Officials in Lebanon, across region pay their respects
By The Daily Star 
Fadlallah was Lebanon’s man in full
By Rami G. Khouri 

Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, Lebanon’s most influential Shiite Muslim leader who died in Beirut this past weekend, was a marja, or a source of emulation for Shiites, during his lifetime – just about the highest achievement a human being can attain in this world.

It would be doing Fadlallah a disservice only or mainly to see him as a gifted Shiite religious figure. His great achievement, I believe, was to provide a living example of the combination of the best qualities that any Arab or Muslim could aspire to in this era of great mediocrity, corruption, materialism, mindless violence and abuse of power throughout much of the Arab world. For more pictures of Fadlallah funerail and article controversy  of Octavia Nasr (Cnn journalist  ex-LBC employee) please click Read More

Fadlallah was – as Americans are fond of saying of sports figures who are talented, smart, humble, generous and personable – “the complete package.” He stood head and shoulders above his contemporaries in Lebanon and most of the region because he combined several qualities noteworthy each on its own: profound theological and academic learning; an analytical and active mind; extensive social activism to assist the needy; nationalist politics to protect one’s sovereignty and support Arab causes, like Palestine; a commitment to resisting and fighting foreign aggression and occupation; political modernism that appreciated pluralistic and accountable governance; a rejection of one-man rule in favor of collective leadership based on consultation and consensus; a deep commitment to dialogue and solidarity with those of different faiths, ideologies or ethnicities; a progressive sense of the rights of women and youth; humility of spirit that prevented him from assuming public or official positions; and – I suspect from reading some of his writings, as I never met him – a twinkle in his eye and generosity in his heart that accepted the need to enjoy life, without hurting others or blaspheming core religious dictates.

It is no surprise, therefore, that Fadlallah had followers in many parts of the world, far beyond his native Lebanon or Iraq where he grew up. A key reason for his charisma and a source of emulation was his philosophy of the obligation of the weak and oppressed to struggle and if necessary to fight for their humanity, liberation, dignity and rights. By the examples he set in his own life and behavior – education, contemplation, self-assertion, honesty, generosity toward the needy – he showed others how they could aspire to achieve their full potential as human beings, individually and collectively.

His was a very Shiite life story, given that the Shiites of Lebanon in just two generations – from the 1960s to the 2000s – transformed themselves from the abused and subjugated downtrodden of Lebanese society into the single most powerful group in the country. His rise to prominence coincided with and partly inspired this epic transformation, that now sees Hizbullah as the dominant Shiite organization in the political, social and military fields. This change in status is also controversial for many other Lebanese who distrust Hizbullah and see it as an Iranian- and Syrian-manipulated menace to Lebanon’s collective sovereignty, identity and stability.


Fadlallah’s life story is so noteworthy because it transcends the Hizbullah-dominated dimensions of Lebanese Shiism. There was a convergence of sentiments and struggle between the man and the nascent movement and its forerunners, for a while, in the 1970s and 1980s. Yet he went beyond Hizbullah’s focus on resistance, to embrace and develop the totality of human, communal and national dimensions that he believed was the obligation of any Muslim and any human being.

His recipe was simple but effective, for those who could apply it: Read. Study. Discuss. Debate. Question. Learn. Work hard. Be generous. Respect others, especially those who are different from you. Stand up for your rights. Use your power to defend your people and country. And, always, remain humble.

Perhaps his greatest feat – as is the case with others of his ilk who joined God’s world with ours, like Martin Luther King, Jr., Pope John Paul II, or Bishop Desmond Tutu – was his ability to make Islamic religious ethics a springboard for personal and collective human betterment, rather than an isolated obsession or source of autocratic fanaticism.

The learned man moved back and forth from his books to his neighborhood, from lofty divine inspirations to mundane social, economic and political problems that needed resolution – in this lifetime, not the one to come. Faith, in his view and life practice, gave you the power and confidence to fix the flaws and injustices of our world, rather than only to bemoan and endure them. That, in the end, was not just a holy man, but a very modern man – a model Lebanese, Arab and Muslim who was rightly respected and emulated by many in his lifetime, because he showed us what we could become if we put our mind to it.

