June 17, 1999 Special Dispatch No. 35

Hizbullah Spiritual Leader Discusses Relations with Jews and Christians

June 17, 1999
Syria | Special Dispatch No. 35

Sheik Muhammad Hussein Fadhla, spiritual leader of Lebanon's Hizbullah movement for many years, recently ended his affiliation with Iran's Supreme Leader, 'Ali Khamenei, in favor of the more moderate, Iranian President, Muhammad Khatemi. This led to a rift with Hizbullah Secretary General Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, and the organization as a whole. Sheik Fadhla discusses Moslem/non-Moslem relations in a lengthy interview with the BBC's Arabic weekly, Al-Mushahid Al-Siyassi.[1]

Overview of Sheik Fadhla's Views

Sheik Fadhla's political and cultural doctrine, like Khatemi's, espouses openness to the world outside the boundaries of Islam. Sheik Fadhla says he tries to cut any ties to political frameworks "that close on a person like a tin can." He expresses his openness to the non-Islamic world, saying: "I live with the child and with the woman, with the big and with the small, with the believer and the infidel, with the Christian, with the Sunni Muslim, and with the Shiite Muslim. I don't feel complicated with anyone, even if I don't accept his ideas... the truth is the result of dialogue and nothing is sacred during a dialogue."

Modern Christianity

"The West is still secular, or at least the western regimes, and maybe in the practical sense, the public opinion in the western world [is] as well. I suppose that Christianity exists in the humane feelings of the westerner, only the westerner is not Christian in the profound sense of the word."

"Most [westerners] have no bias to religion anymore. There is a reasonable chance that Christianity would penetrate the conscience of the westerner using his historical baggage and the state of spiritual vacuum in which he finds himself... the West, however, is still secular and thus separates religion from the state..."

"It is difficult to rid the consciousness and conscience of people of the religion and therefore, materialism has not succeeded in penetrating religion. If it has managed to weaken the religion or to keep people preoccupied and therefore away from the religion – [it is] the priests who are responsible for it, because they have not presented religion as a means to solve people's economic and social problems. This is especially true for Christianity that claims that 'God's kingdom is not in this world' and to '[render unto] Caesar what is Caesar's.' If Muslim theologians had presented social, economic, and constitutional aspects of Islam in a way that would have enabled the westerner to better understand Islam - the westerner could have opened up to Islam. This can be seen in very progressive people like [Holocaust denier] Rojer Garaudy and Bernard Shaw. The latter, in his research on this topic, exhibited much optimism [claiming] that the future belongs to Islam. Many Muslim clerics, however, are incapable of presenting Islam to the western world. There are also problems of information, politics, and culture that turn Islam into a scarecrow for the westerner."

Modern Judaism

"Pure and clean Judaism was subject to a severe siege that kept it from opening up, thinking, and reevaluating the historical reality... It is possible that the issue of Palestine, which they turned into Israel, is what blocks Jews from opening up to others, because the issue of Palestine was created by their persecution of Muslims and Christians and eliminating their human and political existence in the region..."

"[Whether the involvement of world Jews in Zionism] results from historical background or not - this background has turned [the Zionist idea] into a beast. The question is not whether you have a history that justifies your existence here, because it is uncivilized for a people that [once] lived in a certain country to return after thousands of years, demand that country and deport its inhabitants, in order to retrieve its [ancient] identity. Additionally, the Israeli claim that Palestine was Jewish is historically inaccurate... Isaac, for example, did not start as a Jew but as a prophet and it is not true that everybody is from the seed of Isaac..."

"We must personify the land, because the land is not an idol for us to worship, but rather the scene that protects one's personality. The land is yours in the sense that it enriches your humanity. Therefore, it is meaningless for a people to demand a land on which its forefathers lived in historical times…. your forefathers had a chance [to have the land] but this chance passed and other generations came, which in the past may have been Jews who chose to enter Islam and Christianity. What is your cultural starting-point, then? To deport them and live in their stead?"

"They tried to gather the Jews under the banner of holiness and said this was the Promised Land. It is only a piece in the political game. Therefore we say that the Jews have generally ceased to be a religion. Their understanding of religion made them live in a narrow circle and therefore, my conclusion is that Judaism is not a religion that seeks to expand in the general human reality. Every religion is a message from God. You have no choice but to open up to all the people, like Christianity and Islam that still try to expand into Man's entire world [while Judaism does not]... "

"It is only natural that the Jews failed to earn the world's love and therefore must live estranged in the world. It is only natural that despite all the money you possess and despite your high status, you need a heart that would open up to you, because this is what enriches your humanity and bestows a human character on your wealth and status. The problem of the Jews, therefore, is that any [Jewish] person lives estranged from his own soul. Their racism, reflected in the phrase "the chosen people," is a starting-point that is condescending and hostile to the world. It cannot be accepted by any cultured man who respects his culture. The value of culture is estimated by how much it enriches your humanity, not by how much it secludes you from the outer world..."

"I don't predict a long future for Israel. The international and regional balances, the weakness of the Arabs, and the Christians' detachment from the issue of Palestine's occupation by the Jews have led to the Jews' control over Palestine. However, I think that because of their mentality, they cannot become a natural body in the region. Therefore, even if it takes another fifty years, the Jews will cause [the necessary] reaction in the Arab and Muslim worlds to their existence in the region. This is because they cannot avoid causing economic, political, and security problems in the country..."

[1] The interview was published in two parts, on May 30, 1999 and June 6, 1999.

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