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Hizbullah's Identity Construction

Hizbullah's Identity Construction

Joseph Alagha
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 314
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  • Book Info
    Hizbullah's Identity Construction
    Book Description:

    As the dominant political force in Lebanon and one of the most powerful post-Islamist organizations in the world, Hizbullah is a source of great controversy and uncertainty in the West. Despite the significant attention paid to this group by the media, the details of Hizbullah's evolution have frequently confounded politicians-and even scholars. In this important study, Joseph Alagha, a scholar with unprecedented access to the organization, exhaustively and objectively analyzes Hizbullah's historical evolution and offers a revolutionary new perspective on the political phenomenon of the organization. Hizbullah's Identity Construction is a timely examination of one of the world's most turbulent regions; a major contribution to the study of contemporary Islamic political movements in the Middle East; and a refreshing departure from the bland hagiographies and ad hominem attacks that are all too common in studies of Hizbullah's murky history. Superbly documented and argued, and rooted in broad knowledge of contemporary Islamist political thought, this study brings much-needed clarity to a hot-button subject.

    eISBN: 978-90-485-1395-6
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-6)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 7-10)
  3. A Note on Transliteration
    (pp. 11-12)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. 13-14)
    Joseph Alagha
  5. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. 15-16)
  6. Summary
    (pp. 17-18)
  7. Introduction and Analytical Framework
    (pp. 19-32)

    The Lebanese Shi‘ite resistance movement Hizbullah (Party of God) is going through a remarkable transformation, where its identity is constantly undergoing reconstruction. Hizbullah was founded in 1978 as an Islamic struggle (jihadi) movement of social and political protest by various sectors of Lebanese Shi‘ite clergy and cadres, with Iranian ideological backing. Over the period 1985 to 1991 Hizbullah became a full-fledged social movement in the sense of having a broad overall organization, structure, and ideology aiming at social change and social justice. In the early 1990s, it became a parliamentary political party.

    Hizbullah defines its identity as an Islamicjihadi...

  8. 1 Tolerance and Discrimination: Ahl Al-Dhimma in the Islamic Order
    (pp. 33-44)

    This chapter highlights the shift in Hizbullah’s relationship with Lebanese Christians from regarding them as potentialdhimmis² within its conception of an Islamic state to citizens in a pluralistic polity. The author discusses in some detail, relying on primary sources and discourses, the place of Christians in Hizbullah’s Islamic state, stressing points of agreement with and departure from the Prophetic tradition, and surveying how these influenced Hizbullah’s policies in the 1980s. I will explain the seminal role of the 1990 Ta’if Agreement in helping to furnish these changes, in which the mixed confessional space led to the creation of pluralist...

  9. 2 Interpretation and Authority: Wilayat Al-Faqih
    (pp. 45-60)

    Most secondary sources brand Iran and its contended “brainchild”, the Lebanese resistance movement Hizbullah, with militant revolutionary tendencies, which do not conform to the tenets of the international community’s standards of democratic values that govern civil society. Is Hizbullah an Iranian party operating in Lebanon, or a Lebanese militant party supported by Iran, which has to obey Iran and be its tool of policy in the Middle East?

    Hizbullah was able to modify its identity from its founding as an Islamic movement of social and political protest (1978-1985), to a full-fledged social movement (1985-1991), to a parliamentary political party (1992...

  10. 3 Political Violence: Terrorism and 9/11
    (pp. 61-86)

    The first meeting, after 9/11, of the Organization of Islamic Conference (oic)², a 57 consortium of Islamic countries currently comprising around 1.6 billion Muslims, was held on 11-18 October 2003 in Putrajaya, Malaysia. In addition to addressing issues such as the PalestinianIntifada, and the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan, what topped the agenda was the endeavor to “absolve Islam from terrorism”. In its final declaration, the oic condemned as “criminal terrorist bombings” the attacks that targeted the un headquarters and the Jordanian and Turkish embassies in Baghdad. Also, the oic “called for the signing of a convention to ‘distinguish...

  11. 4 Political Violence: Suicide Operations
    (pp. 87-112)

    In conformity to its resistance identity as an Islamicjihadimovement, Hizbullah sanctioned martyrdom operations as a specific resistance strategy. Hizbullah clearly states in its “Identity and Goals”² that it “… also used one of its own special types of resistance against the Zionist enemy [Israel] that is the suicide attacks. These attacks dealt great losses to the enemy on all thinkable levels such as militarily and mentally. The attacks also raised the morale across the whole Islamic nation.” Are suicide operations a legitimate tactic in a war for national independence? Does Hizbullah’s quest for national freedom justify its resort...

