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Moderates silent majority in Arab World

George Emile Irani is Associate Professor in International Relations at the American University of Kuwait — Editor

By George Emile Irani

I AM writing from Beirut where I came to visit with family and friends for the holidays. These are sad times for Lebanon. Today I attended the funerals of the late Mohamad Chatah, former finance minister and Lebanon’s ambassador to Washington. I have met Dr Chatah twice once in the US capital and the second time in the offices of Lebanon’s prime minister. Chatah was a brilliant mind and had the safety and survival of his country utmost on his mind.

In a posthumous letter published in the Wall Street Journal Chatah urged the Iranian President Rouhani to help in protecting and respecting the neutrality of Lebanon. In his letter Chatah urged the Iranian leader to impress on Hezbollah to stop its military involvement in the Syrian civil war. Chatah also called upon Rouhani to convince Hezbollah to get rid of its weapons.

Today, at the funerals in downtown Beirut large posters with Chatah’s portraits were displayed with the words shahid al itidal (the Martyr of Moderation). How true these words are in describing the late economist diplomat and politician! In the Middle East today we live in a violent era. Extremists of all sorts are trying to scare and deter any voices of rationality and dialogue. Extremists are scared of moderates because they feel challenged. Moderates are successful. Moderates show the insanity of using violence to achieve political aims. Moderates are living examples of civility while extremists are the violent children of desperation. Throughout history, extremists of all sorts have emerged in times of transition and have ended up bringing disaster and wreaking havoc to their respective societies.

At the funeral today I was stopped by a journalist who was wondering whether Chatah’s brutal death was a message to deter other moderate politicians in Lebanon. I replied that one could speculate on a possible motive for his killing but what is clear is that moderates constitute the majority of Lebanon’s population. Moderates are the silent majority in the Arab world.

One clear message from this latest tragic event in this hapless country is that the time has come for the Lebanese to reassert their sovereignty. The first and fundamental step is the formation of a new government. Lebanon has been without a government for the last 9 months. The following step is to empower the state to take control over law and order in the country. Lebanon today looks more like a Hobbesian jungle rather than Plato’s virtuous republic.

By: George Emile Irani

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