What Hezbollah wantsROBERT FULFORD
The warriors of Hezbollah, Party of God, are serious men fighting a serious war, but what inspires them?
They hate Jews and, because they fear Sunni Muslims, they badly want to keep power in Shiite hands. But is that enough? Does that explain why they have been preparing for this war for so long? A cleric who interrupted his theological studies to rejoin Hezbollah in June, and who claims to be descended from the prophet Muhammad, says, “We had six years to prepare for this day.”
Above all, they are patient. One of them recently told a reporter from Britain’s Guardian how their leaders drilled them in serenity: “During our training we spend days in empty buildings without talking to anyone or doing anything. They tell me go and sit in that building, and I go and sit there and wait.” In every mission, they follow detailed orders without question. When they send off a rocket, they expect an Israeli response within 15 minutes, so immediately their team breaks up, everyone running to an assigned hiding place. Later they re-form elsewhere, for their next launch.
Behind all this is a religious passion that’s so powerful few of us can begin to grasp it. More than two decades ago, the Ayatollah Khomeini, by licensing Hezbollah as a franchise of Iran, focused the minds of a few thousand young men on the ideal of Islamic world hegemony. Like Christianity, Islam imagines itself a universal religion, which all humans will eventually embrace. Much of Christianity has abandoned that dream, but in Islam it remains vividly alive, notably among terrorist factions like Hezbollah.
Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, has said several times that he knows Israel’s weak point: its belief in preserving human life. Israel has a nuclear weapon and the region’s strongest air force, he says, but “in truth, it is weaker than a spider web.” He believes reverence for life, combined with a hedonistic society, make it incapable of sustained war. He has large ambitions. Muhammad Al-Huni, an eminent Libyan intellectual who lives in Italy, recently wrote that Nasrallah now assumes that he “enjoys the stature of the holy men and prophets.”
U.S.-based Islam expert Daniel Pipes says that radical Islam is the problem, moderate Islam the solution. But possibly the radicals are the only Muslims with a passion to shape the future. By definition, moderates take a relaxed view of religion. However fervent their beliefs, they also value families, friends, human love, and worldly satisfactions. They want peace and won’t eagerly kill for Allah. If they are like most people of moderate views, they can be frightened into silence.
But Hezbollah wants an Islamic world and believes such a world to be worth killing and dying for. Recently, that way of organizing society has crept into another corner of the globe. After a 29-year separatist struggle, the Indonesian province of Aceh won the right to adopt Shariah criminal law, becoming the first region of that country (a theoretically secular state) with that privilege. The radicals have beaten the moderates, and now the moderates face a dreadful future.
In Aceh, roaming Taliban-like squads of vice police in brown uniforms now tour the streets, looking for men drinking alcohol or women consorting with men other than their husbands. These people are then caned outside mosques, watched by crowds and TV cameras. Women claim they are more often the objects of vice squad raids than men. Ordinary citizens sometimes grab couples sitting in parked cars and hand them over to the vice police. The same rules govern foreigners. An Italian aid worker, accused of having a little marijuana and being seen alone with a woman (his translator) is imprisoned, faced with caning. The vice police are turning into a steadily expanding bureaucracy — and other provinces are now talking about following Aceh’s example. So now a great religion, which once inspired enviable poetry, philosophy and architecture, has reduced itself to promoting institutionalized thuggery.That’s the world Hezbollah desires. It seems clear that the crisis in the Middle East is a struggle for a decent civilization. Given that truth, anyone arguing that the West should remain neutral looks like either a fool or a scoundrel.
Robert Fulford, "What Hezbollah wants." National Post, (Canada) August 5, 2006.
Reprinted with permission of Robert Fulford.
Robert Fulford has been a journalist since the summer of 1950, when he left high school to work as a sports writer on The Globe and Mail. He has since been a news reporter, literary critic, art critic, movie critic, and editor on a variety of magazines, ranging from Canadian Homes and Gardens to the Canadian Forum. He was the editor of Saturday Night magazine for 19 years, and since he left that job in 1987 he's been a freelance writer. He writes twice a week in the National Post and contributes a monthly column about the media to Toronto Life magazine and writes for Queen's Quarterly. His most recent book is The Triumph of Narrative: Storytelling in the Age of Mass Culture (1999). Robert Fulford is an officer of the Order of Canada and the holder of honorary degrees from six Canadian universities.
Copyright © 2006 Robert Fulford
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