03/16/2017, 13.42
LEBANON
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Beirut, Shiite Supreme Council reawakens from years in "coma". The key role of Hezbollah

by Pierre Balanian

New Council elections return body to central stage after years of stalemate. In the past he fought in defense of the rights of the marginalized south and the construction of schools, hospices and medical clinics. Hezbollah uses legal-religious force to gain access to the body, until now in the hands of Amal. The process of liberation from Tehran.


 

Beirut (AsiaNews) – The election of the new Shiite Supreme Council has begun.  The body was established December 19, 1967 by the Imam of Iranian origin Musa al-Sadr, to ensure the Lebanese Shiite community political weight - missing at that time - within the government. After years of stalemate or, more commonly termed, "coma", the Council experienced a period of decline following the "disappearance" of its founder during an official visit to Libya in 1979.

The crisis became more serious with the death of his successor Muhammad Mehdi Shams El Din, in 2001. Since then the activity of the Shiite Supreme Council - the base of the birth and the emancipation of the Lebanese Shiite community – has been limited to formalizing the hours of prayer and fasting in the holy month of Ramadan.

In 2005 there was the online publication of the Council's website, called a "great innovation." In fact it was criticized by the majority of the Shiites for not having fostered any progress or welfare for the community. It should be remembered that the Shiite Supreme Council was not only at the forefront in defending the rights of the marginalized south, mostly Shiite, but also engine in the construction of schools, hospices and medical clinics. It is also the base of the first Shiite political movement, the "Movement of the Deprived" of 1974, followed by the creation of the Amal militia (Hope) wanted by the Imam al-Sadr in January 1975, four months before the outbreak of the civil war, to defend Shiites.

The decision to revive the Shiite religious supreme body in Lebanon comes at the end of a series of intensive consultations, relentlessly and without great media fanfare, launched last week. High-level meetings between Amal and Hezbollah, intensified after the criticism of the Patriarch Beshara Rai - a bolt from the blue - in the course of an interview with Sky News, in which the cardinal denounced the "involvement of Hezbollah in the war in Syria."

The Lebanese Shiite Supreme Council has always been the body responsible for speaking on behalf of the Shiite community with other religious leaders, including the Grand Mufti (Sunni) of the Republic and with the patriarchal see of Bkerké. For many this announcement intended to revitalize the council is the clear answer to Bkerké and indirect warning not to start an arms race. Analysts and experts noted that this was the first time that the Lebanese Shiite movement had not openly responded to criticism. And, most importantly, from an internal actor in the religious and political scene. In fact, the response - veiled - has arrived in less than a week.

More than an election, as it should be, it was an assignment. Hezbollah has become part of the religious body with legislative power in (shar'i), so far held exclusively - from the foundation of the council – by the Amal Party.

AsiaNews sources say that the agreement between Amal and Hezbollah will award the two religious movements within the decision-making: Sheikh Abdel Amir Kabalan according to rumor will be "elected" as president of the Shiite Supreme Council. Furthermore, as provided for in the agreement the vice-presidency will be assigned after the "election" of the judge Sheikh Ali Al Khatib. He is in the good graces of Amal and Hezbollah, Amal although said to have insisted that the latter charge be given to Sheikh Muhammad Kanaan.

The Shiite Supreme Council seems to have been taken from the total control of the Amal party after a hegemony that had lasted over a quarter of a century; a process of liberation, at a time in which the Shiite community in Lebanon feels it has to gain strong voice also on dogmatic interpretation, in the context of the infiltration of an Iranian strain.

The Shiite Muslim world has always regarded the Lebanese (Shiites) as the strongest supporters of the Arab right to leadership [Marjaiiya, ed] in a Shi'ite religious context. They found in this their aspiration the full support of the Iraqi Shiite religious leader Muqtda al-Sadr. This while the Marjiyya of Ayatollah al-Sistani remains prevalent in Iraq and often competes on the level of interpretation of the divine message with the teachings of Iraqi Ayatollah al- Khoiyi. A new map of Koranic exegesis is therefore on the horizon, still open to interpretation and scientific research; an opposite attitude to the Sunni community, which considers exegesis and theological interpretive study closed "Ijtihad". In recent years various Shiite schools of interpretation have flourished in Lebanon; hence the more than urgent necessity, not only politically, to give authoritative religious and definitive answers to matters relating to the spiritual life of the faithful.

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