Showing posts from 2012

Another May 7, 2008 in Lebanon?

The Syrian conflict seems to be nearing a clear end- the collapse of the Assad regime. In Lebanon there is talk that the Hizbullah is looking to reach some compromises with the March 14 coalition. These arrangements are sought to lessen the repercussions of the Syrian developments on the political situation in Lebanon.

There is no doubt that the demise of the Assad regime is the biggest challenge faced by the Hizbullah ever- a bigger challenge than it's war with Amal in the 1980s, any of the Israeli wars fought, or the classification of the group as a terrorist organization.

There is talk that the Hizbullah, in order to force concessions, will resort to another May 7, 2008- type operation. This is the operation were Hizbullah and its supporters used force, mainly against the Sunni-led Future Movement and its supporters, in order to force concessions from the March 14th Movement. The use of force worked- it resulted in the Doha Agreement with a veto power for Hizbullah and its less…

Walbridge's Dearborn book

Without Forgetting the Imam: Lebanese Shi'is in an American Community (1997) by Linda Walbridge is an excellent book on the Shia of Dearborn. One hopes that those who want to learn about that community do read her book- particularly federal law enforcement who have a special interest in that area of the world. The insights and the depth of knowledge she has are remarkable. She was able to attain them because she was trusted by the community who opened their homes to her.

One hopes that those interested in that community read Walbridge and not the drivel that is written about the community by Zionist Christians and Zionist Jews who see attacking and defaming that community as somehow helping Israel. In the alternative they see the defaming and demonizing as payback for the Shia Lebanese group Hizbullah fighting Israel and succeeding in removing it from the South of Lebanon.

 However, there are two errors in the book I want to mention. First- On page 35 she writes that "Minor…

Defendant Michel Samaha and the dominant (anti -) Sunni Muslim narrative

Michel Samaha is a high profile defendant charged with serious crimes in Lebanon. He is charged with being a part of an armed criminal syndicate that planned bombings with the intention of fomenting sectarian strife in Lebanon.

 The leaked information from the secretly taped conversations reveal that he was part of a plot to assassinate the Maronite patriarch during his visit to the North- an area of Lebanon that is majority Sunni Lebanese- many of whom are struggling to survive in an area of the country that lacks the infrastructure and opportunities that other parts of the country have. The North has never received the attention it deserved because it did not border Israel, the world did not care for it- and it did not have advocates and supporters to lobby for its interests. It now gets a lot of negative attention- hardly any positive attention- even though the Prime Minister is from that part of the country. The attention the North gets now is undesirable, defamatory and contriv…

Syrian Christians and the Assad Regime

I just finished reading Neil Mcfarquhar’s small and highly readable book, The Media Relations Department of Hizbollah wishes you a happy birthday. Neil is the former New York Times reporter in the Middle East. I met him and had dinner with him one time when he was writing a story on American Muslim charities. I was at the Middle East Studies Association meeting in Denver last month. I was talking to a colleague when the topic of Syria came up. My colleague said things that almost everyone else that I talked to in the US usually says when the topic of Syria comes up- Syrian Christians: “Assad is good to the Christians” and “what would happen to the Christians if Assad is removed.” This common reaction is testament to the very effective propaganda work of the Assad regime and its supporters. Who cares about the tens of thousands of people killed and the excessive use of force against the civilian population? Syria is not a country with a bloody history of sectarian relations. The…

Al Assir: A Muslim Brother or a Salafist?

The media insist on describing the Shaykh of Masjid Bilal Bin Rabah Ahmad Al-Assir as a Salafist. Al Assir looks like a Salafist with his long beard and closely trimmed moustache. But al Assir himself has refused to self- identify as a Salafist. His background is involvement with the Al Jamaa al Islamiyya of Lebanon- the Lebanese Muslim Brotherhood. He said he left the Jamaa because he wanted to work independently- which he did, keeping a low profile for a number of years. In a number of interviews he gave to the Lebanese and international media Al Assir denied affiliation with any group-Islamist or secular. His field of work was Da'awa- the call on the non observant Muslims to return to being practicing Muslims. It was the Syrian Revolution, Hezbollah’s involvement in the Syrian conflict and Hezbollah’s practices in Lebanon that turned him to speaking out on political issues- according to him.His perception that there is a lack of balance in Lebanon- that there is hegemony of…

Shaykh Al Assir: The consociational salafist

A Marginal Phenomenon?

