Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Lebanon's Islamic Group faces harsh criticism

Ammar Nehmeh

This is the most critical period the Islamic Group in Lebanon has gone through in many years.

The Islamic Group seems to be the most affected by regional events, which destroyed the elements for which the jemaah (congregation) had high hopes, especially with the rise of the Arab Spring and the emergence of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Arab World.

However, reality shattered these hopes and the group fell into a defensive position after the dream of returning to Syria was ruined and after the popular revolution overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt — which the Islamic Group called a “military coup.” In addition, the Islamic movement started regressing following a popular expansion around four years ago.

The Islamic Group in Lebanon thus found itself isolated, especially since Salafist movements, which outbid the Islamic Group, were able to steal its popularity away. This resulted in criticism from internal and external figures from within the group itself, which revolved around the lack of vision and initiatives on the part of the group, in addition to the inability to adopt a clear political position.

We are against the Islamic State

الأيوبي: أكثر مرشح رئاسي قريب من مبادىء “الجماعة الإسلامية” السياسية في هذه المرحلة هو جعجع Ayoubi: Candidate Geagea is the closest to the political principles of the "Islamic Group" at this stage.
These questions were addressed to the head of the political bureau of the Islamic Group, Azzam al-Ayyoubi. ...

Ayyoubi said the Islamic Group is still moderate,
“In Lebanon, the group is not involved in the ranks of March 14, since it makes sure to stay away from affiliations to a specific axis, even if it intersects with this coalition more than it does with the March 8 coalition.”
The most important matter in which the group probably intersects with March 14 is in supporting a force that opposes the Syrian regime.

Members of Jamaat al-Islamiya carry placards as they shout slogans against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad during an anti-government protest in Sidon, Aug. 12, 2011. (photo by REUTERS/Ali Hashisho) 

The Islamic Group is well aware that the protests in Syria led to the formation of armed takfiri groups calling for an Islamic regime, which is not agreed upon by all in the Islamic scene. Among these groups is the Islamic State (IS).

Ayyoubi said that the group was still looking at the Syrian events the same way it did before; however, this does not mean that it supports the violent extremist group.
“We support the revolution and we want justice and equality. We will not succumb to the situation, just like we did not succumb to the Syrian regime. We support the Syrian people.”
As-Safir asked Ayyoubi about the Islamic Group’s opinion on the regional and international alliance to fight IS.  “This alliance is not new. It was formed after the events of 2001 to fight al-Qaeda and here it is appearing again,” said Ayyoubi, who mentioned that the former alliance led to the emergence of IS, which is far more extremist than al-Qaeda.
He also said this was not a serious alliance and it would not be able to eliminate IS in the short term.

How does the Islamic Group evaluate IS?

“It is a group composed of several movements,” Ayyoubi said.
“Some have a superficial understanding of Islam and others were formed as result of a rebellion against injustice and are ready to fight this injustice with injustice. Other movements derived from intelligence services that became involved [in the situation] to use IS for their personal objectives, which include ruining the Islamic project from the inside and destroying the Syrian revolution.”
According to Ayyoubi, the Islamic Group is considered one of the most affected parties by IS infiltration into Lebanon, which happened
“due to Hezbollah’s interference in Syria, and to serve certain parties which are interested in having this kind of Islamic project, such as the Syrian regime.”
The Islamic Group faced internal criticism about its passivity and failure to face this project. This falls within a series of reproaches about its lack of a clear vision and initiative.
Ayyoubi indicated in this respect,
“We are against IS, and we have a key role based on our moderate ideology to confront this extremist ideology. We have a duty to confront it by maintaining an unwavering position on the [Lebanese political] scene. We will confront it, knowing that some parties from among our circles are urging us to refrain from any intellectual, media and political confrontation with IS and to let it face the other project.”
Ayyoubi was asked about the reason for the decline of the Sunni Islamic presence and about internal criticism regarding the group’s weakness. The latter did not deny the deterioration undergone by the Islamic Group and indicated that many are attracted by a high-pitch rhetoric, recalling for example the phenomenon of Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir, which faded shortly after its emergence.
He said,
“The [Islamic] Group thinks ahead and its discourse — which was a high-pitch discourse sometimes — takes diversity into consideration.”

The Future Movement moved away from us

With respect to the Sunni arena, Ayyoubi was asked about the deteriorating relationship with the Future Movement. The Egyptian situation probably affected this relationship since the Future Movement sided with the ruling regime today in Egypt, while the group believes that this regime is illegitimate. It is worth mentioning that even at this level, there is internal criticism of the group’s reluctance to oppose the ruling regime in Egypt, although the group is a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood in Lebanon.

Ayyoubi did not deny this, recalling that the Islamic Group publicly announced its opposition to Egypt's new regime and everyone who supported it in Lebanon, such as the Future Movement and MP Walid Jumblatt. He stressed that the relationship today with the Egyptian Embassy is almost cut off. In this respect, Ayyoubi asked the Future Movement why it criticized Hezbollah for staging a coup against legitimate elections in Lebanon, while it refrained from criticizing the party that did the same thing against legitimacy in Egypt.

According to Ayyoubi, the Islamic Group accuses the Future Movement of trying to monopolize the Sunni arena and fighting any party who has a presence in the Sunni street in order to eliminate it.

“It is the Future Movement that moved away from us, not [we from it],” Ayyoubi said, stating that the Future Movement faces internal troubles and is subordinated to foreign parties. He recalled that the nature of the relationship between the two parties was always subject to objections by some parties from the Islamic Group’s popular base that believe the group is taking a position subordinated to the Future Movement. Moreover, he said that some members of the group even asked not to nominate MP Imad Hout for the coming parliamentary elections. Ayyoubi vehemently denied any position of subordination, citing the municipal and trade-union electoral battles fought by the group against the Future Movement.”

The leadership and the popular base

Some criticize the group’s method of management in light of demands of a young leadership. This is obvious on social networking sites, including “Rabih al-Nahda” (the Renaissance Spring) for the group’s supporters.

In fact, theses supporters ask why a young leadership doesn’t take control, recalling, for example, that Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary-general of Hezbollah, assumed his position when he was 32 years old. What about the gap between the leadership and the popular base? What about leaders who were dismissed or resigned? These were also questions raised by these supporters.

Ayyoubi listed the names of the group leaders, pointing out that only three or four major leaders are over the age of 50 and noting that many leaders today are in their 30s and 40s. Ayyoubi asserted that the Islamic Group applied the principle of alternation of power and the secretary-general, for example, was not allowed to run for a third term, unless he resigned. Moreover, he said there was a democratic mechanism within the group’s institutions for addressing objections.

This article was first published in Arabic on 18/09/2014. Read original article.
River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian   
The views expressed in this article are the s

No comments: