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General News    H3'ed 6/19/15

Why are so many Sunni Muslims in Lebanon switching to Da'ish (ISIS)?

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In a report in an-Nahar (Beirut), June 27, 2014 one neighborhood leader in Tripoli explained that "Iraq witnessed a Sunni triumph against Shiite oppression. Forcing Tripoli's Sunnis to denounce ISIS amounts to coercing them to exercise political self-suppression." A political leader in Saida, claimed that "The truth of the matter is that hatred for Iran and Hezbollah has made every Lebanese Sunni heartily supportive of ISIS, even if it's brutal methods will eventually affect them adversely."

As American University of Beirut Professor, Hilal Khashan has recently reported, Lebanese Sunnis are willing to support whoever can defeat their enemies and restore their pride. Many of them find ISIS appealing for a number of reasons: the group has a strong aversion to Shiites and feel estranged from the Lebanese state while harboring nostalgia for the caliphate. Many admire power in any form and are seeking to regain it.

A vendor in Tripoli's city center explained the popularity of ISIS: "People like whoever is strong. Poor, angry and marginalized teenagers in Tripoli want "great victories." Even though public display of support for ISIS in Lebanon is a crime, "any young man in Tripoli, if asked, would confess how much he admired its power."

When challenged with the brutal and bloodthirsty acts of ISIS, its supporters often find some words in the Qur'an to justify their position. In the case of Da'ish young men hanging around the streets, they regularly offer: "Muhammad ... and those with him are firm of heart against the non-believers, compassionate among themselves." (Quran 48: 29).

One Sunni Sheik in Lebanon expressed to this observer his belief that Da'ish "is our (Sunni) extremist Islamists and Hezbollah's is Iran's. In fact, both are more similar than either would want to admit."

The Sunni Muslim community in Lebanon is also receiving various forms of support from abroad from coreligionists, as they move toward Da'ish (ISIS). Lebanon's As Safir daily newspaper, reported this week that the government of Saudi Arabia has requested that France freeze the delivery of weapons to the Lebanese army under the Saudi's $ 3 billion arms grant. The reason is reportedly because the new Saudi coalition and leadership believes the arms will end up with Hezbollah and thus under Iranian control. The Saudi government reportedly also requested that France not inform Lebanese authorities about the decision to freeze the delivery, "for the time being."

This observer tentatively concludes that what is happening among Lebanon's Sunni population is rather more complicated than the issues he cites above, powerful as they may be in pushing/pulling Lebanese to Da'ish. In fact, since Lebanese Sunnis are willing to support whoever can defeat their enemies and restore their pride, many of them find ISIS appealing for the reason that they feel hostility toward Shiites and feel estranged from the Lebanese state while openly expressing nostalgia for the return of the caliphate.

In Lebanon the tribes, like in Yemen, Syria, Libya, and Iraq that once acted rather secular, in line with trends of the time, are now Islamist in keeping with an underlying changing culture. One concludes that neither Da'ish nor Nusra are all that interested in the creation of an Islamic state, just as Hezbollah gave up its plans for creating an Iran-style Islamic Republic.

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Since 2013, Professor Franklin P. Lamb has traveled extensively throughout Syria. His primary focus has been to document, photograph, research and hopefully help preserve the vast and irreplaceable archaeological sites and artifacts in (more...)

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