"Yes But"

The attitude of Sunnis to Ahmed el Assir is infuriating the rest of the Lebanese

Back in the early 2000s after the September 11 attacks in the US and other terrorist bombings in places like London, western commentators were writing about a strange phenomenon among Muslims: Many of them, even the moderate ones, refuse to absolutely and unequivocally denounce bin Laden, and if they do, they always rush to point that bin Laden’s actions took place because of x, y and z (usually America’s policy of protecting Israel and propping up Arab dictators).

That attitude drove the observers mad because it didn’t make sense that otherwise sensible and decent people can’t get themselves to denounce, clearly and with absolutely no qualifications, actions that result in the deaths of hundreds of innocent people.

From the Muslim point of view, there was a sense that yes, Bin laden was a mad man, but America brought this onto itself and its policies were the reason he existed. Asking normal Muslims to disown him, they thought, as if they were somehow responsible for his actions, adds insult to injury.


In Lebanon today, we are facing a similar dynamic with Ahmad el Assir, whose actions (killing 10s of Lebanese soldiers and turning Saida into a warzone) are unforgivable.

There is a sense in non-Sunni Lebanon that the Sunnis secretly support Ahmad el Assir. There is a general impression that even if the Sunnis don’t support him, they somehow approve of the situation he created because it allows them to blame Hezbollah for it. Moderate Sunni politicians don’t seem quite 100% forceful in their denouncements of Al-Assir, and Sunnis on facebook are not as zealous as others in posting photos of the dead soldiers. Besides, why is it that roads get cut off “in support of Assir” in Sunni areas? Why aren’t the moderates preventing them? The silence of moderate Sunnis is deafening to the others.

From the Sunni point of view, the moderates resent having to answer for the actions of one fanatic, and somehow seem to understand the environment in which Assir (and others) got radicalized. Hariri supporters hate Al-Assir as much as the next Lebanese, but they are telling everyone who would listen that Hezbollah, by ejecting the moderate Sunni leader (Hariri), brought Al-Assir and his ilk to themselves.

Meanwhile, the non-“moderates”, the militant Sunnis who really believe that there is a Sunni-vs-Shiaa war going on, see a blatant double standards in how the Army deals with non-state-weapons: Why do they (the soldiers) turn a blind eye to Hezbollah’s weapons and only attack the Sunni guys?

In short, there’s a complicated mix of emotions and thoughts going on in Sunni Lebanese minds. They feel bad for the fallen soldiers, but they resent those who are focusing on the dead soldiers to demonize their sect while forgetting the “real” reason the soldiers died, ie non-state (hezbollah) weapons.

This is why they are silent.

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  • http://izuz.wordpress.com zuz

    I am a moderate Sunni and I am asking the same question too “Why the double standards? ”

    This is a Facebook status update that reflects my feelings as a moderate Sunni.

    قعود أعوج واحكي جالس, أنا الأسير ما بمثلني بس هل الجيش العتيد ما بيستقوي الا على طائفة واحدة؟ ماحدا ملاك بلبنان وكلو سلاحو عل العلن … الحدود الحمدالله مبكلة 100% إذا كان من ناحية المحتل بالجنوب أو من ناحية المحتل من الشمال والشرق… و الجيش كمان الحمدالله فارض وهرتو على كل الاحزاب من يلي عمل 7 أيار ليللي حرق المستقبل ليللي قوص على الهليكوبتر تعيتو وقتل ضابط بالجنوب … بس سبحان الله ما بيفرض وهرتو الا على يلي بيقدرلو … صحيح إنو حيطنا واطي.

    • Lebanese guy

      Smallah 3leikon 3atoul moustawta 7eytkon. It’s been 20 years claiming that hezbolla represents the tyranny and the crime, that they have full power and that they will turn us into wilayit el fakir and YET none of this has been done while they could and EASILY. During the past 10 years, they killed 1 soldier w the guy who did it went to jail. What did extremists sunnis do on the other hand?!?! Assir killed in 2 hours what hezbolla failed to do in 20 years, nahr el barid: sunni, tebbene: sunni too. Army killed: hundreds. Fa bala akl khara and use ur brain and ur education.
      One last word, iza ijrak ma2touchi, ma to2tosh el tenye nkeye bil awli.

