View Full Version : Q&A - Voices of Lebanese Abroad

Ansar Al-'Adl
08-01-2006, 04:32 AM
Voices of Lebanese Abroad

Islamonline Dialogue with Dr. Munir El-Kassem
Famous Da'iyah and Muslim Chaplain at the University of Western Ontario, Canada

How did you receive Canada's prime minister's comments on Israeli attack on Lebanon describing it as a "measured response"?

I start with the Name of Allah, the All-Merciful, the Compassionate. I was dismayed that a political justification was advanced to explain human suffering. It seems that political alliances are always ready to put a stamp on humanitarian issues irrespective of the absolute truth. How could killing children, women, and elders be described as a “measured response”? How could the destruction of the entire infrastructure of Lebanon be labeled as a “measured response”? Naturally I was saddened by the fact that the government, who is expected to represent all of its people to the best of its ability, has failed an appreciable sector of its citizenship. I am outraged to say the least.

Do you know of any family that lost some of its members over there. Can you tell us of how they received the news and what they did, what the government of Canada did with them?

Indeed many members of my own family were caught in the midst of the Israeli aggression. It so happened that my extended family was planning two weddings; one for my nephew and the other for my niece. Members of the family were planning to meet in Lebanon to celebrate these two happy occasions. By July 12 many had already arrived and others were waiting to embark on their journeys to Lebanon. The Israeli strike took everybody by surprise. What was supposed to be a happy occasion was suddenly transferred into stress and anxiety to all of us. Those who were able to exist the country did so under very dangerous circumstances. My sisters, cousins, nephews and nieces left without any coordination because they had to seize the first available opportunity to escape the hostilities those who came through Syria had to take the risk of air strikes of the highway between Lebanon and Syria. The waiting was an added factor to the danger. People had lost their tempers due to the long hours of waiting and the crawling traffic. Those who left by sea to Cyprus and Turkey were treated with sub-human standard.

I am still going to meet insha’Allah with three of them tonight when they will finish their last leg of the exodus that brought to Montreal on their way to London Ontario. They told me by telephone that they were put on a ship, packed with a standing room only. During the twelve hour-journey to Turkey, they witnessed many sick people fall down, others were throwing up, and others were silently crying.

I do understand the logistical difficulties of evacuating so many people, but even the televised discussions that talked about two categories of evacuees, and the fact the Canada should have only evacuated Canadian tourists and no one else indicates the presence of a racist attitude in dealing with humanitarian tragedies.

What's your view about this war? Do Lebanese minorities arrange role to play, helping their oppressed brothers there?

First of all, we have to be careful not isolate the tragedies that are unfolding in the Middle East. This is not a philosophical statement. Hearing the American Secretary of State talking lately about the “New Middle East” indicates that whatever is happening in Lebanon cannot be separated from that which is happening in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, the potential threat to Syria and Iran. To realize the American plan that was first announced by George Bush Senior in 1991 by using the phrase “the New World Order”, obstacles had to be removed even by force. It is naïve to think that the Israeli strikes against Gaza and Lebanon came as a response to capturing Israeli soldiers by the Palestinians and Lebanese. Strikes of this magnitude require long time of planning. I do not intend to go any further into political analysis, but suffice to say that Muslims in general and Arabs in particular need to be careful not to be sucked into the trap of political promises by the mighty US.

I do not want to talk about the role of Lebanese abroad but rather I want to emphasize the role of all people who strive for peace and justice irrespective of their national alliances or religious backgrounds. The rallies that were staged last weekend throughout the world were a testimony to the fact that members of the human family have an important role to play in dealing with breaches of human standards of moral behavior and justice for all. The role of people away from the battlefield is certainly of great importance because they can advocate for justice away from the stresses and pressures imposed on the victims who are physically in the battlefield.

We need to lobby politicians, respond to media fallacies, hold town hall meetings, organize relief efforts, make plans to deal with emergencies and anything else that will help the cause of the oppressed and victimized throughout the world.

I'm just wondering how many of the evacuees have jobs to come back to. If they don't have a job to come back to they should not be allowed back. I suppose they will be collecting their monthly welfare cheques courtesy of us taxpayers.

It is sad to measure human tragedy with a financial dimension. Canada has been recognized throughout its history to help victims of aggression throughout the world. How could we even think of taxpayers’ recourses being affected while we are helping those who were unfortunate to be caught in the conflict. It is a human spontaneous response to reach out to those whose life is in danger. Let us not jeopardize such standards and continue to maintain the Canadian reputation of being the country that always makes the difference. It is a fact that is not open for debate that the world is a global village. We can never say any more: it is their problem, let them deal with it.

How do the Lebanese in Canada view the act of Hizbullah? Is it justified or not? And how do you read the future senario of the country?

It is important to understand the political mosaic of the relatively small country of Lebanon. It is also important to understand that the recent history that saw Lebanon come out of 17 years of devastating civil war had produced a very unique reality of having resistance movement co-existing with the political structure of the country. Let us not forget that parts of Lebanon are still occupied by Israel. Let us not forget that many Lebanese citizens were captured from Lebanese territories and have been in Israeli jails for decades. Let us not forget that the inception of Hizbollah in 1982 came as a result of a major Israeli invasion of the entire country. It seems that we only look at outcomes and totally forget the causes. If we are to reach just solutions we have to start with the root causes and deal with them. Simply put, if Israel will end its occupation of Arab territories including the west bank and parts of Gaza and farms of Shib’a in Lebanon and release the more than 10000 Palestinians and Lebanese prisoners, many of whom are women and children, there will be no reason after that for Hizbollah to maintain its military structure.