In a country of 4 million people the Al Assir Youtube channel has 959,205 views and his Masjidbilalbinrabah channel has 299, 390 views. Not a marginal phenomenon even though his detractors and political opponents within his faith group would like to paint him as such. Why is his message being heard? Because his message is not a revolutionary one. He is a status quo player. How? 

                                                Good Sunni/Bad Sunni Dichotomy

The dominant theme in the media reporting on the man is that he is a "radical" Sunni- the un- Mustaqbal/Future Movement if you will. That there you have the good Sunnis- the modern Sunnis with the shaved beards or the trimmed goatees represented by Saad Hariri and then you have the scary bunch- the long beards- Shaykh al-Assir and his supporters who are lumped together with the Who's Who of a long list of scary Sunni Islamists. But the record do…

The media and al Assir: The Ashoura or the Hezbollah banners?

The media reporting on the Lebanese Shaykh Al Assir phenomenon is feeding directly into the Sunni-Shia tensions in Lebanon.

 One error of reporting is the statement repeated by journalists that the Shaykh wanted to remove the Ashoura banners. Ashoura is the most important event in Shia history. The reality is Al-Assir wanted to remove the banners and pictures of Hezbollah and its leaders. He considered the prominent displays of Hezbollah banners offensive to the sensibilities of the people of Sidon since Hezbollah, according to Al Assir, is supporting and fighting alongside the Assad regime. Hezbollah is a political group, the Shias are a Lebanese sect.

Removing Ashoura banners is an issue for almost all Lebanese Shias- removing Hezbollah banners is a confrontation with a specific political group and not a whole faith group. There is a big difference between the two.

Sunnis and Shias: The manufacture of difference

There are real differences that cause tension between Shias and Sunnis. And then there are imagined differences. Imagined differences are worse than real differences since its heard to bridge the gulf that the imagination creates. Some of the writers on Sunnis and Shia have contributed to misunderstandings and tensions by writing without authority. An example is Judith Palmer Harik’s book, Hezbollah: The changing face of terrorism (2004). Harik has a whole paragraph on the succession of the prophet controversy. The paragraph does not even have one citation. Then she writes, without citation: “When one of these opponents, Muawiyah, assassinated Ali in 661, a split occurred between his partisans and the rest of the community.” Caliph Ali was assassinated by a Kharijite. In this book Harik managed to manufacture another ground for tension between Sunnis and Shias

Understanding the Shaykh Ahmad Al Assir phenomenon- Grievance-based versus doctrine based analysis of Lebanese Sunni-Shia relations

The obvious reality for all to see is that there are great sectarian tensions in Lebanon and in the other Arab countries as well. These tensions are getting worse. The assassination of the intelligence chief Wesam al-Hassan, who is a Sunni Muslim and a supporter of the Sunni-led Future Movement, has aggravated these tensions further. This phenomenon has led to the laudable calls from different quarters for Muslim unity and rising above divisions. But what is behind these tensions? Is it the historical split in Islam that led to the birth of Shia and Sunni Islam? Is it the fault of the so-called “Salafists/Takfiris” who “hate” the Shia and want to “slaughter all of them as infidels”?

 A man who has spoken frequently, openly, and controversially about Sunni-Shia tensions and issues is the Sunni Lebanese Imam of the Masjid Bilal Bin Rabah in Abra, Sidon, Lebanon, Ahmad Al- Aseer. Recently he was interviewed by MTV Lebanon focusing on his personal and family life. He has become of interes…

The Charlotte Hezbollah cell and the RICO prosecution: Revisiting the Mohammed Hammoud case

The Charlotte Hezbollah cell and the RICO prosecution Revisiting the Mohammed Hammoud case From 150 years to 30 years for cigarette smuggling

                                     From the Excessive 150 years to the Excessive 30 years

 In January 2011 Mohammed Hammond was resentenced by a federal judge to a 30 year imprisonment. The original sentence handed down by a federal judge in 2003 was 150 years. Hammoud is held in Texas set to be released on 10/14/2026. Mohammed Hammoud and 24 other people were arrested under the RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) statute in a cigarette smuggling case between North Carolina and Michigan. That was the first criminal “material support” case to go to trial. Mugniyah’s “best and the brightest”?