      • http://izuz.wordpress.com zuz

        Mosta 7adeesak mabyestehal l rad.

      • zreik

        lebanese guy aka hib el shaytan guy,you are an absolute ass !! have you forgotten what hezb al 3afareet did in Beirut in 2008 ??? the many innocent people they killed do not count ? They practically burned Beirut to the ground and they have been terrorizing the streets ever since. f smallah 3leik w 3ala badanak w 3ala hal short memory elli 3andak.

      • vp@vp.net

        they killed 10’s of people in 2007, and are responsible for many political bombings. Besides, what they did or did not do is pointless: I don’t want to live with a Hezbollah sword above my head. It’s my right. Period.

    • vp@vp.net

      I am a unmoderated Christian who despises Hariri, Geagea, Aoun, Hezbollah, Jumblat, Berri, Murr and anybody who voted for them. And I agree with the moderate Sunni above.

      The sooner this Assir monkey will meet his fate the better, but there is a double standard here.

    • zahle1

      Lebanese guy, I agree that hezbolla could have done many worse things than they did. They “usually” show restraint and professionalism. However, we all know what happens when they don’t get their way politically. As stated earlier they took over Sunni areas when their illegal phone network lines were cut. They are now fighting in the Syrian war, and they were not always upfront about it all along. They are not here just to fight Israel. They keep coming up with reasons to keep their arms. First Shebaa farms, then this, then that, then they need to win in Syria to defeat Israel… They will always have a reason. They need to give up these arms, and all of us fall under the Lebanese army. We do not need one sect with all of the weapons, what type of country would do that? I don’t blame many Sunni for at least appreciating Assir challenging the double standard. He is just a wacko for shooting at our army.

  • http://hummusforthought.com HummusForThought

    Well said.

  • sanleb

    Reposting my comment from Twitter:

    i dont believe non-sunnis are demonizing sunnis in gen because of the fallen soldiers. some maybe, but others can make a difference between ‘sunni’ and ‘extremism’.

    if extremist christians attacked the army and dragged the country into war, as a moderate christian i wld back the state, even a failed one, whatever reason the extremists shld have.

    & btw, my moderate anti hezb sunni friends on FB are all backing the army openly.

  • hannad

    well said Mustafa, however, like them or not, the shiites with weapons, are smarter than what Aseer and the likes are doing: although they are in possession of a much bigger arsenal than all Salafists combined, they never (i guess?) opened fire on the army (although they can), and when one officer was killed (by accident, Hanna i guess was his name), they handed over the culprit (than they got him out of the jail, but few know that). that was one, second, the salafists got several warnings, be it in Arsal, Tripoli etc..
    As far as i can trace it, the army was “understanding” of Salafist “situation” since the infamous “invasion” of asharifyeh in Feb 2006. but when you attach them, like in Nahr el bared or Saida, with heavy losses, it will be extremely stupid of the military not to act.

  • Observer

    1. What is the reason Assir and his recently armed Salafist thugs for attacking the Lebanese Army, of all targets, in “cold blood”? We don’t know.

    2. How was Assir able to train 200 men in such a short time to take out over 20 trained army soldiers within 24 hours? A miracle.

    3. How did Hezbollah, who have been monitoring the city and specifically the area in question so closely, allow for snipers on rooftops to take out these soldiers? Because they only support the Syrian army against the Salafi extremists.

    4. Since when does the army react with such fervor to an attack and the loss of soldiers within less than two hours of the cold blooded attack taking place? Because the evidence was incontestable, but has yet to be provided to the public.

