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Islam

"Beirut Covered in Trash Speaks of an Arab World in Crisis"

The roots of the conflict that has struck Lebanon go deep into the history of its peoples, their memories and the policies of their leaders, commentaries on sacred texts and education

An ambulance where the explosion took place on November 12

The ambassador of a great power discussing with us the Sykes-Picot borders and the solidity of the geopolitical map of the Middle East drawn in 1916 could not have imagined the imminent dreadful drama in Paris, perpetrated by a group that gives absolutely no significance to these borders. This situation is reflected in the statements of the Lebanese Interior Minister Nouhad el-Machnouk who declared that the double explosion in the predominantly Shiite neighbourhood of Burj al-Barajneh in Beirut, on November 12, is unfortunately not the last of its kind. Borders have become porous. One thing is for sure: the murderous attack in the Hezbollah stronghold is not a one-off message but an episode in the macabre series of terrorist operations that the Islamic State plans on executing, as the information provided by the Lebanese secret services confirms. Isis goals and actions in the strongholds of Hezbollah or elsewhere do not really matter: borders fade and become increasingly virtual as, from the pan-Islamic revolution of Ayatollah Khomeini to these days, the rift between Sunnis and Shiites continues to grow and is transformed day by day into a fracture difficult to close. A fracture no longer political but profoundly social.

 

 

During the demonstrations triggered by the speeches of Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah, slogans against Saudi Arabia have become the order of the day, and this is something new. It is clear that the moderate Sunnis have borne the brunt of this fracture, and we know that the tension will not drop as long as the great breeding grounds of the conflicts in Yemen, Syria and Iraq, and the ideology of the fracture and the anathema broadcast through education and the mass media, continue to grow and become a body of literature, each text confirming another. One could say that we have entered a tunnel without exit for twenty, thirty years. The entry of Western countries into an air operation against the Islamic State - rooted in barbarism and based on a religious discourse that is found in the authorised classic commentaries - could resolve the conflict militarily, but not without destabilising effects on the West. Yet the problem remains, fundamentally, firmly blocked, awaiting the flowering of a new critical angle on memory and different approaches.

 

 

In this dark situation, what will become of the Arab world? An astute Lebanese politician during a recent conference said that with the current rift the Arab world has ceased to exist politically and diplomatically and has given way to a world of states, most of which are doomed to destruction, others just protect themselves from the waves, concerned only with their immediate interests. The Arab world reflects the image of the dustbins of Beirut, which are not emptied because of the lethargy and inefficiency of politicians, and individual calculations tied to protecting their own interests. Therefore Arab regimes and Lebanese politicians do not disdain the proposals for mediation and negotiation of solutions of the conflicts advanced at the conference in Vienna. However, in our world, we like to buy time with digressions of diplomatic nature, because what we are looking for is victories over the enemy in the context of the great fracture.

 

 

Meanwhile we continue to hope and wait for manna from the major powers and their representatives. We respond to the abuses of the Islamic State through talks and military means, as French President François Hollande did on Monday 16 November before both chambers of Parliament meeting in Versailles. And it is understandable if we take into account the threat that the jihadist dictatorship is for the Middle East in the short and medium term. But considering the recent tragedies this threat weighs particularly on Western countries, as certain shrewd Lebanese and Middle Eastern observers have repeatedly pointed out. The "cancer" that it represents, according to the image used by U.S. President Barack Obama, is an aggressive form that metastasises into neighbouring countries. Its ability to project itself grows incessantly, whether for its system of franchising inaugurated by al-Qaeda and now present on the whole of the African arc and in Afghanistan, for its power of indoctrination of lone wolves or for its recruiting capability.

 

 

Clearly neither the most fervid speeches nor the largest air strikes will resolve the conflicts, especially if the speeches are characterised by generalisation and naivety in thinking that neutralising the Islamic State militarily will resolve everything. The roots of the conflict go deep into the history of its peoples, their memories and the policies of their leaders, commentaries on sacred texts and education as it is imparted to students, quite apart from the absolutely reprehensible historical practices of the dictatorships.

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