CNN clarificaton:


Nasr explains controversial tweet on Lebanese cleric



My tweet was short: "Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah.. One of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot. #Lebanon"

Reaction to my tweet was immediate, overwhelming and a provides a good lesson on why 140 characters should not be used to comment on controversial or sensitive issues, especially those dealing with the Middle East.

It was an error of judgment for me to write such a simplistic comment and I’m sorry because it conveyed that I supported Fadlallah’s life’s work. That’s not the case at all.

Here’s what I should have conveyed more fully:

I used the words "respect" and "sad" because to me as a Middle Eastern woman, Fadlallah took a contrarian and pioneering stand among Shia clerics on woman’s rights. He called for the abolition of the tribal system of "honor killing." He called the practice primitive and non-productive. He warned Muslim men that abuse of women was against Islam.

I met Fadlallah in 1990. He was willing to take the risk of meeting with a young Christian journalist from the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation. Fadlallah was at the height of his power. As I was ushered in, I was told that he would not look at me in the eye and to make it quick as there was a long line of dignitaries waiting.

The interview went 45 minutes, during which I asked him about Hezbollah’s agenda for an Islamic state in Lebanon. He bluntly told me that was his group’s dream but there would be room for other religions. He also joked at the end of the interview that the solution for Lebanon’s civil war was to send "all political leaders without exception on a ship away from Lebanon with no option to return."

He challenged me to run the entire interview on LBC without editing. We did.

This does not mean I respected him for what else he did or said. Far from it.

It is no secret that Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah hated with a vengeance the United States government and Israel. He regularly praised the terror attacks that killed Israeli citizens. And as recently as 2008, he said the numbers of Jews killed in the Holocaust were wildly inflated.

But it was his commitment to Hezbollah’s original mission – resisting Israel’s occupation of Lebanon – that made him popular and respected among many Lebanese, not just people of his own sect.

In 1983, as Fadlallah found his voice as a spiritual leader, Islamic Jihad – soon to morph into Hezbollah – bombed the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, killing 299 American and French peacekeepers. I lost family members in that terror attack.

And it was during his time as spiritual leader that so many Westerners were kidnapped and held hostage in Lebanon.

When the Lebanese Civil War ended in 1990 with Syria taking full control of Lebanon, Hezbollah was and remains the only armed militia in Lebanon. Under Syria’s influence however, Hezbollah – declared a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union started becoming even more militant, with designs beyond Lebanon’s borders to serve agendas for Syria and Iran.

Fadlallah himself was designated a terrorist by the U.S. Treasury Department.

In later years, Hezbollah’s leadership apparently did not like Fadlallah’s vocal criticism of Hezbollah’s allegiance to Iran. Nor did they like his assertions that Hezbollah’s leaders had been distracted from resistance to Israeli occupation of portions of Lebanon and had turned weapons against their own people.

At first, he was simply pushed to the side, but later wasn’t even referred to as a Hezbollah member. Rather, he was referred to as the scholar – the expert on Islam – but nothing more. During the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel, his honorary title "Sayyed" – indicating that he’s a descendant of the prophet – was dropped any time he was mentioned on Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV and other Hezbollah media outlets.

Through his outspoken Friday sermons and his regularly updated website, Fadlallah had a platform to spread what many considered a more moderate voice of Shia Islam than what was coming out of Iran. Immensely popular in Lebanon among the various religious groups, he also had followers across the region including in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain and even as far as Morocco in northern Africa.


CNN Middle East editor leaves after Fadlallah ‘tweet’

WASHINGTON — Octavia Nasr, senior editor of Middle East affairs at CNN, is leaving the US television news network after sending a message on Twitter praising the late Shiite cleric Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah.

Nasr, who joined CNN in 1990, said in a "tweet" over the weekend that she was "Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah… One of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot."

