In an interview with Al-Akhbar, the Lebanese city of Saida’s Sheikh Maher Hammoud says he is not optimistic that the religious trends legitimizing terrorist attacks against other Muslims can be eradicated anytime soon.
Al-Akhbar: What do you make of the recent double suicide bombing that took place against the Iranian embassy in Beirut?
Maher Hammoud: I think they are a natural extension of what is going on in Syria. Those parties that have been fomenting sectarian hatred in Syria, and those who are funding it, are prepared to do anything in the service of the United States and Israel. At first, Qatar took on the task of toppling the regime and financing the fighters, and they failed. Now it is Saudi Arabia’s turn, with a green light from the Americans.
Al-Akhbar: Do you believe, as has been reported in the media, that the al-Qaeda-affiliated Abdullah Azzam Brigades were behind the attack?
Hammoud: No, I don’t think this is the work of a group this size. It’s apparent from the scale of the explosions that this was planned by much larger organizations, which had precise information about the ambassador’s schedule that day and had targeted him as he was departing for an appointment.
Al-Akhbar: Some attribute the attack to Hezbollah’s military involvement in Syria. What is your opinion?
Hammoud: We have to be level-headed about this as much as possible. There are people, due to their simplicity or a personal affront of some kind, who cannot accept Hezbollah’s involvement in the war in Syria. Even I was angry when I first heard of the death of a Hezbollah fighter there, and I sent a letter to [Hezbollah Secretary General] Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah warning him about the dangers of such an undertaking. But my view changed when I heard some of the details of what was happening in Syria from Nasrallah personally.
Al-Akhbar: What are these details?
Hammoud: Not all the information can be made public. Some of it is hard for an ordinary citizen who doesn’t trust Hezbollah to believe, such as assassinations and massacres committed against the Shia and Alawis in Homs and elsewhere.
Al-Akhbar: You said that you were uneasy about Hezbollah’s involvement at first. What changed?
Hammoud: Now that we have groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and al-Nusra Front who are supposed to represent an alternative to the regime, even the moderate Islamists cannot arrive at any kind of understanding with them.
Al-Akhbar: How do they justify sending young men to their death in this way, particularly to kill other Muslims like them?
Hammoud: There is no justification in Islam related to suicide attacks. They act according to their whims, and their sheikh is the Internet. No clergy worth their weight are carefully considering such matters. They are pretenders who take bits and pieces of religious texts and issue fatwas that are suitable to them.
Al-Akhbar: How is this allowed to happen? Where are the sheikhs who can be trusted?
Hammoud: We cannot underestimate the influence of Saudi and Wahhabi thought. Whether we like it or not, the Saudis control many of the Islamist movements, and many more seek its acceptance. The Salafi approach to dealing with religious texts is extremely superficial. They believe that the sect to which most Iranians belong is flawed, and therefore reject everything the country does.
Al-Akhbar: Is it plausible to believe that there will be any kind of meaningful change in this kind of religious teaching?
Hammoud: If we want to be realistic, reforms along these lines are not possible anytime soon. We tried once, but we could not follow up because the environment was so hostile. Many things would happen that widened the sectarian divide. It’s high-time that we do this, but no one is listening and Saudi money is doing its work.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.