Lebanon War Strengthens Religious Extremists in Arab World

[AP/Washington Post] Nadia Abou el-Magd - Around the Arab world, Hizballah and its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, have emerged as popular heroes because of the tougher-than-expected resistance it put up in the 34-day war with Israel. "The last thing I expected is to fall in love with a turbaned cleric," wrote Howeida Taha, a secular Egyptian columnist, in Al-Quds al-Arabi this week. "Thanks be to God and to Hizballah," read the banner of the Egyptian weekly Al-Destour on Wednesday. "I want to marry one of Nasrallah's three boys and dedicate myself to resistance," Noha Hussein, a university student in Cairo, wrote on an Islamist website for youth. Yet behind the outpouring of support for Hizballah in recent days, some observers are increasingly worried about the rising power of religious extremists. "The crux of the problem in Lebanon is that a political movement became bigger than the state," said Maamoun Fandy, director of the Middle East program at London's International Institute for Strategic Studies. "In many Arab and Muslim states...[the] message is that movements can do what states failed to do." Jordan's former information minister, Saleh Qallab, said Hizballah's new strength could now be turned against the anti-Syrian, pro-democracy movement that gained power in Lebanon last year - "which means that a civil war is imminent in Lebanon, unless a miracle occurs. Do we call this a victory?"

2006-08-18 01:00:00

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