She followed that up with a blog post on expressing "deep regret" for her "tweet" about the man considered the spiritual guide of Hezbollah and who figured on a US "terrorist" list.

"It was an error of judgment for me to write such a simplistic comment and I’m sorry because it conveyed that I supported Fadlallah’s life’s work," Nasr wrote. "That’s not the case at all."

She said she was referring to Fadlallah’s "contrarian and pioneering stand among Shiite clerics on woman’s rights."

"This does not mean I respected him for what else he did or said," she said. "Far from it."

Parisa Khosravi, senior vice president for CNN International Newsgathering, said in an internal memo forwarded to AFP that she had spoken with Nasr and "we have decided that she will be leaving the company.

"As you know, her tweet over the weekend created a wide reaction. As she has stated in her blog on, she fully accepts that she should not have made such a simplistic comment without any context whatsoever," Khosravi said.

"However, at this point, we believe that her credibility in her position as senior editor for Middle Eastern affairs has been compromised going forward," Khosravi said. "We thank Octavia for all of her hard work and we certainly wish her all the best."

Nasr has covered virtually every major Middle Eastern story for CNN during the past 20 years and anchored CNN World Report and CNN International’s World News from 1993 to 2003.

Before joining CNN, she worked for the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation.

Nasr’s departure from CNN comes exactly a month after veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas retired after coming under fire for controversial remarks about Israel.


Lebanese Shi’ite Musllim supporters of Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah carry his coffin in Beirut’s suburbs
Lebanese Shi’ite Musllim supporters of Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah carry his coffin during a funeral in Beirut’s suburb

Reuters via Yahoo! News – Jul 06 06:48am


Lebanese Shi’ite Muslim women supporters of Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah mourn him in Beirut’s suburbs

Reuters via Yahoo! News – Jul 06 07:08am


Lebanese Shi’ite Musllim supporters of Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah jump on his coffin during his funeral in Beirut’s su

Reuters via Yahoo! News – Jul 06 07:59am


Lebanese shiite mourners stand at the building under construction as they look at the funeral of Lebanon’s top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Mohammed

AP via Yahoo! News – Jul 06 08:58am


Sayed Ali Fdalallah, right, the son of Lebanon’s top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah who died on Sunday, speaks with Lebanese

AP via Yahoo! News – Jul 04 09:09am


Lebanon’s Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah pays his respects to the body of late Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah in a ho

Reuters via Yahoo! News – Jul 05 03:14am


Shi’ite Sayyed Ali Fadlallah receives condolences for his father’s death in Beirut
Shiite woman and her daughter mourn during funeral of Lebanon’s top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, who died on Sunday, at
In this photo taken Tuesday, April 14, 2009, Lebanon’s most influential Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah arrives for an interv

AP via Yahoo! News – Jul 04 03:39am



 Ayatollah Fadlallah tributes divide opinion


By Kim Ghattas
BBC News, Washington


A Shia cleric dies in Lebanon and a CNN journalist gets fired for her tweet praising him while a British ambassador is made to apologise for eulogising him on her blog.

It could be yet another story about the pitfalls of new media but it is really about the complexity of Middle Eastern politics, the passion it stirs and the nuances that get lost in the debate.

For Shias in Lebanon, Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah was a revered cleric and he is being mourned by thousands who saw him as their religious reference, or marjaa’.

Condolences also poured in from the region, from Jordan’s King Abdullah – a Sunni – to Iraq’s prime minister and the ruler of Kuwait.

But Ayatollah Fadlallah was also named in 1995 by the US treasury department as a Specially Designated Terrorist under a presidential executive order.

He was seen as one of the key founders of the militant group Hezbollah. His name was associated with a suicide attack against the US Marine barracks in Lebanon in 1983 which killed 241 Americans, among other violent actions ascribed to Hezbollah.

Ayatollah Fadlallah denied being Hezbollah’s spiritual father and never acknowledged any involvement in the bombing. But crucially, he never denounced the attack either.

