They Don’t Have My Respect

It is absurd to me that so many rash commentaries and incendiary remarks were elicited by Octavia Nasr’s dismissal from CNN. So she tweeted that she respects Fadlallah, and she admits that this might have been a mistake. Certainly some of his stances, opinions, and actions were not of the most respectable type from a “western” “pro-Israel” “pro-US” perspective. But he was surely a brilliant politician.

For years he was a respected leader and figurehead, outlasting many others in the ever-changing game of Lebanese politics. You do not have to agree with someone’s politics to agree that they were influential and important on the world stage. Importance is not a designation reserved for those who play for the team of “good.” Evil is important too. (My aim is not to pass good-vs-evil value judgments on Fadlallah, or anyone else for that matter.)

Can we not also admit that Ayatollah Khomeini is brilliant as were Stalin and Castro (wasn’t he sick for a while?) and Thomas Jefferson and Richelieu: all brilliant thinkers and politicians and activists in their own right. Try firing me from my (unpaid internship) job for saying that. Am I committing treason for acknowledging the power of powerful people?

Politics, like everything else, is a game.

A comment acknowledging the influence of a particular leader, whether you agree with their opinions or not, should not be an invitation for baseless moral and ethical accusations. It should be an invitation to a healthy intellectual debate, free of name-calling. I was always taught that you are entitled to your opinion, but in order for others to respect your view you must frame it in a logical manner, avoiding judgments and basing arguments on fact, not fantasy. Many commenters on Ms. Nasr’s explanation (he had a respectable stance on women’s rights issues) were rife with slander and propaganda. Perhaps they should research their discussion topics before jumping in with such gusto.

I cannot imagine a world without dissent, conflict, and intellectual debate. But I would love to live in a world where the response to a statement of respect towards Fadlallah (or any other “terrorist”) is “how interesting, why do you feel that way?”, not an equally extremist rant on the righteousness of the God-given land Fadlallah so adamantly worked against. Alas, I am an idealist.

One thought on “They Don’t Have My Respect

  1. Some US commentary on Fadallah has been gentler/balanced. Case in point, LA Times obit: “Once considered the unquestioned spiritual leader of the powerful Iranian-backed Shiite militant group Hezbollah, Fadlallah has been steadily drifting away from radical Islamist politics for years, instead espousing relatively progressive views on gender relations, women’s social role and family life.”


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