In a fawning blog posting, Britain’s Ambassador to Lebanon said "the world needs more men like him," reverently referring to the deceased cleric as "a true man of religion."
Former CNN Middle East Editor Octavia Nasr tweeted that she was sad to hear of his passing, calling him a "giant" that she "respects a lot." And the Associated Press respectfully bestowed upon him the term, "grandfatherly." If you didn’t know any better, you’d think "him" was a pope, bishop or leading rabbi.
Alas, the above mentioned outpourings of affection by Western media and political elites were for the Beirut-based Shiite ayatollah, Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, who died earlier this month.
Fadlallah—regarded by many as the spiritual leader of the terrorist group Hezbollah before jealous rivalries with his proteges emerged in later years—remained a sworn enemy of the United States throughout his long and despicable career. Considered a terrorist by the U.S. State Department, Fadlallah regularly called for jihad against the West.
He is perhaps most notorious for his role in the 1983 Marine barracks bombings in Beirut, in which 241 U.S. soldiers died at the hands of a Hezbollah suicide bomber. Fadlallah was also a longtime supporter of suicide bombings against Israeli civilians and remained committed to the destruction of the Jewish state until his last breath.
Given Fadlallah’s well-known public track record of support for Islamic terrorism, the verbal bouquets directed at him by Nasr (who lost her job at CNN as a result) and other Western elites may seem shocking to some. But to longtime observers of the Middle East like the Weekly Standard’s Lee Smith, the outpourings of affection for Fadlallah were entirely predictable.
"This infatuation with Hezbollah has been going on for years," Smith writes. "And it’s not just because the party established a formidable style of press criticism by kidnapping journalists back in the ’80s. The U.S. media actually likes Hezbollah—it is an impressive thing, after all, to be able to kill your enemies—whether they are Jews or fellow Lebanese—whereas liberalism, non-violent resistance, rule of law, and opposition to political murder lacks sex appeal."
The U.S. media aren’t the only ones here who like Hezbollah and Fadlallah. So do some well-known Islamic leaders.
A few years back, I paid a trip to Dearborn, Mich., a city outside of Detroit that boasts the country’s largest Arab-American population, including a sizable number of Shia Lebanese. During my stay in Dearborn, I interviewed a prominent Iranian imam named Mohammed Ali Elahi, a former associate of Fadlallah and the Ayatollah Khomeini (see pictures here) who now leads one of the largest mosques in America.
Elahi—whose Islamic House of Wisdom, was one of several Detroit-area mosques to hold memorial services for Fadlallah—was a favorite of the local FBI branch at the time of my visit. The then-Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Detroit field office, Daniel Roberts, asked me to pass on his personal greetings to Elahi when I informed him I’d be meeting with the longtime shill for the Iranian regime.
During our interview, Elahi refused to condemn Hezbollah as a terrorist group, arguing that it was "resisting occupation." When I asked him if he believed al Qaeda was behind the 9/11 attacks, he answered, “Honestly, in my heart? I don’t have an answer for that. Maybe, and maybe not. They may have done it just by themselves, or they may have had some help from some others.”
By "others" I guesed that Elahi meant Israel. He had told veteran journalist Arnaud DeBorchgrave in 2001 that the Israeli Mossad was behind the attacks on the World Trade Center. Elahi later said he was misquoted. But when I pressed him on this point, he still refused to rule out Israeli involvement in 9/11.
I had another revealing exchange while interviewing the publisher of the Arab-American News: the Dearborn-based periodical on Arab issues that is the largest of its kind in the United States:
Osama Siblani is regularly feted (here’s one of the latest examples) in the Detroit area as a wizened voice of moderation. Yet during our conversation, he proudly called Hezbollah and Hamas "freedom fighters" and said the Israelis are perpetrating a "genocide" against the Palestinians that is "worse than the Holocaust."
When I asked him off camera if he believed Hezbollah’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah was an honorable man, Siblani replied, "I know of no more honorable man in the world." He seemed completely unfazed by the fact that Nasrallah, like his Iranian benefactors, regards the U.S. as "the Great Satan" and is committed to the destruction of Israel.
You can watch some of my jaw-dropping 2005 exchange with Siblani by clicking on the viewer above. It’s part of the "Stak Attack" segment on my new bi-weekly CBN show, “Stakelbeck on Terror.” The program is currently the only one on American television devoted solely to the hot button issues of national security, Islamic terrorism and the Middle East.
Incidentally, during the Siblani segment, I also lay down my criteria for what ultimately constitutes a "moderate" Muslim. As you’ll see, it’s a test that Siblani, Elahi, Fadlallah and, I’d suspect, many of their Western supporters, fail miserably.