Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Salafi anger

Omayma Abdel-Latif puts some perspective on events for Egypt's
Al-Ahram:

Sectarian and partisan-inspired incidents have become almost a daily occurrence in Beirut and other areas.

In the past week alone, Lebanese opposition forces documented 37 instances in which its supporters have been subject to physical attack in the capital's Tareq Jdeeda district alone, hotbed of Saad Al-Hariri's Tayyar Al-Mustaqbal (Future Movement) supporters.

Weakened by what happened and lacking a sound political project to offer to his own constituency — some of whom are beginning to question his leadership of Lebanon's Sunnis — Al-Hariri has undoubtedly paid a heavy price to his credibility.

His most ideological allies — Salafist forces in Tripoli — speak of his recent performance in derisive tone.

"We have been insulted by what Hizbullah did in Beirut, but much more by what Al-Hariri did not do," said Hassan Al-Shahal, head of the Institute for Islamic Call and Guidance, which teaches Islamic thought. "He has done nothing to defend ahl al-Sunna [the Sunnis]," Al-Shahal said.

Interviews with some pro-Hariri Islamists in Tripoli echoed Al-Shahal's words, suggesting a shift in the alliance that was established following the killing of former prime minister Rafik Al-Hariri and consolidated by the 2005 elections. Islamist votes and mobilisation tactics helped secure all 28 seats of the north for Al-Hariri.

Undoubtedly, the Mustaqbal-Salafist relationship is undergoing its most difficult period today.

Pro-Hariri Islamists for long kept criticism of Al-Hariri's political conduct hushed. In a country so polarised along sectarian lines the unity of Sunnis took precedence over everything else. Sensing their increasing influence on the street, pro-Hariri Islamists are stating their demands.

Although they present themselves as being above the political game in Lebanon, some are seeking positions of power and funds in return for past services.

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