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Ayatollah Fadlallah Interview

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    From Mistake to Mistake : A leading Shiite cleric discusses Iraq, suicide bombers, U.S. elections—and why he thinks George W. Bush should see a psychiatrist
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 5, 2004
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      'From Mistake to Mistake':

      A leading Shiite cleric discusses Iraq, suicide bombers, U.S.
      elections—and why he thinks George W. Bush should see a psychiatrist

      http://msnbc.msn.com/id/4961854/

      Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah believes that George W.
      Bush and Donald Rumsfeld should resign over the abuses of Iraqi
      prisoners
      By Arlene Getz

      May 12, 2004

      May 12 - Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah is one of the
      most senior religious authorities among Shiite Muslims. Based in
      Beirut, he won a wide public following for his role as the spiritual
      leader of Hizbullah, the militant group best known for its resistance
      to Israel's occupation of southern Lebanon. Fadlallah is no longer so
      closely associated with Hizbullah, but, in the hierarchical Shia
      world, his teachings still carry enormous weight.

      That status could have a significant impact in Iraq, where young
      Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr is spearheading some of the violent
      resistance to the American occupation. Fadlallah, 69, was born and
      educated in the Iraqi city of Najaf, and his opinions could influence
      the direction of the country's majority-Shiite population—a group
      viciously oppressed by Saddam Hussein. "Fadlallah, for his followers,
      has a divine touch," says Nizar Hamzeh, a political science professor
      at the American University of Beirut.

      Fadlallah met with a delegation of American editors in Beirut this
      week to discuss Iraq, suicide bombers and why he thinks President
      George W. Bush should see a psychiatrist. NEWSWEEK's Arlene Getz was
      part of the group. Excerpts:

      NEWSWEEK: What is the role of Islam in politics?
      Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah: What is politics? Politics is based on
      the idea of giving a human being the opportunity the opportunity to
      live among others. Religion tells us that if you believe in God, you
      should love human beings. Therefore we believe that politics is part
      of religion. Religion wasn't made for heaven, it is part of the
      earth. Religion [is] for us to serve people, not the other way round.

      Do you feel that Moqtada al-Sadr is justified in his use of armed
      resistance [against Americans in Iraq], or do you prefer the more
      dialogue-oriented line of [Iraq's Shiite leader] Grand Ayatollah Ali
      al-Sistani?
      We believe in the freedom of human beings, and we reject the
      occupation. I don't believe Moqtada al-Sadr's plan is to initiate
      violence, but I believe the methods of [U.S. administrator Paul]
      Bremer are what prompted [al-Sadr] to do it. Therefore we see
      violence as the reaction, not the initial action. We see America as a
      country that can occupy, but does not know how to administer. The
      United States keeps going from mistake to mistake. The issue of
      prison torture [at Abu Ghraib] is not the last mistake we are going
      to see.

      Is there anything the United States can do to recover from the
      mistake at Abu Ghraib?
      We consider occupation to be one of the highest forms of torture. The
      torture that we are seeing the pictures of in the media is the
      torture of individuals, but occupation is the torture of an entire
      people … The majority of Arab and Islamic people do not believe the
      United States is serious about the freedom of [their] peoples. They
      believe it to be one of the slogans used for dominating the region.

      When we listen to President Bush we don't find any convincing logic
      in what he's saying. [But] we should be clear that we distinguish
      between the U.S. administration and the American people. We would
      like to be friends with the American people. Our problem is with the
      American administration.

      What is your reaction to Bush's argument that not all Americans
      should be blamed for the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison?
      I believe it was an inaccurate apology because the people who carried
      out these acts were carrying out orders … Bremer knew about it, but
      didn't do anything about it until the photos showed up. These acts
      showed the American administration does not believe in human rights.
      I believe these practices encourage terrorism and don't do away with
      it. The American people have good values; however the administration
      is not honoring it. The Americans should elect a person who
      represents these values.

      Would you like Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to resign?
      I believe that Rumsfeld should have resigned. He offered an apology
      and an apology means [he should take] responsibility.