  • http://www.facebook.com/fadi.badr Fadi Badr

    there is no thing called moderate sunnis they all turn extremist when it comes to their sectfromm hariri to assir to fatah l islam all same shit sponsored by cheikh saad from twittar!!!

    • http://izuz.wordpress.com zuz

      LOL , and you know better because ??

      Ah let me guess you are an extremist muslim sunni that got infuriated by this post and started attacking the so called moderate muslims by generalizing and using hate speech !

      Did i get it right?!

      The Queen of Sheba

      • Mustapha

        He sounds more like a Sunni-hating Aounist…

      • Tony

        Whatever he sounds like, and irrelevant of his tone, I suppose it is worth looking into the case here.

        For the past 8 years, all attacks on the army came from one side (Except for the Samer Hanna incident, which was not a coordinated attack).
        Ersal, Nahr el Bared, Tripoli and now Saida.

        There’s a connection here and there is no reason to deny it.
        So, again, what is the connection and how can you explain it?

  • http://www.imlbc.worldpress.com Jessy

    How about, the Lebanese stop trying to position themselves via their religion and start using common sense ( apparently not so common) Neither party is correct. No one should have any weapons other than the army. And you should ONLY back up the army! Then maybe, just maybe, the madness would stop. Haida jeichak. Stay safe.

    • elie keyrouz

      very well said Jessy!

  • http://twitter.com/AliSleeq Ali Sleeq (@AliSleeq)

    The way I see it is, I’m against extremism (from any sect or religion), and no Sunni extremist will represent anything related to my faith or political view.

    Unfortunately, the majority of Sunni’s are easily swayed by hate speech and therefore are easily manipulated into burning tires or firing against the army.

    Being a ‘moderate’ in modern Lebanon is a losing battle. The urban middle class Sunni has been marginalized and even Tamam Salam, is not having any luck forming a government.

    Without a real leader on the ground, expect us Sunni’s to go in all directions.

  • koudou

    2 things I did not really get :
    1- How did the Hezbollah ejected the moderate Sunni leader (Hariri)?
    2- The relation between Hezbollah’s weapons and the soldiers who died yesterday

    • Charbel

      1- Terrorizing a population for years will lead that population to go towards extremism, and try to create a “counter-balance”
      2- See point 1. Extremism breads animals like assir, which causes innocents to die

  • mazid

    Roads are also cut in ‘non sunni ‘ areas, ironically in ‘support’ of the Army so this point is no longer valid, its not our bigger problem though !
    this type of action has begun as a way (the only one maybe) to get media attention from desperate Lebanese who their son’s are getting arrested and forgotten for years in the Lebanese Guantanamo (Romyeh) without any charges.
    well the thing is, as times passes this type of actions (cutting the roads) get ‘democratized’, and people has begun to accept it as a fact of life, as a conclusion i thinks its not fair to blame moderate sunni for the actions of ‘frustrated’ sunni, its time for the people in power (hezbollah) to make the least of justice … i know its sound silly if we compare it with what they are actually doing, their arrogance and their greed when it come to distributing power between political (hens sectarian) parties!
    the sad news is: we are going to see a lot of blood in Lebanon as long as the civil war id going in Syria.
    the ‘good’ news is: hezbollah is going to have a smaller role in the geopolitical map that result from this war.
    God keep our families safe !

  • http://www.facebook.com/mhd.xnx Mhd Xnx

    Hariri supporters do not hate al-assir cause all his money support and power came from hariri !! everytime his weapons were arrested by the army baheya el-hariri was the one who got him out.

    And the real reason those soldiers died has nothing to do with hezbollah !! how are you relating those ?! Hariri is the one who says all power should be in the armys hands so how is the lebanese army related to hezbollah ?!! those soldiers did not die cause they were in a war with el-assir those soldiers died in a trap !!!!

    Your reasons make no sense. And the moderate sunnis ARE expressing their anger and hatred towards el-assir. They are NOT SILENT ! So do not include them in this !!