  12. 5 From Cooptation to Contestation to Political Power
    (pp. 113-140)

    Since the public sphere “enables participation in collective choice, whether about specific policy issues or basic institutions… [and since] the public sphere is itself a medium of social integration, a form of social solidarity, as well as an arena of debating others”¹, Hizbullah shed its irredentist ideology and deemed it an absolute necessity to integrate into the Lebanese public sphere, rather than to shun it by employing the policy ofinfitah(opening-up). As mentioned earlier, in general, Hizbullah employs the terminfitahor ‘Lebanonization’ to denote its political discourse, deeds, and policies in the era of the political program², or...

  13. 6 The Doha 2008 Accord and its Aftermath
    (pp. 141-154)

    Hizbullah’s bid for power laid the cornerstone for a new phase in which it seeks to dominate the public sphere and national political arena. Under the slogan of partnership and the reformulation of the political system (al-musharaka wa i‘adat intaj al-sulta) and after eighteen months of a wavering political stalemate, Hizbullah affected change by force on the ground gaining its long awaited veto power in the Lebanese cabinet. In a politically charged atmosphere, the cabinet decided to confront Hizbullah for the first time sinceTa‘if. After a long meeting on 6 May that went on till the early hours of...

  14. 7 The Eighth Conclave: A New Manifesto (November 2009)
    (pp. 155-176)

    This chapter surveys Hizbullah’s identity construction from the time of the propagation of its first Manifesto, the Open Letter in 1985, passing through all of its eight clandestine conclaves, to the publication of its second watershed Manifesto in 2009. I begin by analyzing the Open letter.

    Hizbullah’s political declarations,al-‘Ahd, the discourse of its leaders and cadres, and most notably the Open Letter specify the constituents of the party’s political ideology: oppressors and oppressed; Islamic state; relations with Christians, anti-Zionism, pan-Islamism, anti-imperialism, and jihad and martyrdom.¹ Hizbullah employs Qur’anic legitimization of its political ideology in the form of Qur‘anic verses...

  15. 8 Epilogue: Future Prospects – Disarmament and the Peace Process
    (pp. 177-186)

    Hizbullah’s specific religious ideology has been based upon mobilization,Jihad, and martyrdom, as determined byal-waliyy al-faqih, first Imam Khumayni and after his death Imam Khamina’i. Based on the aforementioned and keeping in mind that religious ideology ultimately wields religious capital, one can argue that Hizbullah’s religious ideology is both 1): an exclusionary ideological identity based on belief inwilayat al-faqih, which is a “novel and almost unprecedented reinterpretation of religious canon”; and 2): a return to the fundamentals of Shi‘ite faith as a primary historical identity. “To most Islamists, Islam is the first and key identity [primary historical identity]...

  16. Afterword
    (pp. 187-190)

    Did the Arabs finally heed the call of the late Chinese communist leader Mao Tse-tung (who urged them to just march in order to realize their potential and actualize their power)¹? Or, maybe, they listened to one of their indigenous nationalist leaders Antun S‘adé who repeatedly stated, “In you is a power, which if actualized will change the course of history”?²

    In less than a month, two Arab leaders were deposed by the people’s power. Are the 1989 winds of change blowing across the Arab world? As the Middle East is engulfed with protests portraying the affirmation of the will...

  17. Glossary
    (pp. 191-196)
  18. Additional Reading
    (pp. 197-210)

    Why is it that so much of the research on Hizbullah is plagued by factual errors and misinterpretations? From its inauguration till the present Hizbullah has issued seemingly divergent declarations and statements, thus indicating the need to think of its identity in evolutionary terms, rather than regarding it as monolithic. When Hizbullah released its Open Letter or Political Manifesto in 1985, it propagated its political ideology, but hardly any discernable political program. The confusion of equating Hizbullah’s political ideology with its political program leads to a problematic in the understanding of Hizbullah’s role as a political party, as it developed...

  19. Notes
    (pp. 211-272)
  20. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 273-288)
  21. Index
    (pp. 289-308)
  22. Back Matter
    (pp. 309-314)