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Thursday, July 08, 2010

British ambassador: "World needs more men like Fadlallah" (updated)

From the official British foreign office blog, by Frances Guy, Ambassador to the Republic of Lebanon, Beirut, on July 5, entitled "The passing of decent men":
One of the privileges of being a diplomat is the people you meet; great and small, passionate and furious. People in Lebanon like to ask me which politician I admire most. It is an unfair question, obviously, and many are seeking to make a political response of their own. I usually avoid answering by referring to those I enjoy meeting the most and those that impress me the most. Until yesterday my preferred answer was to refer to Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, head of the Shia clergy in Lebanon and much admired leader of many Shia muslims throughout the world. When you visited him you could be sure of a real debate, a respectful argument and you knew you would leave his presence feeling a better person. That for me is the real effect of a true man of religion; leaving an impact on everyone he meets, no matter what their faith. Sheikh Fadlallah passed away yesterday. Lebanon is a lesser place the day after but his absence will be felt well beyond Lebanon's shores. I remember well when I was nominated ambassador to Beirut, a muslim acquaintance sought me out to tell me how lucky I was because I would get a chance to meet Sheikh Fadlallah. Truly he was right. If I was sad to hear the news I know other peoples' lives will be truly blighted. The world needs more men like him willing to reach out across faiths, acknowledging the reality of the modern world and daring to confront old constraints. May he rest in peace.
As Con Coughlin points out,
One of Fadlallah’s last acts before he died was to issue a fatwa authorising the use of suicide bomb attacks. The mystery here is why he waited so long. For as a founder member of Hizbollah – he sat on the organisation’s ruling council – Fadlallah gave his personal approval to the massive suicide truck bomb attacks that levelled the American Embassy and Marine compound in Beirut in 1983, killing more than 300 people, including the then CIA station chief. Fadlallah gave his personal blessing to the suicide bombers before they left for their deadly mission.

Fadlallah also masterminded the hostage crisis in Lebanon in the mid-1980s. I remember interviewing him at his house in Beirut’s southern suburbs in 1985 at the height of Terry Waite’s mission to free the Americans then being held by Hizbollah on Iran’s orders (Fadlallah was a close friend of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of Iran’s Islamic revolution.)

Fadlallah himself was charm personified during the interview, offering me sweet tea and offering his apologies that he could do nothing to release the hostages, but their prospects might improve if only the pesky Americans would stop trying to involve themselves in Lebanon’s affairs. But when I left one of his “bodyguards” insisted on seeing my passport. Later I discovered from a Lebanese friend that they were Hizbollah terrorists checking to see if I was an American. Had I been, I would have been carted off to a dank cell. I was lucky. Six months later my friend John McCarthy paid a similar visit to Sheikh Fadlallah, and was kidnapped the following day.

The miracle of Sheikh Fadlallah’s life is that he lived to a ripe old age and died in his bed. I, for one, will not miss his malign influence on the Middle East.
This is a lot worse than a CNN correspondent holding Fadlallah in high regard.

More on TheJC.
(h/t t34zakat and the JPost)

UPDATE: Good thing that I took a screenshot - because that blog entry is now gone.