The New Kids On The Block

Collection with 15 media items created by U.S. Editor

05 Dec 2012 10:00

The new kids on the block

The emergence of the Sunni extremists groups in Lebanon

Photo-reportage by Randa Mirza

In October 2011, I started covering the Syrian revolution and the repercussions for Lebanon; the “Arab spring” had finally reached Syria. Throughout the year, I found myself increasingly reporting on Lebanese Sunni extremists groups, which used to play a very marginal role in the political life of Lebanon prior to the Syrian uprising.

The emergence of the Sunni extremists in Lebanon was first catalyzed by the “Arab Spring” that led to the fall of dictators and authoritarian regimes; traditionally oppressive against Muslim extremists, and lately from the conflict in Syria.

The Syrian conflict is reinforced by the wide spectrum of Lebanese Sunni groups, and principally by the most extreme ones, in their struggle for political gains in Lebanon.

The Lebanese Sunni extremists do not share the same position towards the Syrian uprising. However, a majority endorses the Syrian people’s fight for freedom against the secular, non-Sunni dictator. Hezbollah is perceived as a foe since the Shia party has pledged allegiance to the Syrian Alawite regime increasing the split between the Sunni and Shia communities in Lebanon.

Sunni Shia Salafis Islam Extremist Syrian Revol... Conflict Hezbollah Politics Religion Mena

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First Sunni Fundamentalist Demonstrat...
Beirut, Lebanon
By Randa Mirza
04 Mar 2012

Hundreds of Sunni extremists from all over Lebanon responded to Sheikh Ahmad Al-Assir call for demonstration in Beirut’s downtown on March 4th, 2012.
Sheikh Al-Assir’s rally is the first gathering ever organized by a Sunni fundamentalist group in the Lebanese capital’s main square.

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Pro-Syrian Regime Demonstration in Do...
Beirut, Lebanon
By Randa Mirza
04 Mar 2012

A counter-demonstration organized by the Syrian regime’s supporters in Lebanon took place on the same day in a nearby Square in Beirut’s downtown. The demonstrators bashed King Faisal’s portrait, accusing the Saudi king of fueling the conflict in Syria by supporting, financially and militarily, the Syrian rebellion and the Sunni fundamentalist groups fighting in Syria.

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Sheikh Oussama Al-Rafei
Tripoli, Lebanon
By Randa Mirza
14 May 2012

On the May 13th, the Lebanese authorities arrested a Lebanese Islamist called Chadi Al-Mawlawi, a disciple of Sheikh Oussama Al-Rafii (pictured), accusing him of being part of a terrorist cell. The arrest triggered a sit-in endorsed by different Sunni fundamentalist groups who claimed that Al-Mawlawi was only providing humanitarian aids to the Syrian refugees. In a country divided between pro and anti-Assad supporters, judiciary cases often give way to radical political interpretations.

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Shiekh Ahmad Abed Al-Wahed's Funeral
Tripoli, Lebanon
By Randa Mirza
21 May 2012

On the May 20th, at a checkpoint in Akkar (Northern Lebanon), the Lebanese army killed Sheikh Ahmad Abed Al-Wahed by firing his convoy. Military officials asserted that the Sunni Sheikh was shot because he did not stop at the checkpoint and his bodyguards opened fire on the military.

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Armed Militiamen
Tripoli, Lebanon
By Randa Mirza
21 May 2012

Sheikh Ahmad Abed Al-Wahed burial took place in the midst of threats directed by Sunni figures against the Lebanese army they accused of being biased in favor of Hezbollah. The Sheikh’s supporters assumed that the Lebanese army murdered the Sheikh because he was one of the most prominent supporters of the Syrian revolution in Lebanon while supporters of the Syrian regime claimed he was smuggling weapons in to the rebels in Syria.

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Sunni Men Praying at the Sheikh's Fun...
Tripoli, Lebanon
By Randa Mirza
21 May 2012

On Sheikh Ahmad Abed Al-Wahed's burial day, different Sunni groups across Lebanon swore allegiance in solidarity with revolutionaries against the Iran-Syria axis. Sunni extremists are now part of major Sunni gatherings and sit-ins.

