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The Guardian and the Muslim “Moderates”

This is a guest post by DaveM

An article by Haroon Siddique in Comment is Free is entitled “Who’s listening to the Muslim moderates?” attracted my attention.

In it he writes:-

“ many times have we read or heard calls for moderate Muslims to speak out about wrongs supposedly carried out in the name of Islam?

Politicians including Tony Blair and various commentators – here’s a Telegraph leader – have urged the moderate voice of Islam to make itself heard above the din of extremist preachers.

Last week, one of the most respected clerics in Shia Islam, Lebanon’s grand ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, condemned the perpetrators of an attack against pilgrims in Iraq as “murderers and animals” and called for the repudiation of a school of thought that it was permissible to spill the blood of Muslims “who embrace another doctrine, or believe in alternative political views”.

While in this case the victims – as well as the attackers – were Muslim, Fadlullah, one of the Muslim world’s few Grand Ayatollahs (they have the authority to make legal decisions within the confines of Islamic law for followers and lower-rank clerics) was condemning the phenomenon of “takfir”, which sees some militant Muslims regard non-believers as a legitimate target.

If you do not remember reading or hearing about his comments that is probably because you did not. His words, reported by Reuters, might have been expected to be picked up by the same media which regularly feature writers bemoaning a lack of moderate Muslims. But there was no mention of his strong words in the British papers, their websites or that of the BBC.” [my emphasis]

This may have something to do with the fact that Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah is in fact better known in his capacity as the Spiritual Guide to Hezbollah. Which is as about as far from moderate as you can get this side of Al Qa’eda and the GIA.

It’s nothing more than one extremist condemning another even more extremist – how is this even connected in any way to moderate Muslim views?

Surely the sole reason he condemned the attacks on Iraqi pilgrims is because the victims were Shia. There hasn’t been so much of a murmur of condemnation from him in regards to Hezbollah violence.

When Ian Paisley used to only condemn IRA violence and stay silent when it came to Loyalist terror, nobody was naïve enough to think this was evidence of moderate Unionist opinion being sidelined by the mainstream media. So why assume that in the case of Fadlallah?

I brought this to the attention of Sidique and he responded as thus

“Davemm. I don’t believe I referred to him as a liberal anywhere.

And I didn’t even called him a moderate, rather referred to his comments in the context of the ongoing clamour for moderate Muslim voices. [what does that even mean?]

Fadlallah has called for armed resistance to the Israeli occupation of Lebanon and the West Bank and Gaza, which may well preclude him from being a moderate. On the other hand he has championed women’s rights in a way that we take for granted in this country but which is rare among Islamic clerics.

When I mentioned the fact that he has called for a boycott against Israeli and US goods I did so precisely to illustrate that he has views which would not necessarily be interpreted as “moderate”.”

Except if you look at the Arabic pages of his website you’ll find he does more than just call for “armed resistance to the Israeli occupation of Lebanon and the West Bank and Gaza”

This translates as:

“It appears that the price of official Arab resignation of not just the Palestinian cause but even not so much as an atom of conscience or humanity in front of what is as a mass genocide of the Palestinians at the hands of the Zionist enemy that hasn’t stopped its war and destruction machine for over half a century”

[Yes, he does talk like this. It’s a mixture of Yoda from Star Wars and Puck from Midsummer Night’s Dream. Alas, when he speaks my Arabic’s not yet good enough to understand him without having to resort to subtitles.]

If self-rule in the West Bank was his sole aim why did he write “over half a century” when it was occupied only 41 years ago?

Like the rest of Hezbollah, Fadlallah wants the total destruction of Israel.
Nothing more, nothing less.

Once again, how can you even group anything thing this guy says under the umbrella of moderate Muslim voices?

In fact as a writer for the Guardian and using a Lebanese religious source – does Siddique even speak Arabic? Because you would assume as a journalist he would have to do background research on his subject and that can’t be done by English alone.

While he was happy to link to Fadlallah’s website statement calling for the boycott of Israeli and US goods, he didn’t link to Fadlallah’s eulogising of Imad Moghnieh, which states:

“The great militant march of the Islamic Resistance that constituted a major challenge for the Zionist entity and the international arrogance and their projects in the region and that was able to inspire Muslims, Arabs and the free men in the entire world… this march with its Islamic Arab and Human extensions has lost with the martyrdom of the great Mujahid Hajj Imad Moghnieh, may Allah bless his soul, one of its major pillars and leaders who represented the vanguard of the resisting generation who defeated the Zionist enemy in 2000 and 2006.”

Does constituting a major challenge to “the Zionist Entity” involve the bombing of the AMIA Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires?

The media is more than happy to listen to moderate Muslims; unfortunately Hussein Fadlallah’s name should not even be mentioned in the same breath as them.

In fact it doesn’t take much effort to find moderate Muslim voices

Saudi author Turki Al-Hamad

Abd Al-Hamid Al-Ansari

Iyad Jamal Al-Din

All of whom are a lot more progressive and moderate than Fadlallah could ever be.

Indeed, if anybody is guilty of not listening to the Muslim moderates it’s Haroon Siddique and the Guardian.