Michael Totten has spent much time in Lebanon recording the events over the last couple of years. He has also reported directly from Hezbollah controlled areas and interviewed many Shiites and followers of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. But it’s the interview with Shiite cleric Sayyed Mohammad Ali El Husseini that you need to read.
Husseini on moderate Muslims vs. Radical Islamists:
"Yes, I know. I published this," he said as he held up his book, "to explain the difference between the religion and those who are pretending to follow the religion. The proof of my words is that Mr. Bush said we must differentiate between the kinds of Muslims. I have faith in peace. That is why I am sitting with you. That I am Muslim and you are Christian doesn’t matter because I believe in peace."
Husseini on Islam and Democracy:
(Totten): I read his book, and he didn’t actually address this directly. But it’s obvious after reading his work that he doesn’t think Islam and democracy are incompatible. He clearly favors democracy, and he assumes it self-evident that it’s the best form of government. Dictatorship, he explicitly says, is just another form of violence and terrorism.
Husseini on why Hezbollah is so popular among Lebanese Shiites:
What did Hezbollah do to become popular up until now? They had four hospitals in the dahiyeh. They had 30 madrassas, or schools. They had 30 foundations for supporting work for the people. Also they bring engineers, doctors, and they have plenty of money. They have a TV channel, radio, newspapers, soldiers. They are a country inside a country, a government inside a government. They have all the money. They have the force to do this. They pushed so hard to help the people that all the poor Shia and some of the rich support them.
Totten notes that the Lebanese government has tried to offer services to the poor in southern Lebanon, but that the Hezbollah prevents them from doing it, knowing that as soon as the official government provides for them, support for Hezbollah will plummet.
Hussseini on Iraq:
"The problem is not with American policy," he said, "but with the countries around Iraq. America did a good job for the Iraqi people. The problem is not only with Syria and Iran, but a clash between the old dictatorship and the Arab democracy. The countries around Iraq have radical dictatorships and they are against democracy. If democracy succeeds in Iraq it will be a good view for the other countries. That is why they are fighting."
He also speaks of Israel and how Shiites feel about Lebanon in general. Read the whole thing.