  • Samy

    As much as your argument has some logic in it, it still based on the fallacy that Al-Assir is the result of Hezbollah’s non-state weapons!

    first of all, some shiite would argue that Hezbollah’s weapons are needed to defend a sect that the government failed to defend especially in 2006 war & even conspired against (wiki-leaks clearly showed that some ministers and politicians wanted to elongate the war regardless of the deaths and destruction). If you are to say that this same weapon was used in May 7 to subdue the opponents of Hizbollah, well, I think we all saw what happened back then and we all saw how all parties had weapons (regardless of who has more weapons than the rest).

    Second, why the hell did Al-Assir attack the Lebanese army in the first place if his problem is with Hezbollah? If he thinks there is a Sunni-Shiite war going on, then why didn’t he direct his weapons towards Hizbollah!

    Third, pin-pointing fingers on others and claiming that Sunni leaders are against Al-Assir is a false statement. Who were the people that supported Al-Assir and his movement in the first place? Who were responsible for supporting and defending him along with all the Salafists/Takfiriyien?

    Last but not least; it is a virtue to admit ones own mistakes and try to fix it. I think Sunni leader should pause and think a bit regarding the current situation in Lebanon. Supporting a terrorist to fight what they think is terrorism is exactly like having a pact with the devil! You never do pacts with the devil.

    • Anonymous

      It´s not a fallacy. Every individual that studied law knows that you cannot have a state where the law is enforcable on some people but not others. The presence of one group carrying illegal arm definitely puts us in the position where other groups also starts to arm themselves.

      I mean, how can you even bring up the 2006 war? That is the year where everyone saw how dangerous it is to have an armed groupr not under the control of the state.

      Finally. The Salafists are not a typical Lebanese sect. It´s something brought in from abroad. Who and why? Well, I can´t answer you but it certainly not to blame on the Lebanese Sunnies.

  • Tony

    There is one thing that people forget.
    Saida is the stronghold of the future movement.
    How did they let Assir get that powerful?
    Or why?

    Why haven’t they called the army to disarm him?
    Why haven’t they done that themselves?

    Same thing goes for Tripoli, also another FM stronghold.
    Same thing goes for Ersal……

    Every single time, the people shooting at the army were considered martyrs and heroes by the Future Movement.
    Why is that?

    • Charbel

      There is a very simple reason…The army never dares to do anything about Hizballah. Remember, for example, when the mokdad familty (which is openly with the Hezb) opened a military wing..no one dared to touch them. And of course, no touch, no harm.

      You are not, of course, going to tell me that if the army tried to arrest them (before they got political cover later), they wouldn’t have fired back?

      Also, people forget the multiple times where Hizb Supporters in Britel fired at the army..the army just retreated. It’s simple, they do not dare to attack them.

      Add to that the attackers of boutros harb (who fled to Dahyeh), the 4 alleged killers of Hariri (who are sheltered by the Hizb), the people who killed a person in front of the iranian embassy (whose faces are visible, but no body dares to touch them), and you will get the answer to all your questions…because no body dares to attack other parties

    • Charbel

      Plus, where in the hell did the future movement consider the shooters as “Heroes”?????

  • http://Safal Wissam

    Lebanon is the smallest yet most divided country in the world, and it’s one of the most beautiful too.
    Is not a shame on every Lebanese to look at the situation in our country and still support political parties. Wake up people. We are not toys the country is not a play ground.
    This is our life’s and our future.
    They are playing with, ma khalasna maskhara ba2a!!!
    Stop blaming this party or the other, if we all have a one goal, and we all have one country, why are we bothered by who has weapons and who did what!! our Army is our country, and who ever back them up is a country man who ever shoots back is not. its simple yet so complicated by all the ( 2ill w 2all) at the end of the day, Lebanon is our country and the army is us and civilians are us too and the politicians are also us. so who are we fighting against ??? sinnat sheats christains or druz. we all share this small piece of land. come on people !!! SERIOUSLY they had weapons and now we have weapons and next our children will inherit the hatred as most of the lebanese fathers inherited from 20 years of war. cant we just learn, are we not ” the smartest people” are we not “the city that doesn’t sleep” are we not the most beautiful country in the middle east???

