Growing up with Hezbollah


I’ve come across a very interesting blog posting written by an Ex-Muslim blogger who (for rather obvious reasons) writes anonymously. She describes herself as … “a victim of both religious-based violence at the hands of my own family and the crushing Western war machine in my homeland“, and has some fascinating insights about what it is like to live inside the Hezbollah bubble looking out.

This is her at the age of 16 …

This was on a hiking excursion where some of the Hezb showed us relics from the war such as tunnels in caves and hidden supply and ammo chambers in the woods, told us stories from the battles, complete with divine miracles, and let us shoot some guns into a hillside. The not-so-secret code in reference to these glorified tours was ‘Erasing Illiteracy’. Oh, the irony.

This was on a hiking excursion where some of the Hezb showed us relics from the war such as tunnels in caves and hidden supply and ammo chambers in the woods, told us stories from the battles, complete with divine miracles, and let us shoot some guns into a hillside. The not-so-secret code in reference to these glorified tours was ‘Erasing Illiteracy’. Oh, the irony.

The specific posting that caught my eye was entitled, “What it is like to grow up in Hezbollah culture”, and is a quite fascinating read. No I’m not going to re-produce it all here, but rather pluck out a few bits, comment on those, and then encourage you to go read it all instead.

OK, first point … when asked about what it was like, she comments …

I hesitate to answer, because I want them to understand. I want it phrased in a way that transcends reductionist buzzwords such as ‘terrorist Islamist organization’ that somehow create images of dirty, bearded men with convoluted security fortresses in caves, carefully plotting evil. I want it phrased in a way that accurately highlights the differences between an organization such as Al-Qaeda and Hezbollah, because they are utterly different in many relevant ways (and are in fact enemies of one another—…). And yet they are lumped into the same category

Now this is a key point, because we often, as outsiders retain a very simplistic view and do not appreciate the complexity. Islam itself is not a single belief, but rather is an umbrella that shelters a vast diversity of conflicting thinking.

Second point, when you hear the word Hezbollah, you might be inclined to think, extreme fringe military group. Well that is wrong …

Hezbollah, for all their extreme views and controlling practices, are largely a community of everyday citizens, forming, no less, an entire religious demographic in an entire country, rather than being a fringe group of hoarded-up conspirators in terrorist cells. Because there is a cognitive disconnect there, between the idea that people can do and think terrible things and have insidious, pervasive control and power, and still be normal people. We want to believe that the extremists on TV are fringe outliers steeped in evil ideology, radically unlike us. To suggest that the sort of deep-run Christian conservatism rooted in much of the Bible Belt is anything like Hezbollah might seem incredible. After all, even though many of these people are racist, controlling of women, stick to their guns (literally), and shun, ostracize, and attack those with alternative lifestyles, they don’t look different or other on the street. They are even kind and welcoming. They are considered normal, even if they commit some horrible deeds. They make you food. They give up their seat on the bus for you. They will treat you with civility on the street. They’re not wholly painted in a brush of otherness that you cannot understand.

It is not simply about a gang a thugs …

..neighbors, friends, and family back home would spread whole banquets of food on their tables for visitors, engage in friendly banter with foreigners and activists, come back from travels with gifts for everyone in their apartment buildings and workplaces, help each other out in need …

…Hezbollah has founded dozens of orphanages, boarding schools, mosques, day-schools, charity organizations, and hospitals. They organize camping trips for children and young adults.
They have boy and girl scout organizations with cute, cheery uniforms, very similar to those here in the US, where they learn a plethora of basic life skills, play games, hike, and help out their communities. They have personally funded much of the rebuilding of destroyed homes and schools after the 2006 war completely obliterated the South’s infrastructure. Admittedly it was a war they had not insignificant responsibility in instigating, and they would have suffered a severe blow in their popularity had they not showed loyalty to their supporters by rebuilding, but they nonetheless saved the fortunes and livelihood of hundreds of civilian families

Now please do not misunderstand, she is not defending them, but rather is painting an honest picture of what it really is like inside, and yet has no love for the truly abhorrent things that go on.

She goes on to talk about growing up there, and how they believe themselves to be in the centre of everything, believe in the coming of the mahdi, and how evil will be conquered by this Mahdi and bring peace.

She when you wonder about these people, what drives them and what makes them tick, well it may not be what you think it to be at all, but is in fact something very different.

The narrative you want to hear is not the narrative I have to tell

We often build up preconceived views of what we think it is all about, and then deploy criticism against something that does not actually exist, but is instead quite different … and then we might wonder why such criticism falls upon deaf ears.

If there is to be truly a reasoned critique of a belief, then .. to use her words … it needs too be …

an accurate one. One that is not based on misrepresentation, and whose premises are acknowledged by those who advocate that which is being critiqued. Obviously one that does not fall into fallacy. One also that stands up to challenge and engages challenge.

If we are going to truly criticise bad ideas and beliefs that are not actually true in an effective manner such that we motivate and inspire real change, then we should do so with both an understanding and also a compassion.

Links

  • You can read her full blog posting here

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