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Wissam Al-Hassan's Funeral
Beirut, Lebanon
By Randa Mirza
21 Oct 2012

On the 19th of October, a blast targeted intelligence chief Wissam al-Hassan. On October 21st, March 14th movement - a Sunni group which follows exiled leader Saad Hariri - organized a rally for al-Hassan's funeral asking for the fall of the government and Sunni extremists joined. Wissam al-Hassan was considered as a major Sunni figure, murdered for his opposition to Syria and its supporters in Lebanon.

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Assir vs. Hezbollah and a Funeral in ...
Saida, Lebanon
By Randa Mirza
12 Nov 2012

On the 10th of November, two followers of Sheikh Ahmad Al-Assir died during a fire exchange between Al-Assir’s supporters and Hezbollah members in Sidon.
It was the first bloody confrontation between a Salafi group and Hezbollah.

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Funerals in Sidon
Saida, Lebanon
By Randa Mirza
21 Nov 2012

The funeral prayers took place in the Martyrs Mosque in the center of Sidon city where Al-Assir followers exhibited their arms while chanting virulent anti-Hezbollah slogans.
Al-Assir has always declared that his movement is non violent. He claims that the few arms carried by his supporters are only aimed at their own security. Though, recently he announced plans to form an armed wing.

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Armed Men at the Funerals in Sidon
Saida, Lebanon
By Randa Mirza
21 Nov 2012

In the aftermath, Sheikh Al-Assir’s declared his intention to build the first “Sidonese Resistance Brigade” to fight against Israel and Hezbollah. Talks with different Sunni extremist personalities in Tripoli determine if a larger spectrum of the fundamentalist Sunni community will participate in the brigades.

The already unstable political life in Lebanon is coping with a new situation: the conflict between Muslim extremists.

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Sheikh Dai al islam
Tripoli, Lebanon
By Randa Mirza
22 Dec 2011

Sheikh Dai al-Islam al-Chahal at his home in Tripoli. Dai al-Islam founded the Salafi Movement in Lebanon, the Islamic Association for Guidance and Charity and The Holy Quran Radio. He operates a wide number of mosques in North Lebanon where he preaches weekly in favor of the Syrian revolution.

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Tripoli - Noor Square
Tripoli, Lebanon
By Randa Mirza
14 May 2012

Al-Noor Square has witnessed in the last months numerous demonstrations and sit-ins organized by Tripoli (Northern Lebanon) Sunni Extremists in support of the Syrian rebellion. A monumental sculpture inscribing the name of Allah centers the Square. Underneath the sculpture is written, "Tripoli, the fortress of Muslims, welcomes you."

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Islamist Demonstration
Tripoli, Lebanon
By Randa Mirza
10 Feb 2012

Since June 2011, Sunni extremists in Tripoli have organized Friday demonstrations in support of the Syrian revolution. The number of demonstrations has increased and intensified, along with gun battles - between Sunnis in Bab al-Tabbaneh and the minority Alawite sect in the neighboring area of Jabal Mohsen - as the conflict continues.

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Sheikh Chaaban
Tripoli, Lebanon
By Randa Mirza
11 Jan 2012

Sheikh Bilal Chaaban is the General Secretary of the Islamic Unity movement (Al-Tawhid), a Lebanese Sunni Muslim fundamentalist party who endorses Hezbollah’s political views in favor of the actual regime in Syria. Sheikh Chaaban preaches every Friday in support of the “Resistance axis” (Tehran-Damascus-Hezbollah and the Sunni Palestinian armed movements) against Israel.

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Sheikh Al-Assir
Saida, Lebanon
By Randa Mirza
28 Mar 2012

Sheikh Ahmad Al-Assir, a Salafist figure from Sidon (Southern Lebanon), called for a demonstration in March 2012, in the Lebanese capital in solidarity with the revolution in Syria. He was unknown before November 2011, when he first started opposing the Shia Lebanese leaders. He has become a key figure in opposing the Syrian regime and is quite popular among the Sunnis as he reflects some of their frustration towards the powerful Shia party, Hezbollah.