The Death of Fadlallah
Misperception, willful or naive, is to be expected in US commentary on the Middle East. But it's hard to think of an Arab figure as consistently misperceived as the Lebanese Shia cleric Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah, who died on 4 July (a holiday you can be fairly sure he wasn't celebrating). In obituaries in the American press (and in poor Octavia Nasr's tweet, which cost her a job at CNN), Fadlallah was, as ever, described as the ‘spiritual leader' or ‘spiritual father' of Hezbollah: never mind that he'd been estranged from Hezbollah since the 1990s. And he was invariably portrayed as a dangerous extremist, if not a terrorist. You would hardly know that he was the first cleric in the Islamic world to denounce the attacks of September 11, or that he was an advocate of gender equality and inter-religious dialogue, staking out positions which won him the praise of Frances Guy, Britain's ambassador to Beirut. Guy may be joining Nasr on the unemployment line for cutting through the usual clichés about Hezbollah’s ‘spiritual leader’: her blog, honouring Fadlallah as a 'decent man' whose death left Lebanon 'a lesser place', was taken down by the Foreign Office after 'mature consideration' -- and vituperative Israeli attacks. This article by David Kenner in Foreign Policy sets the record straight on a complicated and influential man.