Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘“Jund al Sham”

King of Romance? Fadl Shaker kind?

Fadel Shaker success was a dream come true for this tough port city of Sidon on the Mediterranean coast: a poor kid whose honeyed voice and ballads of love and heartbreak rocketed him to wealth and fame far from the gun-ridden neighborhood where he grew up.

Shaker’s early life in many ways resembled the script of an Arab television melodrama. Born to a Lebanese father and a Palestinian mother, he grew up in a poor neighborhood adjacent to the Ain el-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp in Sidon. He never finished high school, but his neighbors discovered his musical talent early and booked him to sing at weddings.

Fadel Shaker became a superstar, hailed as “the king of romance,” his songs wooing masses throughout the Arab world. He bought a vast, 3-story villa with a swimming pool overlooking the city, cars, a private orchard and a beachfront restaurant where he performed at parties.

Last year, in a move that has baffled fans and friends alike, he renounced popular music as forbidden by Islam, grew a scruffy beard and took up with a hard-liner sheik.

A few weeks ago, during a deadly turf battle with the Lebanese Army in a Sidon suburb, he denounced his enemies as dogs and pigs and boasted that his group had killed two men (implicitly from Hezbollah).

Fadel has not been seen in public since, and is believed to be in hiding from the authorities in the (Palestinian) refugee camp near where he grew up. (The military compared blood samples from the family members of Fadl with the unrecognized dead, but the sample showed negative)

BEN HUBBARD Published in NYT this July 27, 2013 Once a ‘King of Romance,’ Now an Angry Militant

The transformation of Mr. Shaker, 44, (pronounced SHACK-er) from a baby-faced crooner to an angry militant has left many here dumbfounded and others angry, and raised dire questions about how the civil war in Syria has inflamed splits in Lebanese society.

The transformation of Fadel Shaker has raised dire questions about how the civil war in Syria has inflamed splits in Lebanese society.

“We were all shocked,” said Ahmed al-Naaj, a waiter in Mr. Shaker’s former restaurant. “Why would a famous singer that the whole world knows change all of a sudden like that?”

Bilal Hussein/Associated Press

More recently, Mr. Shaker has grown a scruffy beard and has taken up with the hard-line sheik Ahmad al-Assir.

The New York Times

While even those close to Mr. Shaker cannot fully account for his turnabout, most people here see it as yet another symptom of worsening sectarian tensions in Lebanon.

For years, many in this majority Sunni Muslim city have complained of the growing clout of Hezbollah, the Shiite militant group that is Lebanon’s most powerful political force. But the civil war in neighboring Syria brought relations to a new low, with Hezbollah intervening to support President Bashar al-Assad and the Sunnis backing the rebels fighting for his overthrow.

Those issues clearly rankled Mr. Shaker, a Sunni, and accelerated his militancy.

“God willing, we’ll take what we deserve with our own hands, because there is no state, there are no judges, there is nothing,” he threatened in a live television interview shortly before his disappearance. “We’re living in the jungle.”

As his fame spread, he gave larger concerts in Lebanon and abroad, releasing albums and music videos that made him a household name throughout the Arab world. His hits included romantic ballads like “O Absent One,” “I Forgot to Forget You” and “Come, My Love.”

His former chauffeur, Hani al-Sin, said that Mr. Shaker had been religious but not zealous. He prayed, but his restaurant served alcohol, and Mr. Shaker liked to play cards, which some strict Muslims consider sinful.

The first changes came gradually.

A few years ago, he informed the restaurant staff without explanation that alcohol would no longer be sold there. Some of his friends attributed the decision to family pressure. His mother was devout, and his older brother, Abdel-Rahman, had joined the Sunni militant group Jund Al-Sham.

In 2010, Mr. Shaker took the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca. He accepted fewer performances after his return and announced last year that he would sing pop music no more.

Other signs of religiosity followed. He let his beard grow and performed religious ballads at mass rallies held by Sunni groups in support of the Syrian rebels.

He also took up with a local firebrand sheik, Ahmad al-Assir, who had gained notoriety for calling for the disarming of Hezbollah and orchestrating media stunts to draw attention to his cause. Sheik Assir also spoke in support of Syria’s rebels and once traveled to Syria, where he was filmed firing a machine gun from a rooftop.

Mr. Shaker became a regular at Sheik Assir’s mosque and appeared with him in public and on television talk shows. During one interview, Mr. Shaker sang a jihadist anthem, declaring, “Do not cry for me if I fall, for death does not scare me and I intend to die a martyr.”

Underpinning Mr. Shaker’s new activism was a sense of Sunni empowerment. Lebanon’s Sunnis have complained of marginalization, and many have taken inspiration from their brethren in Syria to assert themselves in Lebanon.

Samih Arnaout, a longtime associate of Sheik Assir’s mosque, said the sheik explained his outspokenness with an Arab proverb: “Every rooster crows atop his pile of trash.”

The sheik felt that the Sunni political leaders were failing to defend their community. “So he said, ‘I’m going to crow,’ ” Mr. Arnaout recalled.

Other Sunni leaders feared such activism would create a violent backlash and sought to steer Mr. Shaker away from it.  Ahmed al-Jardali, a leader in the Lebanese branch of the Muslim Brotherhood in Sidon, said he tried to persuade Mr. Shaker to focus his piety on spiritual songs.

“Someone like Fadel could send a message much better than someone holding a rifle, so it was important for us to try to put him in the right place,” Mr. Jardali said. “But then the problems started and it was too late for him to choose a different direction.”

