Thursday, October 05, 2006

Hizb Allah, Party of God

Over 1 million Lebanese gathered in a vast square in a southern Beirut suburb on Sept. 22 to celebrate their country’s largely successful campaign against Israel. Seyid Hassan Nasrallah, secretary-general of Hizballah, risked his life by appearing in public after Israeli leaders had sworn to kill him, and spoke to his adoring supporters in Lebanon and around the world.

Surveying this massive crowd of boisterous people—the men and women, the teenagers and the small children, celebrating their identity and their steadfastness together with music—I knew this was not the stuff of religious fundamentalism or terrorism. I was struck by how the reality of Hizballah differed from its distorted image in the West. For although Hizb Allah, the Party of God, is undoubtedly of Shia origin, it is in fact a secular movement, addressing real temporal issues, its leaders speaking in a nationalist discourse, avoiding sectarianism and religious metaphors. They participate in politics, compromising and negotiating, and do not seek to impose Islamic law on others. Proof of this is readily available in Hizballah strongholds, where many of their followers are secular, supporting Hizballah because it represents their political interests and defends them.


Two young Lebanese women sport T-shirts emblazoned with the image of Hizballah leader Seyid Hassan Nasrallah, who became perhaps the most popular leader in the Middle East in the wake of Israel’s 33-day war with Hizballah this summer. They are pictured here at a Sept. 22 Hizballah victory rally in a southern Beirut suburb.

No comments: