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.