His writings often sought to justify the use of violence, starting with the preface to his 1985 book, Islam and the Logic of Force.

"Civilisation does not mean that you face a rocket with a stick or a jet-fighter with a kite, or a warship with a sailboat," he wrote.

"One must face force with equal or superior force. If it is legitimate to defend self and land and destiny, then all means of self-defence are legitimate."

So a senior US official in Washington told the BBC he was dismayed and surprised when he read the blog entry by the British Ambassador to Lebanon eulogising the cleric.

Under the title "The passing of decent men", Frances Guy wrote that: "When you visited him you could be sure of a real debate, a respectful argument and you knew you would leave his presence feeling a better person."


She also indicated she felt lucky to have met Ayatollah Fadlallah.

Her blogpost has been taken down by the Foreign Office, though it can still be read in full on Ayatollah Fadlallah’s website.

Mrs Guy has now written an apology on her blog to clarify that: "I have no truck with terrorism wherever it is committed, in whoever’s name. The British government has been clear that it condemns terrorist activities carried out by Hezbollah and I share that view."

She had not directly praised Hezbollah in the blog. As ambassador she has met political representatives of Hezbollah, with the blessing of the Foreign Office, something which had incensed Washington. The US does not differentiate between the military and political wings of Hezbollah.

Octavia Nasr, the CNN journalist who was fired, said in her tweet she "respected" Ayatollah Fadlallah as one of "Hezbollah’s giants".

In her retraction, Mrs Guy added she was sorry that "an attempt to acknowledge the spiritual significance to many of Sheikh Fadlallah and the views that he held in the latter part of his life has served only to further entrench divisions in this complex part of the world".

Ayatollah Fadlallah had indeed moved on, in some way, from the 1980s. He was increasingly known for his moderate social views in support of women’s rights, he had denounced the attacks of 11 September 2001 and welcomed Barack Obama’s election. His relationship with Hezbollah and Iran was also troubled.

So should the West have moved on as well?

The nuances of Ayatollah Fadlallah’s positions were clearly not enough for either the US or the UK to officially change their views about the cleric and the actions he is thought to have been involved in.

But some argue that the US may have missed an opportunity by not engaging an influential cleric who could have helped to reduce the appeal of fundamentalism in Lebanon but more importantly to counter the influence of Iran.

Robert Pollock, an opinion editor at the Wall Street Journal, interviewed Ayatollah Fadlallah in 2009 and wrote that the cleric had "a disarming twinkle in his eye", but also said that the cleric was clearly no friend of the West, America or Israel.

"I find these adoring comments about him naive, but I also don’t believe that positive observations about him should be off limits," Mr Pollock told the BBC.

How ironic, though, that Fadlallah – a man who Washington labelled a terrorist in 1995 – stood as the last bulwark against near total Iranian hegemony in Lebanon

David Schenker Washington Institute for Near Eastern Policy UK envoy’s blog draws Israel ire CNN sacks Middle East journalist Mixed legacy of Ayatollah Fadlallah

"He was certainly a better influence on Lebanon than the agents of Iranian influence who will now try to claim his legacy."

Indeed in the West, controversy about the reactions to his death has overshadowed the more important debate now taking place in Lebanon about who will succeed Ayatollah Fadlallah as a marjaa’.

Ayatollah Fadlallah opposed the concept of Velayat-e-faqih, an Iranian invention which gives unchallenged authority in politics and theology to the Supreme Leader – currently Ali Khamenei. Iran, meanwhile, never recognised Ayatollah Fadlallah as a marjaa’.

So while Ayatollah Fadlallah did not hold an official position and cannot be replaced in the same way that a judge or minister would be, Iran will likely seek to promote its own favourite to lead Lebanon’s Shias.

"Admittedly, US policymakers have typically not been players in the arcane world of Shia clerical politics," wrote David Schenker from the Washington Institute for Near Eastern Policy.

"How ironic, though, that Fadlallah – a man who Washington labelled a terrorist in 1995 – stood as the last bulwark against near total Iranian hegemony in Lebanon."