  • Jeff

    I have read (in American publications) that the LAF is basically controlled by Hezbollah. Whether true or not, that is a perception that exists.

  • Anonymous

    Double standards unfortunately. If the fight was with Al Assir why Hizbu allat got involve? I do not support what Assir did and I also do not support what anyone else done to make Lebanon a war zone regardless of religion.

  • Observer

    I don’t get why “apparently” moderate Lebanese Christians believe “Lebanese” Sunnis are the end to their survival?

    What have Lebanese Sunnis and their Prime Ministers ever done beyond trying to be true Lebanese patriots, without resorting to knives, guns and bombs to prove it?

  • Dr.J

    Forgive me for being cynical, but the reality of this country is sad.

    I classify what is happening in the world as twenty first century version of Barbarism vs Civilization.

    It does not take a genius to understand that a moderate and civilized muslim is somehow skyzophrenic because modernity comes from “Others”.

    From a neutral and objective point of view, I try to analyze the identity of Lebanese people. The political borders of Lebanon are meaningless for the Sunnis and Shiites. The Shiite consider themself as part of the “Holy Shiite tribe” led by Iran and the Sunni consider themself as part of the “Holy Sunni tribe” led by Qatari and Saudi princes, Turkey, and Egypt.
    The rest of the world has adopted “let the two rival tribes” exterminate each others point of view.

    Humans identity is a complex hybrid of religion, language, ethnicity, geography. Extremism is born when one component of our identity is in danger.

  • Observer

    And the Lebanese Christians are stupid enough, but content, to pay at least $15,000 for their “official” Maronite divorces in taxes for … ?

    Salvation !

  • Fadi

    Well most of my sunni friends/relatives seemed with asseer or and definitely not with the army. And they are not religious at all.

    They see the Aseer phenomenon a result of the constant harassment and violation of diginity of sunnis by hezbo/amal thugs (which resulted in the killing/exile of most of their “leaders”)

    Shia and Druze are armed to the teeth, sunnis can only take slaps on their cheeks, it’s definitely time to grow some balls for everyone (ie own some guns) and as for christians they are another story and live in other areas

    The army was definitely used by the shia alliance to do its dirty job of silencing the only voice opposing their thugishness and it was supported by the hezbo/amal militia on the ground who were shelling the mosque the whole time from the surrounding hills.

    Hezbo has succesfully terrorized all media not to mention their leading of the battle and no TV stations were daring to mention their presence, even bahia’s house was surrounded by them and they snipped onto guards who are inside her palace! this is how the hezbo deals with weak emasculated and unarmed sunnis, and that’s why being armed like Alaseer is the best alternative

    Finally the only mistake Alaseer did is being trapped into a confrontation with the puppet of hezbo army, who miraculously had all those poor chrisitan soldiers die for a stupid retarted cause. They wouldn’t use sunni soldiers because that would break the army. Not shia because that would make the reason of attack too obvious and sunnis will all become alaseer, but christians so that it seems neutral army-ish and fair.. it did fool 90% of the lebanese sheep, may those soldiers and the islamists too rest in peace

  • Anonymous

    What a biased article. Firs of all. How can you talk about “them” when you are talking about Sunnies? There is no THEM. There is ordinary people on the ground that want to live their lifes in a decent way. Trying to merge them in some kind of collective group that all think the same is nothing more than racism.
    Second. you ask yourself why the moderate sunnies arent stopping the militant ones from closing the roads. Why dont you do it? you really think that a “moderate sunni” as you call them will risk getting their throat cut by trying to stop the extremists? Seems you don´t live in Lebanon suggesting such a ridiculous thing.

    Finally, this Asir hype is now gone. They had weopons for a couple of months. Hezbollah on the other hand has been carrying weopons for 12 years to long than they should.