02/27/2007, 00.00
LEBANON
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Shia mufti challenges Hezbollah

According to Sheikh Ali el-Amin, Hezbollah and Amal represent only a minority of Shiites, most of whom are moderates and in favour of the country’s multi-confessional and democratic system. He criticises their subordination to Tehran. “To tell you the truth, we have nothing to do with Iran’s political strategies,” he says.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – Hezbollah represents only a minority of Lebanese Shiites. In turning itself from a cultural-religious movement into an armed group it serves Iranian interests rather than those of most Shiites who are “moderate” and respectful of the country’s multi-religious tradition.

Sheikh Ali el-Amin, the Shiite mufti of South Lebanon, has become a strong critic of Hezbollah—he once was a teacher to some of the group’s leaders when they were students at his school. But he has not confirmed rumours suggesting he might sponsor a moderate Shia political movement ahead of the next elections.

In an interview with the al-Arabiya TV network, Sheikh Amin said he parted ways with Hezbollah in protest against the party’s kidnappings of foreign nationals in the mid 1980s and that he had asked Shia marjaa (grand ulemas) to take a strong stand against such operations. When none took a stand, Amin said he put an end to his teaching functions and left Beirut for the South, in what is now called “Hezbollahland”.

According to Mufti Amin, the group that founded Hezbollah came from the teachers and students at the Nedjaf Hawza (religious school) where he taught. He also confirmed that he had been very close to the group’s three successive leaders:  Abbas al-Musawi (assassinated by Israel), Subhi al-Tufayli and Hassan Nasrallah.

Sheikh Amin did not however confirm rumours about his intention to promote a liberal Shiite current in Lebanon. He did though firmly condemn Hezbollah’s transformation from a “cultural” to a “military” movement owing its allegiance to Iran.

Middle East Transparent reports that a few days before the al-Arabiya interview, Sheikh Amin challenged Hezbollah when he spoke at the rally commemorating the death of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, murdered two years earlier. His speech was an additional sign of his firm commitment against Hezbollah’s attempts to seize power in Lebanon.

According to Amin, most Lebanese Shiites are “moderates.” Altogether Hezbollah and its Amal ally represent about 40 per cent of the Shia community. This means that a large majority remains committed to political moderation and Lebanon’s independence and multi confessional democratic system. 

On Iran’s attempts to mobilise Arab Shiites to support Tehran’s policies, Sheikh el-Amin had this to say: “We would like to see Iran victorious in its war on ignorance, poverty, aggression and underdevelopment. But, in every country, confessional allegiances should not be at the expense of national loyalties. To tell you the truth, we have nothing to do with Iran’s political strategies.”

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