively hinder it.

On the other hand, there are Muslim organizations that support Hezbollah. For them, the triumph of any Muslim entity against infidels ought to be lauded, supported, and aided. Sunni, Shiite, Arab, non-Arab, legitimate, illegitimate, political, militant – these are irrelevant to them. Although this ia a boon for Hezbollah, this also bodes ill for relations among Sunni-ruled states. If prominent elements in Egypt, for example, support Hezbollah, they will come into conflict with the staunchly anti-Shiite and anti-Irani Wahhabis of Saudi Arabia. It would not be out of place for Saudi Arabia or its clerics to demand that Egypt crack down on such heretics. Considering how conflicts between Muslim factions can quickly turn violent, this is an aspect of the issue that can lead to more violence between Muslims.

In any case, the good news of this aspect of the issue is that this disunity hinders some Islamist efforts against the West. When the West (albeit only one state therein, Israel) is trying to eradicate Hezbollah, this inter-Sunni disagreement hinders support for Hezbollah, indirectly contributing to some degree, however small, to Israel’s victory and Hezbollah’s elimination. This also means that once Hezbollah is neutralized, Israel would not have to face the consequences it may have had to face had the Muslim world been united in support of Hezbollah.

Update: Added h/t to post from where I learned about Eli Lake’s article.

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