Shiite Cleric Ali al-Amin on the Hezbollah/ Egypt Crisis
Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat-
Ali al-Amin, the Shiite authority and former mufti of the city of Tyre and Mount Amil in southern Lebanon, said that “Nasrallah cannot alone decide on how best to serve and protect the Palestinian People, adding: “Hezbollah does not make its own decisions; it acts according to orders from Iran.”
Ali al-Amin was ‘removed’ from his office as ‘mufti’ consequent to a decision by the de facto forces in southern Lebanon, without due legal process by competent authority. His removal was in response to his position on the events of 7 May 2008. He could not retrieve his books and personal possessions, as the ‘Jaafari waqf’ [Trust] where he used to have his office has been transformed into an office for the [Shiite] Amal Movement.
Asharq Al-Awsat met Ali al-Amin in his temporary office in Beirut and asked him about his reading of the announcement made by Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah regarding the party’s activities in Egypt.
The following is the text of the interview:
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you regard the announcement by Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah of the presence of a cell in Egypt belonging to Hezbollah as a matter unworthy of what has been raised about it?
[Al-Amin]We reject the intervention of any party, Lebanese or non-Lebanese, in the internal affairs of other states. This step, which Hezbollah has admitted taking, is unacceptable because it is an intervention in the affairs of another sovereign state that has the will and the right to prevent what it regards as relating to its security and the security of its people. Therefore, we were surprised by this operation which was carried out by some Hezbollah party members, regardless of whether it was carried out under the slogan of helping the Palestinian people or not. The territory is Egyptian, not terra nullius; it is the territory of a sovereign independent state with laws in force that have to be respected.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you not think that the Palestinian cause requires that all efforts should be made to support it?
[Al-Amin] This issue cannot be decided by Nasrallah alone; it should be decided through the Egyptian state and its sovereignty. Nasrallah has no right to contravene the laws of any state, especially Egypt and the Egyptian people, who are still supporting the Palestinian cause and have offered a lot. Therefore it is not up to Hezbollah alone. He should have consulted with the Egyptian authorities to decide on the best way to serve the Palestinian people and alleviate their sufferings.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Hezbollah has admitted that it has a logistic presence in Egypt and called on the Egyptian authorities to deal quietly with the issue. Do you regard that as a decision by Hezbollah to impose its presence wherever it wants?
[Al-Amin] The decision is not in Hezbollah’s hands. It cannot expand without prior authorization from Iran in this regard. What has happened is not in Hezbollah’s interest. It has lost a lot of its popularity in Egypt and the Arab world, and has revealed through this conduct that it has no respect for other states. In Lebanon, it may contravene the law; the people cannot make it accountable because it has imposed its will by force of arms. But the Arab people respect their sovereignty and know how to defend it. It may be that its position in Lebanon has encouraged it to commit other contraventions.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you think that it is Iran that decides Hezbollah’s strategy?
[Al-Amin] Of course; this is the way Iran works through Hezbollah. This is also what happened sometime ago in Morocco and before and after that in Yemen and Bahrain. Hezbollah seems to imagine that one can change state policy through a certain culture. This is unproductive, opens old wounds, and causes internal conflict in Islamic societies. This is not the Jaafari way and it does not reflect the messages of the Imams in promoting the message of Islam.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What is your reading of the Hezbollah attempt to extend its operations into Egypt?
[Al-Amin] The reason for this is the presence of a coalition between Hezbollah, Hamas and Iran. Hezbollah is trying to help Hamas. Because it could not open the Lebanese front to defend Gaza, it is trying to reduce the burden of questioning Hezbollah’s inability to support the Palestinian people which are being subjected to bombardment and destruction. It is as if he wanted to say to the Palestinians “I have not abandoned you.”
[Asharq Al-Awsat] But the Shia in Lebanon seem to go along with whatever he wants; why should they make him accountable?
[Al-Amin] Hezbollah’s choice of culture and military strategy represent only Hezbollah, its connections, and the section of people that it represents. Hezbollah does not represent the Shiites in Lebanon as a whole. The Shia in Lebanon do not all belong to Hezbollah; it represents a section of the Shia sect, as per the previous parliamentary elections. If we look at the figures, not participate. Consequently Hezbollah won a majority of the minority. I think things would be different this time if the electors are given the freedom to express themselves. They would say we do not want a state within a state and we do not want to be tied to external schemes. The Shiites in Lebanon do not want to be tied to Iran; they want normal relations with the Lebanese state and with other Arab states. If a referendum is held for a choice between the Lebanese state and Iran, they would unanimously choose the Lebanese state.