The Salafi Distraction from Lebanon’s Woes
By: Ali Ajrouch
Published Friday, June 29, 2012
Lebanon has been referred to as a Mafia State, Banana Republic, and many other unflattering terms inferring that no central government power has the ability to control this country. These conjectures have recently been confirmed by the wild rampage of rhetoric, “protests,” and specifically, the daily burning of tires.
Ahmad al-Assir added fuel to the fire last Friday and has not quit since. The radical Salafi leader decided to distract the Lebanese away from the real issues they face basis over a toy that was not even produced in Lebanon, and which allegedly has been on shelves all around the Middle East. A toy gun has become the focus of his rampage and gave him an opportunity to gain his 15 minutes of fame on the Lebanese stage.
The gun apparently makes a noise when the trigger is pulled. While many confirm that it says a phrase in English, some are convinced it shouts anti-Sunni slurs in the background. According to many reports, there have been similar controversies over the same toy in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. Nonetheless, Assir decided to use this toy to create another political and sectarian issue in Lebanon. Forget the fact that the Lebanese are living in the year 2012 without regular electricity, water, and stability. But, for Assir, the issue in Lebanon is a toy, that, he presumes, voices anti-Sunni slander in the background.
Not only is he so sure about what this toy says, but he immediately concludes that the Shia leadership in Lebanon are directly responsible. So how does Assir address this alleged slander? With more slander. Assir threatened Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah and Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri, the primary Shia leaders in Lebanon.
Assir not only threatened the Shia leadership in Lebanon, but he threatened one of the highest-ranking Lebanese officials in Parliament Speaker Berri. In most countries, such a direct threat on an official would result in an arrest and questioning by the nation’s security forces.
However, after the arrest and subsequent release of an Islamist leader in Tripoli, the Lebanese government now lacks the ability of making any such arrest. This is because if they were to arrest Assir, Saida would quickly become the new Tripoli.
The Lebanese government’s weakness was exposed in Tripoli when, in response to demonstrations and violence, they unilaterally released the wanted Islamist.
Assir created strife in Lebanon while claiming to preach against it. This hypocrisy continued when he called for “peaceful” demonstrations in Saida. His aim, he claims, is to address the issue of non-state (the Resistance) weapons. Claiming that these weapons – which are legitimized by the Taif Accords – are the source of instability in Lebanon opened a new can of worms and threatened the same instability we witnessed in the North Lebanon a month ago. In an attempt to avoid such fate in Saida, other Sunni clerics have strongly urged Assir to halt his demonstrations for the sake of Lebanon.
Nonetheless, Assir continues his provocative protests. Specifically, he announced that if his protests were met with violence, he would respond in the same way.
Such threats have been the logic used by many seeking to oppose the Resistance. They claim the Resistance’s weapons are destabilizing Lebanon, yet those who oppose the Resistance appear to hold “non-state” weapons themselves when they threaten to meet “violence with violence.”
Such threats are amusing in that these critics of the Resistance propose to defend themselves against a fabricated threat. The weapons they protest against are being used for national security, and to defend Lebanon from the threat that still exists on the southern border. This was the exact purpose for the Resistance’s weapons as stipulated in the Taif Agreement, and continues to be so.
Assir and those like him will always look for any opening to enter the Lebanese political arena. They crave the attention of having followers who chant their names and raise their pictures. Assir found his opening with a silly toy. He fabricated a polarizing controversy in Lebanon that is unfounded and irrelevant to the daily challenges faced by the Lebanese people.
For his own selfish reasons, Assir has pushed Lebanon further toward the brink of civil strife. And once again, the government is forced to spend hours, days, and weeks addressing a non-issue.
Ali Ajrouch is a law student at Wayne State University Law School.
The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect Al-Akhbar's editorial policy.