July 6, 2010

Octavia Nasr Explains Herself

And she responded exactly as I expected she would:

My tweet was short: "Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah.. One of Hezbollah's giants I respect a lot. #Lebanon"

Reaction to my tweet was immediate, overwhelming and a provides a good lesson on why 140 characters should not be used to comment on controversial or sensitive issues, especially those dealing with the Middle East.

It was an error of judgment for me to write such a simplistic comment and I'm sorry because it conveyed that I supported Fadlallah's life's work. That's not the case at all.

Here's what I should have conveyed more fully:

I used the words "respect" and "sad" because to me as a Middle Eastern woman, Fadlallah took a contrarian and pioneering stand among Shia clerics on woman's rights. He called for the abolition of the tribal system of "honor killing." He called the practice primitive and non-productive. He warned Muslim men that abuse of women was against Islam.

You can read the rest here if you're interested.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 10:14 PM | Permalink | 40 Comments »

CNN Editor Mourns and Respects a Promoter of “Resistance” and Terror

Daniel Halper at the Weekly Standard found a doozy of a Twitter post on the Fourth of July by Octavia Nasr, CNN's senior editor of Mideast Affairs. "Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah," she wrote. "One of Hezbollah's giants I respect a lot."

I know enough about Fadlallah, who died at the age of 74 in a Beirut hospital over the weekend, that I can interpret her Twitter post charitably. While once known as the "spiritual leader" of Hezbollah, Fadlallah later moved above and beyond the Party of God and even criticized it once in a while. He supported the Iranian Revolution in 1979 and its leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, but he also criticized Khomeini's regime of Velayat-e faqih — rule by Islamic jurists — and declared it an inappropriate political system for Lebanon. He supported women's rights, dismissed their unequal treatment as "backward," and issued a fatwa condemning "honor" killings.

Most Americans don’t know this about Fadlallah, or have even heard of him. Octavia Nasr surely does, though. It's common knowledge in Lebanon. She lives in Atlanta, but she was born in Beirut, and covers the Middle East for a living. More likely than not, some or all of the above is what she had in mind when she posted her comment on Twitter.

Still, she's talking about a man who issued theological justifications for suicide bombings. He threw his support behind hostage-taking in Lebanon during the 1980s and the truck bombings in Beirut that killed more American servicemen than any single attack since World War II. Nasr didn't mention any of that. It doesn't even look like she factored it in.

Read the rest in Commentary Magazine.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:23 PM | Permalink | 10 Comments »

IDF Flash Mob in Hebron

I guess these guys are going to get into trouble, but this is a lot better for Israeli PR than Operation Cast Lead or the Mavi Marmara incident.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 1:18 AM | Permalink | 18 Comments »

July 5, 2010

Ahmadinejad’s “Mission”

It doesn't usually end well when the leader of one nation or group of people furiously denounces another as sub-human or non-human, and it takes real nerve for a ruthless tyrant to describe any American president as the world's harshest dictator, but Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad did both a few weeks ago.

From MEMRI, via Marty Peretz:

"Over 60 years ago, by means of an artificial and false pretext, and by fabricating information and inventing stories, they gathered the filthiest, most criminal people, who only appear to be human, from all corners of the world. They organized and armed them, and provided them with media and military backing. Thus, they occupied the Palestinian lands, and displaced the Palestinian people. [...]

"[Obama] said: We support the Iranian nation’s right to be free, and so on and so forth... This is the Iranian nation. You want to talk about this? This nation does not accept you one little bit. The Iranian people loathe you. [...]

"All the anti-human plans in the world are carried out under [Obama] and his administration. All the occupations, massacres, and human rights violations are perpetrated under his administration, yet along he comes with complaints about our nation.

"Let me say something new here. This declaration of his has committed us, from this moment on, to add another international mission to those we already have.

"What is this mission? I will tell you what it is.

"Today, the harshest dictatorship is the one operating against the American nation, and the greatest pressure is exerted over there. They have no freedom of expression. No newspaper has the right to write anything about the crimes of the Zionists, or about the support given to them by the U.S. politicians. The American people do not have the right to demonstrate freely or to oppose the crimes of their politicians. Many Americans live in poverty. Eighty million people are poor. Some [leader] of that same America plundered hundreds and thousands of billions of dollars from the wealth of other nations.

"Mr. President, before thinking about other nations, think about your own. The action you took has forced us to declare that from now on, one of the main demands of the Iranian nation is to rescue the American people from its non-democratic bullying administration."

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:45 PM | Permalink | 88 Comments »

July 3, 2010

Fourth of July

Happy Independence Day to my American readers (and no hard feelings to my British readers).

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 5:28 PM | Permalink | 13 Comments »

July 1, 2010

This Site is Moving

I'll be moving this blog over to the Pajamas Media site shortly. You can adjust your bookmarks if you want, but that's optional. You should be automatically redirected.

If you use an RSS reader, point it here for the new feed. The RSS feed you have been using will no longer work. If you don't know what an RSS feed is, you don't have to do anything.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 3:51 PM | Permalink | 43 Comments »

Syria Must Be Contained, Not Engaged

Nibras Kazimi suggests in the pages of the New Republic that the Middle East's violent Islamists might go after the Syrian government after they're finished in Iraq and Afghanistan. "On jihadist online discussion forums," he writes, "they have been authoring what amount to policy papers calling on the jihadist leadership to take the fight to Syria."

It would make a certain amount of sense if they did decide Syria ought to be next. Most of the country's leadership is from the Alawite minority sect, which branched off Twelver Shia Islam in the 10th century and became something else almost entirely. Both Sunnis and Shias have long considered them heretics. When French Mandate authorities ruled the area after World War One, many, if not most, Alawites yearned for their own sovereign homeland along the coast of the Mediterranean apart from Damascus and the largely Sunni interior.

"The Alawites refuse to be annexed to Muslim Syria," Suleiman Assad, grandfather of Syria's President Bashar Assad, wrote in a petition to France in 1943. "In Syria, the official religion of the state is Islam, and according to Islam, the Alawites are considered infidels. ... The spirit of hatred and fanaticism imbedded in the hearts of the Arab Muslims against everything that is non-Muslim has been perpetually nurtured by the Islamic religion. There is no hope that the situation will ever change. Therefore, the abolition of the mandate will expose the minorities in Syria to the dangers of death and annihilation."

Western foreign-policy analysts rarely seem to take this into account, but the most dangerous people in the Middle East always do. "Islamists arguing for a jihad in Syria believe that they have hit the trifecta," Kazimi writes. "In the Syrian regime, they have an enemy that is at once tyrannical, secular, and heretical."

Read the rest in Commentary Magazine.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 10:39 AM | Permalink | 21 Comments »
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Winner, The 2008 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

Winner, The 2007 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

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