Sheik Fadlallah; 'We Have Reservations'

Newsweek International, March 22, 2004 | Go to article overview

Sheik Fadlallah; 'We Have Reservations'


Byline: Rod Nordland

Sheik Muhammed Hussein Fadlallah is the senior religious leader of Lebanon's 2 million Shia and spiritual leader of Hizbullah. Still classified as a terrorist organization by the United States, Hizbullah has more recently gone mainstream, fielding candidates in national elections, sponsoring social programs for the poor and banning the terrorist tactics espoused in the mid-1980s. NEWSWEEK's Baghdad bureau chief Rod Nordland spoke with the cleric at his well-guarded home in the Beirut suburbs. Excerpts:

NORDLAND: Does the liberation of Iraq's Shia change your view of America?

FADLALLAH: America is responsible for a great part of what Saddam did, including his obtaining WMD. It encouraged him in the war against Iran and later Kuwait, so as to legitimize its own military presence in the gulf. Saddam was a monster, but America supported that monster as it does many others in the world.

Still, Saddam issued a death sentence against you. Don't you owe some debt of gratitude?

None. America was pursuing its own interests; it wasn't being a charitable organization. OK, it laid off its employee, Saddam. From that point of view, Iraq is better off. On the other hand, Iraqis don't feel they're better off--or more secure.

Yet you must feel glad to see your fellow Shias in Iraq free from oppression.

We want to preserve the country for all Iraqis, Kurds or Sunnis or whomever. We want the Shia in Iraq and the region, and everywhere else, to get their rights as equal citizens, but the Shia are not looking to control things. They don't want to persecute others as they were persecuted in the past.

You sound pretty anti-American.

The people of the Mideast used to consider the U.S. a symbol of freedom. Europe was the colonizer, and America was against colonizing. Americans should now ask themselves why have the people of the world, including the Mideast, come to hate them. But we do not accept aggression against the American people, which is why I was the first Islamic figure to condemn the events of 9/11.

How do you feel about suicide bombings in the occupied territories?

In a state of war all weapons are justified. Look at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Atomic bombs killed 200,000 civilians and this was not wrong. It ended the war.

So attacks on civilians in Iraq are "legal"?

All operations against civilian and humanitarian agencies are unlawful and condemned in Iraq, but Palestine is different. …

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