To tell the world that Hizbollah is a terrorist organization without explaining why they have been doing what we have been witnessing, is extremely misleading. A quick scan of Muslims all over the world would show that the majority do not see Hizbollah as a terrorist organization but rather as a David who stood up to the goliath of modern ages.

As for what the future holds for Lebanon, it all depends on the collective well-power of the masses on the ground in their ability to sway the plans of the decision-makers, many of whom failed to reach consensus yesterday in Rome. It is very uncertain what the future holds for the region, and I am reluctant to advance presumptuous theories.

What would be the message to give to Arab leaders who have almost forgotten their brothers and sisters in Lebanon and Palestine, and simply found a way out of their embarrassment to put the blame on Hizbollah?

It is shameful that Arab leaders have joined the many executioners to deal the last blow to the victims on the ground. Against I do not want to go into the history that determined who the leaders would be before colonial powers physically left the region. We all know that the physical departure of colonialist from the region did not mean the end of colonial influence. It is a fact that leaders of the Arab world are unable to translate the aspirations of their peoples into realities without consulting with the sole superpower of the world, the US.

As a Muslim scholar who is naturally expected to feel the agony of what is going on, what is your opinion about the stand of Muslim scholars so far as regard the conflict? Do you share the opinion that the global circle of Muslim scholars has not demonstrated active response concerning this massacre?

As a matter of fact of Muslim scholars, not only failed to show the proper response regarding the latest massacres but has not shown any signs of reaching a formula that will show unity in responding to global issues. The Muslim body continues to bleed in many parts without a strategy that can effectively stop the bleeding. Not to be unfairly critical of a reality that imposed itself on Islamic scholarship, we need to recognize that such scholarship is currently fed by political divisions. We do not need to mention examples; however, we all know that quite often reputable scholars were asked to declare religious opinions under duress to justify political move on part leaders of their countries. This is quite unfortunate since those scholars who attempted to unify the impartial voices of Islamic scholarship were placed behind bars. This is probably a phase that will end God willing. We have seen such phenomenon repeated throughout Islamic history. One cannot forget the ordeals of Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Ibn Taymiyyah, Sayyid Qutb, and Salman Al-‘Awda. We should not be pessimistic and loose hope and deprive our scholars from their credibility because as long as we continue to work each with his utmost ability, the forces of truth will eventually join together and Muslim scholars will definitely provide effective guidance to their Muslim bothers and sisters.

The world has allowed such Israeli aggression, not only that many, including arab leaders, have sided with Israel. The lack of restraint and even outrage from world laeders at such an atrocity only proves the lack of interest in the loss of arab lives. It seems that only Israel has a right to "exist". So where do we go from here, as an individual and community? Thank you for your ideas.


Unfortunately the so-called civilized world community, which I believe is morally bankrupt, is raising the German slogan of the three monkeys: I saw nothing, I heard nothing, and I said nothing. The international community is proving yet a gain that civilization is not measured by tall buildings and huge structures and advanced compute technology but rather how transparent the humanity of people can be made. The civilized world is upholding the corrupt principle: might is right. I am bewildered by an American television audience that a few years ago followed the story of a duck whose life was endangered because of an arrow that got embedded in its muscles by a hunter. That sane audience is not moved at all by the sight of children running in all directions searching for their missing parents. No outrage was shown after witnessing the 13-year old Palestinian girl frantically tethering back and forth between her family members who were targeted by an Israeli missile while enjoying a picnic on one of the beaches of Gaza. The world of CNN and Fox News viewers was not shattered by photos of dead infants and tearful young Lebanese evacuees fleeing their country.

Even in Canada, not a message of condolences was sent to those who remained from Al-Akhras family who are Canadians from a Lebanese origin and who got killed while vacationing in the home country of their parents. How could anyone accept the fact that Palestinian school girls were shot at from a watch tower ending up with one of them going into a coma and losing her sight after waking up. One can list hundreds and thousands of tragedies that are unfolding under the watchful eyes of the international community, however suffices to say that politics has the final say throughout human tragedy. It was an insult to hear of a summit that was held last week in Washington between Christian Zionists and Israeli lobbyists, which was attended by more than thousand people with the theme of “stronger support for Israel”. And when you hear political analysts saying that Condoleezza Rice is buying time for Israel to gain the upper military hand before a political settlement can be reached, the only conclusion is that the lives of Muslims and Arabs is not viewed with the same sanctity as other lives.

Finally, we would like to thank brother Dr. Munir El-Kassem for taking the time to answer the questions of Islamonline viewers today, and we also thank all those who participated in this dialogue. We apologize for not being able to accommodate all the questions within the time allocated to this session. If you feel your question is very important, feel free to contact us at EngLivedialogue@islamonline.net and we will try our best to answer your question. We encourage our readers to join us in upcoming sessions.

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