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Hearts and Minds September 12, 2007

Posted by ummahonline in Kolum, Vox Pop.
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By: Haris Zalkapli

Among Islamists everywhere, including Malaysia’s PAS, there is a consensus that Hizbullah is the Islamist party that should be emulated. And there is a very good reason for this.

The popular Lebanese party runs hospitals, schools, carry out various charity works and its leaders are close to the people. Lately, it is gaining more and more popularity in besieged Gaza, with posters of Syaikh Hassan Nasrallah becoming popular items, seen everywhere.

“Not all people support Hizbullah, this is natural and understandable as the Lebanese people are distributed among many confessions and sects,” said Ibrahim Mousawi, Hizbullah spokesman and news director of the movement’s widely popular television channel al-Manar.

Lebanese politics is defined by the various confessions of its people. According to an old arrangement that for some reason is still carried out today, each group is represented in accordance to their numbers. Today, the Lebanese population is estimated at 3.8 million, with the biggest group being the Shiia Muslim at 40 percent, Sunni Muslim (20 percent), Maronite Christian (16 percent), Druze (6 percent) and others. But there has been no census since 1923, a fact that lead the Hizbullah to feel that they are robbed of a real victory as far as election politics is concerned.

“But the majority of the Lebanese people support the resistance,” he stressed confidently.

The huge popularity of Hizbullah and its enigmatic leader Hassan Nasrallah was clearly seen when the world’s attention was focused on Lebanon, as Syria was ending its military presence in Lebanon last year. In a gathering organized by Hizbullah, around 500,000 Lebanese went to show their support.

There is no doubt that Hizbullah is a powerful force in Lebanese politics. It is so far the only entity that has soundly defeated the Israeli army. Since its inception in 1948, Israel keep gaining more and more territories in every battle with the surrounding Arab states. But in 2000, Israel’s 22 years occupation of southern Lebanon was brought to an end by Hizbullah a few months before originally planned.

The victory was a glorious moment for Hizbullah and Lebanon, and it lifted the profile of the party greatly. “After the Israeli withdrawal, we did not do anything to the Christian who helped and worked with the Israelis,” said Ibrahim in a discussion in PAS’ research center during his visit a couple of months ago.

“It was pretty much like the Fath-ul Makkah,” said Ibrahim.

But the recognition for Hizbullah’s success is not a self-serving propaganda or Islamists’ daydream. A number of academics are impressed with Hizbullah’s way of taking care of the people’s welfare.

“Hizbullah is a successful Islamist movement as it managed to take into account the interest of all the people. It has undergone reforms that it is now a responsible nationalist movement,” said Olivier Roy when I interviewed him last year.

“In Lebanon, many changes that occurred were led by Hizbullah,” added the author of The Failure of Political Islam.

For Ibrahim, there is not a trace of doubt that Hizbullah will go on fighting, never to give in to other’s terms. He feels that the attacks are Israel’s revenge of their defeat in southern Lebanon and a way to achieve the upper hand in order to impose new terms.

“Ever since the resistance defeated Israel and forced it to pull out from Lebanon on the year 2000, The Israelis were trying to take revenge after the humiliation they received on Hizbullah hands.

“They want to change the rules of the game and impose a new plan which will help the Israelis to dictate their conditions on Lebanon” he said.

But Ibrahim is resolute that Hizbullah will keep on fighting, confident that the the people will be on Hizbullah’s side.

It is not hard to imagine how Lebanese would feel, as the Israeli went on destroying the country and killing the innocent, although some try to argue that the Lebanese people are angry at Hizbullah for causing the war.

“Hizbullah is fighting back, resisting the Israeli occupation aggressions. They sabotaged their attempts to penetrate the Lebanese territories,” said Ibrahim.

Israel � with help from the Americans may be successful in their shock and awe, but there are a lot of reasons to believe that the Lebanese people’s hearts and minds are with the Hizbullah.

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