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The Path of 'Political-Shiism' in Lebanon: From Integration to Secession

The Path of 'Political-Shiism' in Lebanon: From Integration to Secession

Monday, 23 December, 2019 - 10:30

Every Lebanese sect has its own story with Lebanon, with all of them swaying between a desire to integrate, and another to secede. Indeed, the pendulum of people's emotions swings between both, while political parties and intellectuals lay their theoretical foundations and frameworks. There is a boiling Sufi-like love, and there is hatred, anger, and aversion, with caution to avoid contagious diseases.      

In this regard, sects have undergone substantial metamorphoses over the last four decades: Christians, for example, has shifted from envisioning the country as one that identifies with and resembles the West to being sympathetic with Bashar al-Assad, going as far as becoming willing to accept Iran's behavior. The majority of Sunnis, for their part, shifted from envisioning the country cheer for Gamal Abdel Nasser, then the Palestinian resistance, to have visions of a stable country, striving for its own interests with the least amount of instability possible.

Regardless of the measure, these two transformations are not minor, especially since they cut across class and regional divisions within both sects. The transformation that the Shiite have undergone has been sharper and more dramatic, and definitely more in line with a clearly illustrated theoretical framework. Christians are not proud of their transformation, and they either deny it or consider themselves to be above it, or they justify it with circumstances that may change. As for the Sunnis, they do not conceal that they are ashamed of their present, and their apprehension of the fact that what used to be their Arabism and resistance has been expropriated overnight, considering themselves to be the champions of these causes, however distant they are from their roots today. For the Shiite, things are different. They are proud to proclaim their shift to what is called "the axis of resistance" or "the culture of resistance." Only scattered pictures and occasional obituaries are left of the legacy of Musa al-Sadr, who is exclusively presented as the "founder of the resistance." Many cultural and intellectual institutions have been established to glorify this great transformation: believers link it to Abu Dharr al-Ghifari and Hussein Bin Ali, Marxists to Che Guevara and the struggle against imperialism, and nationalists find in it an extension of what had been initiated by Abdel Nasser and the Palestinian resistance.         


In truth, the course taken by Political Shiism in Lebanon is one of an entire shift, from an attempt to integrate, as per Musa al-Sadr, to an effort to secede, led by Hezbollah. The founder of the Supreme Islamic Shiite Council's project was nothing more than to consolidate the relationship between the country and one of its largest and most marginalized sects. He could not have played that game but under the sectarian rules of the time, strengthening his ties with the prominent figures of Political Maronitism, building on the reforms of the two Chehabist eras. Thus, the Sadrist project emerged as one linking the rural with the urban, expanding and modernizing state administration, and increasing the number of educated Shiites, graduates of the Lebanese University. This coincided with a desire and insistence among Shiite immigrants in Africa for political life to reward their newfound wealth, while the community as a whole was shifting from being predominantly rural to predominantly urban.

Thus, until the emergence of the Palestinian resistance in 1967, Musa al-Sadr played an active unifying role in the country, bringing different parts of it together. One could go as far as saying that he was the primary architect of the "Lebanese sixties," which contrasted with the radicalism associated with the decade in many other countries. Al-Sadr's radicalism, in contrast, was in the long-distance that his sect crossed towards forming a nation forcing the rest of the nation to pass a long-distance as well, to meet its sect along the way.

As for the Imam of Resistance, who went a long way in his relationship with the Palestinian resistance and Hafez Assad, he was not born until relatively late on after Suleiman Frangieh was elected president in 1970, and after all the doors were closed against the reformist project of the sixties. Up until then, it had not been difficult to notice the main Sadrist concern was to protect people in the South from the brutal Israeli blows.

In the place of this communication, Hezbollah raised a separationist project that situated Shiites differently from other Lebanese people. In their name, it had an early determination to establish the Islamic Republic in Lebanon before conceding this project. In their name as well, it announced a liberation project that they could not but cheer for. For this purpose, it established a state stronger than the actual state and an army stronger than the actual army. In their name, it abducted two soldiers in 2006 and dragged them to war, before conjuring the "disabling third" theory that would finally establish the impossibility of a national politics. It later dragged them, in different ways, to the Syrian war and treated its sect as a separate entity that does not deal with the state except through Hezbollah, acting only as the party sees fit. In the meantime, in 2005, it excluded them from the national consensus that blamed Bashar Assad of assassinating Rafic Hariri and other victims. Today, it is excluding them from the national consensus to go beyond the sectarian system. In doing all of this, Hezbollah is cutting all of its ties with the legacy of Sadr, sufficing itself with few kind words on few occasions.

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