      Should Bush also resign?
      As the commander in chief of the armed forces, yes.

      What are your views on the U.S. presidential race? And will you feel
      less well-disposed toward the American people if they re-elect George
      W. Bush in November?
      The general impression in the Arab world about the American
      electorate is that it is the neoconservatives, the Christian
      [evangelicals], the Jewish lobby, the cartels that are using this
      administration to enrich themselves—these all are playing a role in
      [supporting Bush]. Do you believe that if someone is re-elected it
      gives him legitimacy? After all, the Palestinians elected [Yasir]
      Arafat, and there are certain sections in the United States that
      won't deal with him …[Bush] regards himself as the second coming of
      Christ. I don't believe he deals with things in an objective and
      rational fashion. I think we should send him to a psychiatrist before
      the election. With all due respect, of course—we respect ill people.

      Are suicide bombers considered religious martyrs [who are guaranteed
      a place in heaven] when they attack civilians in Israel?
      We don't believe in killing civilians for political reasons if it's
      not a state of war. I was the first Islamic figure to issue a fatwa
      [religious decree] after the September 11 attacks to say our minds
      and religion cannot accept this, that it was suicide, not martyrdom.
      Just an hour after the Madrid bombings, I issued a fatwa condemning
      this act and said it was not religiously sanctioned….

      However, the problem is that Bush considers, with [Israeli Prime
      Minister Ariel] Sharon's agreement, that the Palestinian struggle for
      independence constitutes terrorism. Even though the Palestinians told
      Israel that if you withdraw from our land and live with us in peace,
      there will not be any shots fired. [The Palestinians] are saying that
      they are defending their homeland. As for the martyrdom operations
      [in Israel], they require an interpretation. Israel possesses the
      strongest weapons in the region. Israel uses F-16s against civilians
      in Gaza. When it wants to assassinate someone, it will fire a rocket
      into a crowded civilian place. It destroys the homes of Palestinians.
      It employs collective punishment [against the families of attackers.]

      The Israelis have carried out every type of act against the
      Palestinians. The Palestinians only have light weapons. The
      Palestinians therefore have reached a point of desperation. They
      believe that they have to challenge the Israelis by using this method
      of turning a person into a human bomb. This is in order to get the
      Israelis to stop what they're doing. You can't look at this in an
      abstract fashion. If the killing of Israeli civilians is a crime,
      what about the killing of Palestinian civilians? The issue is that
      Palestine and Israel are at war, and the Israelis are using every
      method they can, and the Palestinians aren't getting weapons from the
      United States.

      What is your opinion of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry?
      I have observed that Kerry is trying to address Jewish feelings by
      talking about his own Jewish heritage. I don't believe politics
      should be conducted this way. [But] we have no problems with the
      Jewish religion. If you look at Islamic history for the last 14
      centuries, Muslims have embraced Jews, given them scientific and
      economic freedom. Muslims didn't oppress Jews the way the West
      did ... The problem with Israel is political, not religious. America
      doesn't accept a religion-based state [in the United States], but it
      insists that there be a Jewish state in Palestine. Why is there a
      double standard on this matter?

      Lebanon has its own experience of occupation. Do religious leaders
      here have anything to teach Iraqis about resisting occupation?
      There are no plans for Lebanese resistance fighters to move to Iraq.
      Any who might have done such a thing went there on an individual
      basis.

      Do you see any alternative to armed resistance to the U.S. occupation
      of Iraq?
      We believe that the United Nations is by and large acceptable. If the
      Americans would hand over its authority to the U.N., there is no need
      for an armed struggle.

      Why is Islam now the world's fastest-growing religion?
      It is a religion that believes in intellect and all types of science.
      Intellect and science are the source of civilization. It doesn't
      impose itself by force on other people … it doesn't believe in
      violence unless violence is imposed on it from outside.

      What's the most important message you'd like to send Americans?
      We do not believe in violence unless it becomes absolutely necessary.
      What we'd like to see is dialogue bringing us together. We should
      have peace through dialogue.

      *********************************************************************

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