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Opinion: Al-Qaeda’s Lebanese Video | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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In this file photo taken Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013, Lebanese people gather at the scene where two explosions have struck near the Iranian Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein, File)

The video recently released by the Abdullah Azzam Brigades entitled “The Iranian Embassy Raid” may not give much information. It shows Lebanese suicide bomber Mouin Abu Dahir from Sidon, who was raised in a depressed, marginalized environment. He became a fighter in Sunni cleric Sheikh Ahmad Al-Assir’s group, which culminated in his blowing himself up in an operation that targeted the Iranian embassy in Beirut, killing 23 people, mostly civilians.

The video follows the same format consistently used by Al-Qaeda in presenting its youth before driving them to their deaths, with sectarian discourse in place of reason. This is the first Lebanese video and it has been late in coming out, months after the attack on the Iranian embassy. In it Abu Dahir threatens that more suicide attackers will target Hezbollah. The recording, which is embossed with the insignia of the Al-Awza’i Foundation—apparently the Lebanese version of Al-Qaeda’s media wing, Al-Sahab—looked like a Lebanese production.

The producers were keen to highlight some parts under the title “Iran’s crimes and its tools against Sunnis,” which contained pictures of bodies of people killed in Syria and speeches by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, supporting his party’s fight alongside the Syrian regime.

However, the most worrying part of the video is when Dahir addresses Sunni clerics: “I call on our scholars to urge our youth to commit to jihad, because it is a duty, and if you move, the youth will move with you.”

In fact, just as the video appeared, journalists in Amman following the trial of extremist religious cleric Abu Qatada reported his support for suicide attacks in Lebanon. When a journalist asked Abu Qatada about the civilians who were killed in the explosions, he said: “Hezbollah is responsible and the indisputable religious opinion is that they all met what they deserve, according to their intentions.” Qatada issued a fatwa to kill in the 1990s, which terrorist groups in Algeria used to kill civilians, including children.

Some call on journalists to re-think the broadcasting of videos that call for sectarian killings and include statements by extremist clerics, saying they might increase the susceptibility of troubled youth such as Dahir and persuade them to join the ongoing killing spree. However, the ability of news, photographs and videos to reach people is greater than the attempts to control them, and doing so is not a deterrent to those actions in the first place.

Here, we must admit that attempts to contain extremist ideology do not work without the admission of the greater sin which was committed, and is still being committed, by Hezbollah in its participation in the fight alongside the Syrian regime, and its contribution to intensifying sectarian tensions.

The important part of fighting takfirism and extremism is that attempts to do so must target both the internal and external causes of the phenomenon, represented on the inside by Qatada and his takfirist ideology, and on the outside by Hezbollah.

Anything less than this, and we will continue to receive videos and statements while we live through daily explosions and deaths.