British ambassador’s praise of Fadlallah criticised


Frances Guy, Britain’s ambassador to Lebanon, has been criticised by Israel over a blog posting on the death of the controversial senior Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah on July 4. The British Foreign Office has removed the posting, titled “The Passing of Decent Men” from the UK’s Lebanon embassy web page.

In her blog, Ms Guy called Ayatollah Fadlallah the public figure she most enjoyed meeting in Lebanon. “The world needs more men like him willing to reach out across faiths, acknowledging the reality of the modern world and daring to confront old constraints. May he rest in peace,” she wrote.

The cleric, revered across the Shia world, was fiercely anti-American and anti-Israeli, and had been regarded as a spiritual inspiration for Hizbollah, the armed Shia group that is confronting Israel. He issued edicts justifying suicide attacks on foreign troops in Lebanon. But he was regarded by some as a relative moderate on women’s and social issues.

The Israeli ministry of Foreign Affairs said: “The British ambassador must decide whether promoting terror and giving it religious justification can be considered a heritage to be cherished.”

Britain’s Foreign Office said Ms Guy’s blog post had been removed because it reflected her personal thoughts, not the government’s official position.

The ambassador is the second high-profile figure to receive criticism for online comments on Ayatollah Fadlallah’s death. Veteran CNN Middle East editor Octavia Nasr was fired after posting this message to her CNN Twitter feed: “Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah. One of Hizbollah’s giants I respect a lot.”

Ms Nasr later said she was remarking on his stance on women’s rights.

By: Ferry Biedermann, FT