Writer’s view is personal, must not be
Nasrallah - new hero of the Islamic world
Sender: Nurrudin Ikmal
By: Ezzedin Said – JERUSALEM
The Islamic world has a new hero. In Muslim
countries from Morocco to Indonesia, Hezbollah leader Hassan
Nasrallah is being feted as the man who took on mighty Israel
- and is winning.
Even in London, some marchers demanding a ceasefire in the
Lebanon conflict on Saturday carried placards emblazoned with
portraits of the charismatic chief of the Shiite militia that
captured two Israeli soldiers on July 12 in a bid to force an
exchange of prisoners with the Jewish state.
Nasrallah may not have predicted the ferocity of the response
to his group's actions, but in the month since Prime Minister
Ehud Olmert unleashed his air force against Lebanon Hezbollah
has continued to rain rocket fire across the border into
Some of the young London marchers chanted slogans urging
Nasrallah to target Tel Aviv with his missiles, a wish echoed
at demonstrations across the Muslim world.
In Morocco, they shouted "Well-loved Nasrallah, destroy Tel
Aviv!" in Casablanca on Sunday, as well as "We are all
Hezbollah, we are all Nasrallah!" and "Allah, give victory to
In Spain, where the country's half million Muslims are
regarded as moderate and well-integrated into the population
of 44 million, support for Nasrallah is strong within their
Nasrallah "fights to liberate his country" according to Riay
Tatary of the Union of Muslim Communities in Spain, expressing
his "support for the resistance".
Protestors in the capital of Austria, which is home to about
400,000 Muslims, chanted "Nasrallah, please, bombard Tel
Aviv!" at a 130-strong rally Saturday.
Even in key US ally Jordan, which has a peace treaty with
neighbouring Israel, protesters brandish huge portraits of the
Hezbollah chief and chant for a Hezbollah victory.
Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Shiites thronged Baghdad on
Friday chanting "Death to Israel!" and "Resistance!" in a
massive demonstration of support for Hezbollah.
It was the largest foreign show of support for the Lebanese
guerrillas since Israel launched its offensive.
In Pakistan, Nasrallah may not yet be as popular a figure as
Al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden, but large portraits of the
bearded and bespectacled leader, wearing the black turban
reserved for Shiite clerics, feature at increasingly frequent
anti-Israel demonstrations, especially by the minority Shiite
He has also attracted the support of some of Pakistan's
majority Sunni community for resisting Israeli attacks.
Afghanistan's population is also predominantly Sunni, but
there too support for Hezbollah is growing. This is a country
where the Lebanon conflict has a special resonance - and where
Western troops have been blamed for scores of civilian deaths
since a coalition led by Israel's ally the United States
toppled the Taliban regime in 2001.
Given the omnipresence of foreign forces in the capital Kabul,
however, portraits of Nasrallah are generally not on open
"I can foresee the day they will be the heroes of the Islamic
world," Kabul university lecturer Mohammed Zubair said.
"Hezbollah is a terrorist group, but by the ignorant and
unfair attacks of Israel on innocent people and sovereign
countries, such terrorist organisations become legitimate in
In Indonesia, the Muslim world's most populous nation,
Nasrallah's status is rising amid increased anti-Israel
Bangladesh even named a bridge after Hezbollah, and it was
opened by the country's junior communications minister.
"I named the bridge Hezbollah because of our love for the
Lebanese resistance group," Salahuddin Ahmed said.
"Hezbollah is the only group which is fighting Israel, and the
bridge is named after the group as a mark of honour," he said.
Support for Hezbollah is also as strong within some parts of
Israel itself as it is in Lebanon, the Syria- and
Iran-supported group's base since its formation in 1982 in
response to Israel's invasion of the country.
Among the narrow streets and alleyways of old east Jerusalem,
occupied by Israel in 1967, cassettes and CDs of songs
praising Hezbollah and Nasrallah are on sale.
Nasrallah, 45, is a skilled orator with a sense of humour
unusual among fundamentalist movements in the Middle East.
He was elected Hezbollah secretary-general in 1992 after
Israel killed his predecessor Abbas al-Musawi, his wife and
three-year-old daughter in an air strike.
Jerusalem Arab traders bereft of the usual tourist custom
huddle to discuss the latest developments in Lebanon and
"I'm happy to see Israeli soldiers drop like flies," said
Jabra Nazmi, 25, owner of a store that sells cloth. "Killed
Hezbollah fighters? They go to paradise as martyrs."
Khaled Tamimi, a 42-year-old boutique proprietor, said people
"admire Nasrallah as they admired (former Iraqi president)
Saddam Hussein. He's someone who has stood up to Israel that
has occupied us for 40 years."
He explained that Palestinians feel so let down by Arab
presidents and kings that they bestow hero status on "whatever
leader hostile to Israel and the United States".
"Israel was considered the greatest military power in the
Middle East, and Hassan Nasrallah has dragged it through the
mud," added Jawad al-Risheq, 54.
According to Tamimi, Arab leaders such as Egyptian President
Hosni Mubarak and "the two Abdullahs" - the kings of Jordan
and Saudi Arabia - "are accomplices" in Israel's Lebanon
"Certainly Nasrallah is a hero," he said, "especially when you
compare him to a traitor like Mubarak."
In an interview published on August 3 by two Jordanian
dailies, King Abdullah II admitted that for many Arabs
Hezbollah has indeed assumed a heroic mantle.
"The Arab people now considers Hezbollah a hero because they
are confronting the enemy (Israel) and protecting their land,"
the monarch said.
"Even if Hezbollah is destroyed, another Hezbollah would
emerge within a year or two somewhere else, maybe in Jordan,
in Syria, in Egypt or in Iraq. Israel must realise that," he
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