Sacred Weapons: The Law vs. Fatwas

By: Elias Bejjani

January 25/2006


On January 16/2006, the head of the National Council of the Media in Lebanon, Mr. Abdel-Hadi Mahfouz, cited the Secretary General of Hezbollah, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, as saying during a visit by the Council, The weapons of the Resistance (Hezbollah - Party Of God) for us are the Holiest of the Holies. They are akin to our “honor”, and we are Easterners. I will not tolerate anyone who messes with my honor, and the weapons of the Resistance are our honor.”


This clear and direct statement is laden with content and meaning that should draw clear and decisive responses from across the spectrum in Lebanon, as well as from all the Arab governments. For do they really share Nasrallah's concept of these weapons? And is this shocking unilateral “sanctification” of Hezbollah's weapons leaves any room for peaceful debate and dialogue about weapons that now have divine attributes and pertain to concepts of honor?


It thus becomes obvious that Hezbollah Shiite Armed Militia knows exactly what it wants and does not miss any opportunity to stubbornly declare its constant positions, and challenging everyone domestically and, at the same time, rejecting all provisions of what it calls the “Israeli-American” UN Resolution 1559.

We need to be mindful that Hezbollah fought the last Lebanese Parliamentary elections in 2005 from behind Syria's Intelligence notorious Chief Ghazi Kanaan's electoral law and arming itself with a legitimacy mandate, leaving the voters but one of two choices: Either you're with the Israeli enemy and UN Resolution 1559, or you're with Hezbollah and its liberationist weapons!! Hezbollah's leadership has now taken the next step. Unlike all other Lebanese political forces, it continues to insist, day in and day out, on keeping its weapons and privileges irrespective of the pressures, and now has shrouded these weapons with the halo of sanctity, linking it to the concept of “honor” and thus making it untouchable.


This clarity of language by Nasrallah puts everyone in front of a major challenge, and requires them to take an equally clear stand that does not tolerate ambiguity or semantics. Either you are with Hezbollah keeping its weapons in Nasrallah's view, with all the consequences of the status quo imposed on the ground in the south of the country and the southern suburbs of Beirut and elsewhere, or you are against that proposition and therefore with the State, with the idea that the Lebanese State has a preeminent right to stand above all, spread its authority over its entire territory, uphold its constitution and what it implies in obligations and responsibilities, and abide by  international legitimacy.


In fact, we are deeply appreciative of Hezbollah's leader for his clear and courageous positions, because he is forcing everyone in Lebanon, officials, politicians, clergy and parties to assume their responsibilities and make their choices. As such, they have to publicly explain to their communities what they want and what they stand for: Are they with Nasrallah on the subject of the sanctity of the weapons? Or against him and with the concept of the preeminent State?


Any return of the Shiite "Hezbollah Party" and "Amal Movement"  five boycotting ministers to the "Siniora government" must be accompanied by a government policy that contains no ambiguity whatsoever insofar as the sanctity of Hezbollah's weapons and its “honor” are concerned. The participation of Hezbollah and the Amal in any future government should be made contingent on the same clarity of policy on this matter.


In this context, on 21/12/06, the head of Lebanon's Jabal Amel Ulemas Shiite Committee, Shiite Sheikh Afif Nabulsi declared on the matter of the boycott of Hezbollah's and Amal's ministers of cabinet meetings: “There are outside attempts, which met with favor by domestic forces, to sideline Hezbollah and Amal, and replace them with new representatives of the Shiite community. We, therefore, forbid, from our position as religious law authorities, any Shiite political party to enter as a substitute and an alternate to the representatives of Amal and Hezbollah. Any such entry by any Shiite political side is illegal because it does not represent the popular fact on the ground, and does not benefit from the requisite religious legal permission. We therefore issue a precautionary Fatwa to every Shiite politician who tries to take advantage and score a gain from the current government crisis, not to make any commitments or covenants with others, for he does not own the Shiite position and does not have the religious legal authority to act in this manner.”


This precautionary Fatwa strengthens Nasrallah's position, but by the same token it makes it incumbent upon others to expressly state their positions.


The question now is how can the Lebanese State exercise its prerogatives of universality to all its Lebanese constituents? How can the Lebanese people exercise their rights to democracy and liberties in the shadow of weapons that are the Holiest of Holies, that stand outside the umbrella and decision-making process of the State, and that are tied up to “honor”, religious legal mandates, and precautionary religious decrees (Fatwas)?


Now is the time for courage. Now is the time for clarity. Now is the time for true leaders and statesmen to come forward from the shadows of servility, fear, and backroom deals. Do the Lebanese people have such leaders who understand their responsibilities and obligations to their constituents and their nation, as well as the historic opportunity which, if not taken, will further decimate this long tormented country?


Elias Bejjani
*Human Rights activist, journalist & political commentator.
*Spokesman for the Canadian Lebanese Human Rights Federation (CLHRF)
*Media Chairman for the Canadian Lebanese Coordinating Council (LCCC)