Reconciling ‘extremist ideals’ with ‘mundane politics’: Islamic jurisprudence and teleological discourse in Hezbollah’s quiescent resistance

Darwin College Humanities and Social Sciences Group
Mike Clark
The Richard King Room, Darwin College
Tuesday, February 12, 2013 - 13:10 to 14:00

Having assumed a dominant role in Lebanese politics, and in light of events in Syria, the politics of Hezbollah are once again under the spotlight. Jihadi discourse notwithstanding, since the 2000 Israeli withdrawal, Hezbollah’s muqawama (resistance) against global and local oppression has been more rhetorical than active, a trend which has become increasingly normalised since the 2006 War. In this talk, I explain how Hezbollah has developed a non-confrontational foreign policy stance, despite its apparent existential commitment to active resistance against the forces of neo-Liberal, Zionist oppression.

I present three contextual factors which assuage the apparent dissonance between 'extremist ideals' and 'mundane politics'. Firstly, through an analysis of the party’s representation of regional and global politics, an implicit rationale justifying conflict avoidance in external relations can be clearly discerned. This may be found in the teleological aspect to the party’s ideological representation of global politics, through which the maintenance and cultivation of the factors necessary for long-term survival override otherwise seemingly paramount (short-term) interests such as liberating more land or combating US and Israeli designs. In short, existence supplants resistance as the party’s primary motivating interest. Secondly, it is contended that this profoundly teleological narrative works within the context of a core maxim of Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh), which has been demonstrated to have been adopted by the party in other areas of its policy making and which stipulates that one should ‘avoid harm before advancing interests’, a fact that grants us insight into the cognitive predisposition of Hezbollah policy makers. Finally, the impact of the Shi’i practice of taqiyya, or permitted ‘hypocrisy’ for the greater good, on decision making is examined. It is contended that, whilst Hezbollah’s declarations of resistance to US and Israeli oppression take place within a context of ta’bi’a (activism), the quiescent approach to foreign policy acts towards these actors can be understood within the context of taqiyya.

The findings from this analysis ultimately suggest that, Hezbollah’s evident engagement with realpolitik notwithstanding, the key to understanding the riddle of the party's politics remains in its ideological hinterland.

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