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Thousands gather for Shiite cleric Fadlallah's funeral

Thousands gathered outside of Beirut Tuesday to attend the funeral of top Shiite cleric Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, who died on Sunday aged 75. Although listed as a "terrorist" by the US, he was also seen by many as a modern face of Islam.


AFP - Thousands of mourners gathered in south Beirut on Tuesday for the funeral of top Shiite cleric Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, seen by many as a modern face of Islam but also named on a US "terrorist" list.

Lebanon was holding an official day of mourning for the grand ayatollah, who died in hospital on Sunday at the age of 75 of internal bleeding.

Dressed in black from head to toe, Fadlallah's followers and admirers converged on Beirut's southern suburbs, a stronghold of the Shiite militant group Hezbollah, to take part in a funeral procession.

The procession was leaving from Fadlallah's home to the Hassanein mosque for the burial.

A top authority of Shiite Islam revered in Lebanon and the region, including Iraq where he was born, Fadlallah was known for his modern and moderate social views when issuing fatwas, or religious edicts.

His fatwas banned female circumcision and the "honour killing" of women by male relatives.

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Fadlallah -- a complex, charismatic figure who supported suicide attacks on Israel yet denounced the attacks of September 11, 2001 -- rose in the ranks of Lebanon's Shiite community three decades ago.

He was considered the spiritual guide of Hezbollah when it was founded in 1982 with the support of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard.

Fadlallah gained political leverage during Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war, but his ties to Hezbollah strained as the war progressed and he distanced himself from the movement's ideological ties to Iran.

He also held particular sway with the Dawa Party of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki that he also helped to found in 1957.

In the 1980s, the US media alleged Fadlallah was behind the taking of American hostages by Iranian-backed radical Islamic groups. Other reports suggested he was a mediator, but his actual role remained elusive.

The Shiite cleric frequently blasted US policies in the Middle East, especially the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq and Washington's ties with Israel, although he condemned the 9/11 attacks on the United States.

Fadlallah also remained an advocate of suicide attacks as a means of fighting Israel and last year issued a fatwa forbidding the normalisation of ties with the Jewish state.

Along with Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, Fadlallah's name appears on a US list of "Specially Designated Terrorists."


Photo credit: Sonia Dridi


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