Lebanon: Future Movement Turns to Islam

A Future Movement flag hangs under a screen broadcasting a live speech of Saad Hariri in Martyr square, Beirut. (Photo: Marwan Bu Haidar)

By: Nasser Charara

Published Saturday, May 12, 2012

In light of recent developments in the Syrian and Lebanese political scenes, Doha and Riyadh seek to prop up the Saad Hariri’s Future Movement with a strong ally. This ally is none other than the Lebanese branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.

A few months ago, the secretary-general of al-Jamaa al-Islamiya, the Lebanese branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, Ibrahim al-Masri, flew to Qatar in an unannounced trip. According to several sources, he was greeted warmly and provided with financial and political support.

Doha does not care about the ideological differences that have caused hostility between the Wahhabi movement and the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). This is the opposite of the Saudi position, which is sensitive towards the issue and takes it into special consideration.

Doha is also not satisfied with Hariri’s political performance in Lebanon. It criticizes his leadership for being unable to effectively ride the wave of the moment.

While Arab popular revolutions thrived, Hariri’s politics were of retreat and pulling back from the realities on the ground in Lebanon. In their view, Lebanon should have been the backyard of the revolution against the regime of President Bashar Assad.

Doha believes that the MB (al-Jamaa al-Islamiya) are the best choice to fill this political void in Lebanon.

Following dialogue between Qatar and the Saudis, the Future Movement and al-Jamaa al-Islamiya began drafting a document of common national constants.

They did not call it a “memorandum of understanding” so as for it not to be compared to the one between the Free Patriotic Movement and Hezbollah. Therefore, it was given the name “Memorandum of Cooperation between al-Jamaa al-Islamiya and the Future Movement.”

A Relationship Between Equals

It is noteworthy that in the last article in coordination mechanisms of the memo, al-Jamaa al-Islamiya is seen as being on equal footing with the Future Movement.

This can be seen, for example, in the right to select candidate to fill the Sunni share in public administration jobs which are allocated according to a sectarian quota system. In summary, al-Jamaa is close to becoming partners with Future Movement and not merely an ally.

Defending Taif

The memo explicitly shows that there are two very strong common denominators between the two parties. The first is their position on the bearings of the Taif Agreement on the Sunni political equation in Lebanon.

The first article of the memo elaborates on the importance of defending Taif and warns that tampering with it could lead to consequences, the least of which would impact coexistence and civil stability.

The second factor is supporting the Syrian people against the regime. This covers the foreign policy aspect of their cooperation. The remaining articles are meticulously written to smooth the edges and meet the regional sponsors’ requirements for the text.

Mimicking the “Shia Experience”

Information circulating about the drafting of the memorandum suggest that Doha had informed Riyadh of its opinion that al-Jamaa al-Islamiya should be allowed to steer the Sunni political project in Lebanon which is allied with the “Syrian revolution.”

The Saudis agreed in principle but on the condition that the step does not lead to the end of the Hariri political family in Lebanon, due to its moral obligation to the family in memory of Rafik Hariri. Cooperation between al-Jamaa al-Islamiya and the Future Movement headed by Saad Hariri was the compromise between the positions of Riyadh and Doha. It seems to mimic in the Sunni sect the alliance within the Shia sect between Hezbollah and the Amal movement.

In the current exceptional circumstances, al-Jamaa will be the one who is expected to take charge. It will follow the Syrian mobilization and the efforts of Gulf countries, especially Saudi and Qatar, in order to support the overthrowing of Syrian President Bashar Assad.


The Memorandum of Cooperation

Below is the abridged text of the memorandum:

Introduction: We, the Future Movement and al-Jamaa al-Islamiya, marching to the sound of popular revolutions against several Arab regimes and in light of hot national questions faced by our country Lebanon, emphasize our adherence to the following common national constants:

First: Lebanon’s Political System and the Taif Agreement

Lebanon’s diverse political and sectarian components are a source of wealth to the country in the framework of the democratic system that ensures the transfer and rotation of power in the framework of the Taif constitution. Abandoning this system would be a threat to the entity and coexistence, and therefore the unity of the homeland. Therefore, we reaffirm that the Taif Agreement is the main foundation of our democratic system and civil peace. This entails cooperation to fulfil all its articles, in order to achieve social justice and equitable development, strengthening the capacity of the state on all levels and dealing with future issues and challenges efficiently and effectively. We refuse all kinds of internal strife, whether political, sectarian or confessional. We call for adherence to political freedoms and human rights.

Second: Coexistence and the Relationship Between the Lebanese

Coexistence has been and will always be the choice of all Lebanese. This existence is based on solid foundations that everyone is comfortable with. In our opinion, there are four basic foundations: respecting the other, recognizing him, adherence to moral values [...] and justice [...].

Third: Recognizing the Authority of the State

[This article is about encouraging cooperation in order to enhance the powers of a strong and just state that can defend its citizens, take care of all their affair, interests and rights, ensure their security, etc.]

Fourth: The Defense Strategy

The Zionist project is the biggest danger to our nation and homeland. It aims to tear it apart through instigating all kinds of sectarian, confessional and ethnic strife and internal wars. Based on this, we consider facing this threat and its impact as a national and Arab duty. The state is obliged to protect its people from any aggression and to create a defense strategy, withdrawing the act of defence and resistance from the current monopoly and transforming it into a national duty of all Lebanese through the state.

Fifth: The Special Tribunal for Lebanon

[...] Justice is the doorway to stability. The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) was an issue of consensus between political forces in the national dialogue. We reject the attempts to make the Lebanese choose between justice and stability or the idea that justice is a threat to stability. We consider that ceasing criticism of the STL, fulfilling Lebanon’s obligations towards it and judging it based on its decisions is a national and moral duty and adherence to the rules of coexistence and international legitimacy.

The Remaining Articles

The sixth article focuses on the Palestinian question and the situation of Palestinians in Lebanon. In summary, it opposed implantation.

The seventh article is about the popular Arab revolutions and the Arab Spring. “Partiality towards the peoples of the nation in their strive towards freedom, regaining national dignity and achieving democracy and the condemnation of all kinds of physical and political repression faced by Arab citizens, is the natural choice we make because we believe it is the only path to national renaissance and protecting the rights of its citizens in public administration,” it said.

The eighth article describes cooperation and coordination mechanisms. It included the following:

“First: creating a central committee presided over by the general secretary of the Future Movement and the president of the politburo of al-Jamaa al-Islamiya, overseeing the development of the relationship and its mechanisms.”

“Second: Prior consultation between the two parties on all major decisions in order to reach common visions and positions and manage differences of opinions to achieve a strong relationship, common interests and mutual respect.”

“Third: Arranging sectoral and regional meetings to coordinate practically based on the directions agreed upon centrally, including but not limited to the following issues: Enhancing joint and active presence in Parliament; Following up on joint work on all syndical and municipal decisions; Working towards unifying positions concerning social and economic issues and demands; Joint contribution to the appointment of talented persons into administrative positions and facing malicious politics and exclusion pushed by some Lebanese forces and parties; Working towards strengthening and developing civil society organizations; Holding regular meetings in all places with common presence; Holding several common activities.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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