In Middle Eastern culture, the concept of honor carries much weight. Everyone is expected to behave in a way that brings honor to himself, his immediate and extended family, his community and every political or social milieu to which he belongs. It goes without saying that a person must refrain from actions that bring shame upon himself, because those connected to him in any way also suffer from that shame.
The highest honor man can achieve is by choosing well the way in which he sacrifices his life, because if he is willing to give up his dearest possession, life, to bring honor to his milieu, the group he is a part of will bestow upon him all it can give in return: honor, praise, poems, economic support for his widow, his bereaved parents and young children.
On the other hand, if a man dies in disgraceful circumstances, his relatives will expend much effort to hide the cause of his death so as not to suffer the results of his deplorable activities. They will make up an honorable story of how he died, perhaps claiming for it to have happened during battle with an enemy, this in order to be eligible for the rewards society grants the relatives of a shaheed. The effort to hide the real story of a disgraceful death grows exponentially with the social status of the deceased’s parents, since they have much to lose, especially in terms of status.
The problem is exacerbated if and when the family’s fabricated story is exposed as a lie, because the sin of lying adds to the shame caused by their son’s abject death. This situation is known as fadikha, a ripe one for the character assassination of political, national, tribal, religious and ethnic rivals and for casting aspersions on their legitimacy.
Recently, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, found himself the object of a delegitimization and shaming campaign led by his opponents in the Arab world. His son, Muhammad Hadi, was killed in 1997, and ever since, Hezbollah recounts the tale of how he fell in battle as a shaheed. Except that about two years ago, an Algerian journalist Anwar Malakh, revealed that according to Syrian Intelligence documents, Hadi, son of Hassan Nasrallah, did not die a martyr’s death in a battle against Israeli forces, but was killed in a fight that broke out between partygoers in a Beirut nightclub. A nightclub is the last place in the world that Nasrallah would want his son to even have entered. Liquor flows like water in these nightspots and Islam’s high moral standards are not in evidence. As far as Hadi is concerned, he is said to have died in a barroom brawl.
Nasrallah’s acute problem is that if this is really what happened to his son, his own legitimacy as a leader will be undermined, as well as the moral integrity he needs to possess in order to send his men to battle and death for the ideals and interests of the Lebanese Shiites, foremost among them the will to survive the Sunni Jihad onslaughts of the Syrian rebels and Islamic State. The story of his son’s fadikha and the lies spread about how he died are painful evidence of Nasrallah’s lowered status, certainly in comparison to the heights of popularity he reached in 2006 after the glorious sacrifices of his soldiers in the Second Lebanon War.
For a while, Hassan Nasrallah did not allude to the alleged “exposé” of the real circumstances of his son’s death, at least not directly, no doubt fearing that any mention of it – even a denial – would serve to fan the flames and turn it into a topic for discussion. Nasrallah changed his tune last month, however, and flatly denied the “reports” in a speech he delivered in memory of one of the Shiite leaders, Mahmud Khaton, with whose female relative Hadi was supposed to have been carrying on a romance.
That change in Nasrallah’s customary behavior in relating to the rumors led to the social media being flooded by stories about him and his son. His opponents have not shied away from all kinds of epithets, incuding “the leader of the party of Satan” and “the victor of Satan” (instead of the victor of God). Shiites are presented as “Abna Alm’uta”, sons of women paid to be “wed” for an agreed upon limited period (a practice permitted in Shia Islam.) Hezbollah fighters are being described as rats collapsing in droves on the Jihad battlefields of Syria while defending the criminal Bashar and trying to please the Persians (considered an insulting name for Iranians).
Nasrallah is described as a Shiite vampire thirsting for Sunni blood, who lied about preparing for the fight against the Zionists to explain his need for arms and rockets, but who was actually piling up stores of weapons in order to attack Arabs and Muslims in Syria. He has even been called “Guardian of Israel.”
This accusation has become more serious in the last few days, as photos and videos are being leaked showing men, women and children dying of hunger in towns such as Madaaya (near Damascus), Foua and Kefraya (near Aleppo) because they and other towns are under a long term siege maintained by both Hezbollah and the anti-Assad rebels. The horrifying photographs have shocked the entire Arab and Muslim world, placing Hezbollah crimes against innocent and starving children, women and the elderly under a magnifying glass.
To the war in Syria and the Shiite-Sunni conflict has now been added coarse, rude, infuriating rhetoric that serves a function similar to that of the poet in the pre-Islamic period whose mission was to heat up the warriors so that they would fight harder, united in a common cause. The battle to the death going on in Syria has brought its participants down to unprecedented lows in moral depravity, trampling every law of civilization, as both sides turn into beasts of prey lacking all restraint.
There is no compromise on the horizon, both sides are fighting in the hopes of totally destroying the other side. Russian, Iranian, Turkish and Saudi intervention adds jet fuel to the fires of conflict, and a solution is as far off as ever.
Ordinary citizens, like rocks ground into dust in a giant mill, have no influence on what is happening. They must try to hold on to the vestiges of their humanity, so as to perhaps be the seedlings from which a new society might one day arise in Syria, one that remembers the lesson to be learned from what it has just undergone.
The fadikha Nasrallah is undergoing because of his son is but a poor man’s consolation to the Sunnis suffering from the greatest humanitarian crisis the world has seen since WWII.
Israel must stay alert to prevent being drawn into the boiling marshy waters of the land once called Syria, a country that has ceased to exist.
Reprinted with author’s permission from Israel National News