Shaykh al- Aseer goes to Kisrawan and scores against his adversaries, again

Shaykh Ahmad Al Aseer

                                    Not the sharpest tools in the shed

There is a stereotype about Muslim clergy. The stereotype is that they are not the sharpest tools in the shed. In a country like Lebanon the thinking is that it is not the smartest students who aspire to be shaykhs but the weakest students. The smartest students want to go to engineering school or medical school were their intelligence can pay off financially. One of the top students I went to school with graduated with distinction from the American University of Beirut and went to study in the United States where he earned a masters in Math. Then he went to study at the Al Azhar in Lebanon to become a Shaykh. I remember the reaction was: What a waste of talent?

                                    Nasser undermines religion

The Nasser regime and its minions in Egypt used the central role of Cairo as a producer of popular culture to help create and propagate this stereotype. There are numerous Egyptian movies from the Nasser era were the shaykh is portrayed as a fool and a hypocrite- sometimes even drinking alcohol and dancing with belly dancers. Nasser's Egypt was at war with all challengers of Nasser's absolute power and religious authorities had to be discredited and co-opted. Under Nasser, the Azhar took its marching orders from Nasser as if Egypt were the UK. In the UK the queen was head of state and church. Egypt's Nasser was the head of the state and the de facto head of the al Azhar as well- with absolute power.

                                    Al Aseer goes to Kisrawan

Shaykh Al Aseer is a very intelligent man that is always underestimated by his adversaries. Even though he is a relative newcomer to the public life of controversy he has held up well against a number of veteran sharks of Lebanese politics. He has appeared on the Lebanese political stage and reached prominence in a relatively short period. He has a cause and a script- the need to restore balance in an unbalanced confessional system where the Sunni sect is the prime victim of this imbalance. This is the shaykh's jihad/struggle. His picnic to Maronite- majority Kisrawan, whether by design or by default, ended up promoting this cause. Those who wanted to ruin his picnic to the snow mountains of Kisrawan, those who spoke against him, those who defended the people who blocked the road, all of them, wittingly or wittingly, helped to promote Shaykh al Aseer- he came out as a victim of intolerance and they came out as bigoted and intolerant. He and his companions who went on a picnic, a group of people that included women and children, came out as sympathetic victims of bigotry and lack of civility on the part of those who claim to be modern and enlightened. After all, who would block the way of unarmed civilians, more than half of them women and children, who merely wanted to see the snow and play with the snow? Who would react angrily to such a picnic? Who would have children and women sit in buses for hours just because they want to play with the snow?

It was quite a trip for the shaykh. He got to play with the snow and with his adversaries as well.

As to the Lebanese government- the way that Interior Minister Marwan Charbel handled the crisis in Kesrawan is further evidence of wisdom and political skills. He is eminently qualified to be President of the Republic of Lebanon.


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