A “heads up” to Gen. Aoun’s one-sided, sectarian press conference on 06/25/13

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The events in Sidon – when radical Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir and his gunmen opened fire on the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) – brought the various political colors of Lebanon to the forefront.

Most sides condemned Assir’s actions and stood by the army – while implicitly blamed the other side for the events that transpired (how surprising).

On Tuesday, Aoun was no exception, and after reading what he had to say in his weekly press conference, I couldn’t help but provide my response to two of his one-sided, sectarian claims. 

We are the ones who should give our opinion regarding the Army Command as per the traditions of appointments and we are the representatives of Christians in the cabinet.

Uh, no. First of all, you are not the representatives of Christians. Your party’s role in cabinet is to work for all segments of the population, not just Christians. That sectarian mentality, to which you ran against in 2009, is, Mr. Aoun, what’s dragging Lebanon down to hell. The Army Command is for all Lebanese, and it is only logical that all Lebanese have a say in it, not just “Christians”.

This is my problem with Aoun; in an attempt to win as many Christian votes as he can, he has abandoned his past values of secularism in favor of presenting himself as an image of “the Christian leader” by proposing undemocratic proposals such as the controversial Orthodox Law, while often making divisive claims to somehow “restore the rights of Christians”. Critics will say that that’s who he’s always been – a politician who will drastically change ideas in order to maximize his political gains – although this to me is a common trait among all our Lebanese “representatives”. Moving on.

There is an obvious laziness in dealing with the security of the state and if the Asir phenomenon was dealt with earlier, it would have ended peacefully. Politicians and al-Mustaqbal Movement’s neglect have lead to this situation, just like what happened in Akkar.”

So Aoun is single-handedly blaming al-Mustaqbal for this, because there is no way the other side’s actions can radicalize a person. My own criticism of al-Mustaqbal aside (which by no means is short), to Aoun, nevermind that an armed “resistance” in Lebanon is openly assisting a neighboring regime that is accused by impartial organizations of crimes such as torture, political repression and indiscriminate firing in residential areas, with many of the victims being Sunnis. 

Yes, many across al-Mustaqbal have turned a blind eye to the increased fundamentalism within the Sunni community in Lebanon, many of whom have likely been financed by some elements of the party’s foreign loyalties (e.g. Qatar, who has been instrumental in the rise of Islamist groups in the MENA region). But at the heart of this radicalism is frustration, and frustration towards whom is what we should also be addressing.

In the midst of increased Sunni-Shia tensions in the region, Hezbollah’s actions in the post-2000 era have not helped quell the spread of the region’s sectarian fire to Lebanon. Despite its historic achievements (yes, the ousting of Israeli occupation in 2000 from South Lebanon should be considered historic), its unilateral military actions that affect all Lebanese, its  brand as a Shiite organization rather than a Lebanese organization, and its ridiculous military reaction in May 2008 following a democratically elected government’s decision to repeal the organization’s telecom network, have all contributed to increased resentment against the party. But the main factor in the increased frustration is Syria.

Hezbollah’s public support to the Syrian regime has no doubt been the main driver in the past two years for the growing fundamentalist movement in Tripoli. At the end of the day, Assir is only one man, and his power can only increase as the number of his followers increases, and his popularity can only increase as more and more individuals share his frustrations. With this said, with more and more Lebanese citizens growing frustrated at Hezbollah’s actions as of late (which can come off as strikingly sectarian, despite the party’s insistence that they are not), it is futile to claim that Hezbollah is not at least partially responsible for Assir’s growing fundamentalist movement.

Now I am by no means justifying Assir’s actions, and in fact one can make a strong argument that as of right now Assir and his gunmen are a bigger direct threat to Lebanese civilians than Hezbollah. But to suggest that al-Mustaqbal is mostly responsible for the events, as Aoun is, while completely disregarding the root cause of the frustrations across increasingly marginalized Lebanese Sunni community, is strikingly unbalanced and dangerous.

Allah ysa3ed Lebnan.

Al-Jazeera Arabic’s disgusting and sectarian poll.

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At a time when Sunni-Shia tensions are worsening – not least due to the increasingly sectarian tone of the Syrian crisis – you would think major media organizations would play a positive role in watering them down. Well I suggest you don’t hold your breath on Al-Jazeera Arabic (AJA) taking the lead in that department. AJA has polled its visitors (pictured above) on who is more responsible for the promotion of sectarianism in Syria: 1) Sunni, and 2) Shia. I’d like to add a third option: AJA, because this question in and of itself is one of the most disgusting, sectarian questions any one can ask, let alone a media organization with millions of viewers across the Arab world.

I really didn’t bother looking at the results (and of course didn’t bother voting either), because a sectarian question will only be responded by sectarian voters, whose opinions, quite frankly, I am not that interested in. 

No doubt the conflict in Syria has taken on an increasingly sectarian tone, but to put the blame on either one sect or the other is not only dangerous but extremely simplistic. Furthermore, the question pits every Sunni and Shia individual in one category, without distinguishing between the moderates – who more accurately represent Syrians – and the radicals – whom by many accounts are relatively small in numbers. 

Why this hasn’t received more attention throughout the Middle-East is beyond me. Perhaps the crisis has “sectarianized” many Syrians and other Arabs, and thus many would see nothing wrong with debating which sect is responsible. But when one evaluates this question on both moral and academic standards, AJA has failed miserably – and is only pouring fuel on an ever-growing sectarian fire in Syria.