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Monday, August 16, 2010

Hezbullah gets religion

David Schenker notes an increase in Hezbullah's pushing for donning the hijab, and explains why Hezbullah has suddenly gotten religion.
Why is Hezbollah engaging in these campaigns now? The timing is not coincidental. Politically and militarily, 2009 was a banner year for the militia. But, image-wise, Hezbollah's reputation for probity was tarnished when its chief local financier was arrested for perpetrating a Ponzi scheme a la Bernie Madoff—implicating the militant Islamist organization in odious corruption. Since then, the group has been trying to remake itself, not only by issuing its first new “manifesto” since 1985, but by refocusing the organization on its religious objectives. All this appears to be part of a Hezbollah effort to rehabilitate its diminished ethical and moral standing by returning to its socially conservative roots.

These events suggest something important about the nature of Hezbollah itself. Its leaders are clearly concerned by the fact that, although the organization is exceedingly popular among Lebanese Shiites, it remains unable to convince its constituents to adhere to its conservative social mores. In other words: They are troubled that support for Hezbollah derives from its military exploits and not from its Iranian-inspired religious message.

This also means, more fundamentally, that Hezbollah's motives have not altered nearly as much as it would have us think. The organization's actions belie a wider social agenda, which seems to extend far beyond “resisting” Israeli occupation. While Hezbollah no longer articulates the long-term goal of exporting the Iranian revolution to Lebanon, the hijab campaign and the counterintuitive decision to exclude Haifa Wehbe from the Gaza aid flotilla suggest that the organization’s hopes for an Islamic state in Lebanon remain alive and well.
Schenker believes that Hezbullah's popularity is because of its 'resistance' to Israel, and that its attempt to impose strict Islamic standards on Lebanon will fail. Well, maybe. On the other hand, Hezbullah could go the route of Hamas in Gaza which has forced the women to comply with the demand for bag ladies.


At 2:32 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

The Sunnis, Druze and Christians don't want to be ruled by Hezbollah. Lebanon is very different culturally from Iran and any one sect attempting to lord it over the others would face resistance from them. Hezbollah faces long odds in turning Lebanon into an Islamic state on the Levant.


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