                                         Lightening Out of Lebanon

In Lightening Out of Lebanon: Hezbollah Terrorists on American Soil, Tom Diaz and Barbara Newman, write about Hezbollah’s operations in the US and discuss at length the …

The “Angry Arab” As’ad Abukhalil: The passport American?

The “Angry Arab” As’ad Abukhalil: The passport American? Did he lie to the immigration officer or to the millions watching Aljazeera?

 As an immigration attorney I helped a lot of people obtain American citizenship. While a green card holder has a lot of rights in the United States, the issue is an immigrant is not legally and politically secure until he becomes a US citizen.

One of the great things about America is its citizenship law- while it is relatively easy to become a US citizen it is very hard to lose the citizenship. Many countries in the world act as if they dispense their citizenship certificates from a gumball machine- they give it and take it whimsically. A person can go to bed a citizen and wake up stateless at the whim of the executive and his minions. This is not the case in the US.

                                                     A Citizen is a Citizen

America treats its naturalized citizens the same as its native born in almost all aspects with few exceptions …
Demystifying the Mahr in the Islamic Marriage Agreement upon consideration of marriage

                                                       Mahr who?
 Courts struggle with the mahr provision that is a part of all Islamic marriage contracts. To be valid, an Islamic marriage has to have a mahr provision. The mahr can be anything from a book to a diamond ring or a certain amount of money. It is something of value that the man gives to the woman in return to her agreeing to marry him. If there is no mahr specified in the marriage contract, there is no Islamic marriage.

                                                       Mischaracterizing Mahr
 The courts have been all over the place over this issue. The questions asked have been: Is it a pre-nuptial agreement, is it a dowry, is it bride price or dower rights? It is none of the above. It’s not a pre-nuptial agreement since it is not designed to deal with property rights in the event the marriage ends. It is not a dowry since it is …
The Treasury Department's special briefing on the designation of Hezbollah for supporting the Syrian regime Weak evidence of involvement beyond the rhetorical

 Recently the U.S. Treasury department held a special briefing on the designation of Hezbollah for supporting the Syrian regime. The briefing was held via teleconference on August 10. 2012. The conflict in Syria has raised many important questions. One question is whether the Lebanese group Hezbollah is actually fighting in Syria alongside the regime forces. Hezbollah has a substantial fighting force that could be very helpful to the embattled regime. It is evident that the group, despite its rhetorical support, has not deployed this fighting force to support the embattled regime. However, it is amply clear that Hezbollah has rhetorically vigorously supported the Syrian regime. This is evident from speeches of its leaders and the aggressive pro -regime coverage by its media outlets and the media outlets supported dir…
State department 2011 Israel Religious Freedom Report The American embassy in Tel Aviv "offered programs that exposed Israelis to U.S. models of religious diversity and civil society" Many Americans are said to feel an affinity for Israel due to the idea that Israel is a liberal democracy- just as the U.S. is. This is far from the truth. When the media reports on religious freedom in the Middle East, it usually focuses on Saudi Arabia and Iran. Israel, the country getting the most generous financial, political and diplomatic support from the U.S., falls far short of American expectations of what a country that is like us would be in matters of religious liberty and religious equality. In fact the report concludes with: "The embassy offered programs that exposed Israelis to U.S. models of religious diversity and civil society." Indeed. Does the American media know?* The following are edited excerpts from the State department's report. The headings are mine, …

Interview with Community Leader Suehaila Amen

There are a handful of Arab Americans from Dearborn that are well known locally, nationally and internationally. The remarkable Suehaila Amen is one of them. Dearborn is a community where first- generation male immigrants dominate community organizations- this is noticeable at community events and meetings. Suehaila is one of a few women who, strength of character and hard work, have achieved a high profile in this community. The Forum and Link approached Suehaila for an interview. The following are excerpts from this interview.
*Tell me about yourself. Who is Suehaila Amen?
Born and raised in Dearborn, Michigan to Mohsen Amen and Lila Alcodray, I inherited the activism gene from my parents who have served the community for over 30 years through various organizations.The eldest of 4, I have two sisters and a brother.
I am currently employed as the Judicial Executive for the Honorable Mark W. Somers, Judge in the 19th District Court in Dearborn, and was previously employed as an educator…