As you may have noticed (yeah, really! who am I kidding?), the Shi’ite cleric Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah died five days ago, and since then there’s been a minor whirl of articles about him, all of which seem to mention that he was considered liberal, though it’s not made clear by whom. They all explicitly stated that he was connected to Hezbollah, an accusation which he vociferously denied. What’s more, Hezbollah itself has denied that he is one of them, and as far as I recall, they don’t seem to keep any great aura of secrecy about their leaders, what with having their own television channel and all. He was, however, most likely involved in Hezbollah’s founding to some degree, although he has more recenty spoken against car bombs and many forms of terrorism. He condemned 9/11. He was also an advocate of the rights of women within Islam, famously declaring a fatwa which allowed women to beat their abusive husbands. Of course, he wasn’t too much pleased by American foreign policy, speaking out against it and against Israel. But this is hardly surprising. He certainly seemed to be somebody sensible.
But of course, he’s Lebanese. He’s Shi’a. He’s involved with Hezbollah – except he’s actually not. But he is! And clearly no good can be said about him. So it enrages me a little that CNN have fired their Middle East editor because she put a statement saying she respected him on Twitter. Now, Twitter was undeniably not the best forum for that kind of statement, but the thing that really puzzles me is that “her credibility had been compromised”. I wonder if they would have said that if she’d eulogised an Orthodox rabbi, perhaps one who had supported building in the West Bank? Somehow, I don’t think so.
And now the FCO is hitching up to jump on the bandwagon, as the British envoy to Lebanon’s comments about Fadlallah – mostly about his personality and willingness to engage in intellectual debate – have been condemned by (surprise surprise) the Israelis, who are chafing at this attempt to humanise their enemies.
In other news, Zeppelins are fantastic.