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 does not support this conclusion. The record is the man's words and deeds. The Lebanese democracy is a consociational democracy built on power sharing among the different sects of Lebanon- 16 of them with the three biggest being the Maronites, the Sunnis and the Shia.
List of Political Grievances
The Shaykh al-Assir as to Lebanon has put forth the following positions numerous times: 1. Lebanon is a a country to be shared by all its sects. He supports that. 2. He complains about the lack of balance in the political system. His chief grievance is that "the Iran party"/the Hezbollah has used the conflict with Israel to monopolize massive arms outside the state control and basically took over the state in all but name- a state that all the Lebanese are supposed to share. He gave numerous examples of Hezbollah not respecting the rules of the Lebanese consociational democracy. One of them is the marginalizing of Saad Hariri when he represents the biggest bloc of Sunni voters and supporters. the influence of the Hezbollah on the judiciary, the army, etc. 3. His demand is that there should be a restoration of the balance and a road map for the the state taking over the weapons of Hezbollah so that the state that represents all the Lebanese can make the decisions of war and peace. He accuses the Hezbollah of using its weapons to advance the Iranian agenda.
Restatement of "Unique" Grievances?
The above are all complaints that have been voiced by different players in Lebanese politics from all sects- the Maronite owner of ad diyar alluded to this reality in his paper- leader of the Lebanese Forces the Maronite Samir Geagea also made comments along the same lines. The shaykh, despite his Salafist looks accepts the Lebanese political system, accepts power sharing and his complaint is that his community is being marginalized by the Hezbollah.
The Consociational Salafist
This is a political complaint not a religious complaint that has been echoed by other Sunnis, leaders and ordinary folks, as well. His call is not to restore the Caliphate and Islamic rule. His call is the return of balance in the power sharing arrangement. The Shaykh is an interesting kind of "salafist." A consociational "salafist."