Accusing Ali al-Amin of treason reflects a double failure in Lebanon

The Lebanese national figure’s reputation as a moderate Shia cleric has protected him from being targeted for assassination.
Sunday 28/06/2020
Pope Francis (C-R) shakes hands with Lebanese Shia Muslim cleric Ali al-Amin (C-L), as he meets with other members of the Abu-Dhabi-based “Muslim Council of Elders” in the UAE capital, in February 2019. (AFP)
Pope Francis (C-R) shakes hands with Lebanese Shia Muslim cleric Ali al-Amin (C-L), as he meets with other members of the Abu-Dhabi-based “Muslim Council of Elders” in the UAE capital, in February 2019. (AFP)

To slap a national figure like Mr. Ali al-Amin with a host of ridiculous accusations, foremost of which is the accusation of meeting with Israeli officials, is an extremely absurd move that the Lebanese judiciary should have been wiser to avoid. These malicious allegations are more akin to cheap sensational rumours meant to confuse public opinion than to serious accusations based on evidence.

Mr. al-Amin is the type of person who is not afraid of hiding his opinions and has never professed to be dead-set on these opinions. Everything he said was an example of tolerance, a call for fraternity and equality, and a rejection of sectarianism. And it is exactly these principles that frame his rejection of Hezbollah’s mini-state and its dominance over Lebanese affairs and state, as he is a staunch supporter of the overriding notion of Lebanese citizenship.

On every occasion that presented itself, Ali al-Amin never failed to voice his anti-Hezbollah stance. In 2008, he condemned Hezbollah’s invasion of Beirut, and that had cost him to be branded forever as enemy of the party by Hezbollah, while in reality, the man’s opinion was never motivated by a visceral rejection of the party and a desire to antagonise it gratuitously.

Al-Amin may have been previously subjected to intimidations. In fact, intimidation is what can be expected of a strict ideological organisation such as Hezbollah, which has already been suspected of being involved in the assassination of political and media figures who were not in agreement with it, such as former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, journalist and member of parliament Gibran Tueni, and writer Samir al-Qasir.

From what we know of his political past, Mr. al-Amin has always been opposed to a sectarian Lebanon. In his view, sectarianism is the antithesis of social justice because it is based on the distinction between one citizen and another. As a Shia cleric, he does not take into account many of the Shia narratives, the adoption of which leads to discord among the components of the same society.

He was often referred to as an “enlightened cleric”, but that’s a naïve classification that does not do justice to a multifaceted figure with a wide range of knowledge such as Mr. Ali al-Amin. He has never compromised on his Lebanese identity which has always been at the base of his political thinking, and turned to religious jurisprudence only in terms of integrity, chastity, and fair judgement.

That is why Ali al-Amin has never been interested in glorifying himself or in playing the hero as he expounded his thoughts on the so-called resistance or on Hezbollah and the danger of uncontrolled weapons, or on the necessity for the Lebanese entity to regain its unity on a political basis, away from the rivalries between parties and their narrow interests and their mafias that have dragged Lebanon into a quagmire of corruption.

Al-Amin never sought notoriety because he was never interested in power and authority

His reputation as a moderate Shia cleric has protected him from being targeted for assassination, since theman does not represent a direct threat to Hezbollah’s interests at the political level. This is why his opponents limited themselves to sending him threatening letters which were not enough to silence him. So now they are resorting to brandishing the accusation of treason to at least discredit him, but everyone knows that these claims can only be false ones.

Mr. al-Amin has attended a conference on interfaith dialogue in Bahrain which was also attended by Jewish scholars and figures. For a person, such as al-Amin, who is open to others, attending a conference of this kind is an occasion to listen to the other and reason with him or her until he or she sees the need to abandon his or her fanaticism.

Engaging in activities of this sort can hardly constitute a base for a charge of treason.

A closer look at the other charges against Mr. al-Amine reveals the true reasons behind the plot against him. He is accused of “constantly attacking the resistance and its martyrs, inciting the sects against each other, sowing intrigues and controversies, and violating the legal rules of the Jaafari school of thought.” Obviously, such charges represent Hezbollah’s point of view only, since this party has monopolized the legal representation of Lebanon’s Shias.

Mr. al-Amine’s problem, therefore, is with Hezbollah and only Hezbollah. However, the Lebanese judiciary played an unworthy role when it tried to cover up this problem with the charge of meeting with Jewish clerics, which was expressed by the logic of the allegation of meeting with Israeli officials in Bahrain, an unfortunate and ill-intended play on words.

As to Mr. Ali al-Amin, he began expecting the worst ever since he decided to tell the truth. However, the incident reveals a double failure: the failure of the mini state when it though it could use the larger state in the service of its minor problems, and the failure of the real state to give any importance or dignity to its institutions by reducing their role to serving the narrow interests of the mini state.