Last month, clashes broke out between the Lebanese Army and gunmen inside Sheik Assir’s mosque. Each side accuses the other of instigating the violence, and Sheik Assir’s followers claimed that Hezbollah fought alongside the army. More than two dozen people were killed in two days and more than 100 were wounded, most of them soldiers.

The sheik and Mr. Shaker have not been seen since, but in a video posted online, Mr. Shaker, his beard specked with gray, raised two fingers and spoke into the camera.

“We sent home two corpses for you yesterday, you dogs, you pigs,” he said. Someone off camera told him 16 soldiers had been wounded, and he responded, “May God increase their number!”

Mr. Shaker’s pride at fighting the army enraged many of his fans, and other prominent musicians denounced him.

“Sure, you can give up music and decide to be religious, but that doesn’t mean you can shoot at people,” said Azzam al-Mal, 20, who was fixing a computer in a small music store in Sidon’s old stone-walled market.

The shop’s owner said that he still sold Mr. Shaker’s CDs, but that many fewer people asked for them.

Little remains of Mr. Shaker’s former life. He sold his restaurant months ago to a man who changed the name and put alcohol back on the menu.

Gunmen ransacked his villa and came back later to set it on fire. A neighbor said that they had returned 3 times in one day to make sure the flames had taken and that repeated calls to the fire department had brought no help.

The villa is now a charred shell, its facade stained black with smoke, its windows shattered and its elaborate living room strewn with rubble. Underneath a curved staircase sits a baby grand piano, strangely untouched by the flames.

Standing in Mr. Shaker’s bedroom upstairs, where springs jutted from a burned mattress and a black chandelier hung overhead, Mr. Sin, the driver, shook his head.

“Even I have no idea what changed him,” he said. “How did he benefit from all of this?”

Hwaida Saad contributed reporting.

A version of this article appeared in print on July 28, 2013, on page A6 of the New York edition with the headline: Once a ‘King of Romance,’ Now an Angry Militant.

Right to Return: for the Palestinian refugees (June 15, 2009)

 

            There are more than 400,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and their birth rate is three times the average of the Lebanese.  The Palestinian refugees are concentrated in a dozen camps (ghettoes) and they run their communities. The Lebanese government is not extending facilities to the camps or to issuing work permits.  The UN agency UNRUWA is supposed to care for the education and health of the refugees since they were chased out from their homeland in 1948.  In the last decade the UNRUWA budget has been politically reduced to force the Lebanese government into de facto enacting residency status to the refugees.

            Lebanon facilitated the influx of the Palestinian refugees in 1948 under the perception that it was a temporary stay since UN resolution demanded the return of the Palestinians. Israel exacerbated the problem by sending another wave of refuges in 1967 after it occupied the West Bank.  The Palestinian resistance was born but it failed to rely on the Palestinians inside the State of Israel for effective resistance against the occupiers. 

            There were three camps in the Christian districts which were closed down during the civil war such the ones in Dbayeh, Jesr al Basha, and Tell al Zaatar; the Christian militias forced the evacuation of the Christian Palestinians by military activities, genocide, and terror.

            Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982 and with the cooperation of the USA and France the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) headed by Arafat was forced to evacuate Beirut to Cyprus and then to Tunisia.  The remaining camps were supposed to be the refuge of civilians and not containing any heavy weapons.

            The entrance/exits of camps are monitored by the Lebanese army and the movement of the refugees strictly controlled.  A salafist Sunni movement “Jund al Sham” challenged the army in Nahr al Bared camp in Tripoli.  This camp is demolished and waiting for financial aid to be re-constructed.

            The ex-President Emile Lahoud fought the good fight to keep the right of return of the UN resolution 194 alive during his tenure. For example, before the Summit of the Arab League in Beirut of April 2002, the Saudi Foreign Affairs Seoud Al Faissal visited President Lahoud on March 22 and handed him the project of the Saudi Monarch of “peace for land” without a specific clause of “the right of return”.  President Lahoud refused it. Lahoud was subjected to al kinds of pressures and diplomatic maneuvering to let the project as is with no modifications but he didn’t relent. The Arab leaders suggested including the “right of return” as a separate clause to no avail. The Saudi Prince Abdallah was forced to include the clause as intrinsic part of the peace for land PROJECT.  The USA vowed to make the tenure of Lahoud a period of hell for foiling their major political goal.

            It is crystal clear that the western nations have a sole political purpose for Lebanon: accepting the Palestinian refugees as Lebanese residents.  The civil war from 1975 to 1991 failed to achieve completely that goal though most of the prosperous Christian families preferred to immigrate.

            Late Rafic Hariri PM believed that an overall peace deal with Israel is highly serious and went along a program of easing the conditions of the Palestinian refugees.  It turned out that there will be no peace with Israel because Israel’s interest is not in any kind of peace.  Pragmatic Hariri realized that the social and political fabric in Lebanon cannot digest 400,000 Palestinians and he changed his strategy; he was assassinated by the detonation of a roadside truck containing 1000 kilos of TNT.

            Though the US Administration comprehends better the predicament of Lebanon it is still hoping that this tragedy could be settled at the expense of the Lebanese people. Hezbollah challenged that strategy and won its war against Israel in 2006. The leader of the Tayyar Party, General Michel Aoun, has picked up the banner of fighting any policies targeted at settling the Palestinians in Lebanon and he won by a landslide in Mount Lebanon.  The coalition of Hezbollah and the Tayyar has put a strong break to the western strategy of reducing Lebanon to a refugee status.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

July 2020
M T W T F S S
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031  

Blog Stats

  • 1,397,840 hits

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.adonisbouh@gmail.com

Join 743 other followers

%d bloggers like this: