July 6th, 2010
06:48 PM ET

Nasr explains controversial tweet on Lebanese cleric

Fadlallah died Sunday in a hospital in Beirut, Lebanon.

My tweet was short: "Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah.. One of Hezbollah's giants I respect a lot. #Lebanon"

Reaction to my tweet was immediate, overwhelming and a provides a good lesson on why 140 characters should not be used to comment on controversial or sensitive issues, especially those dealing with the Middle East.

It was an error of judgment for me to write such a simplistic comment and I'm sorry because it conveyed that I supported Fadlallah's life's work. That's not the case at all.

Here's what I should have conveyed more fully:

I used the words "respect" and "sad" because to me as a Middle Eastern woman, Fadlallah took a contrarian and pioneering stand among Shia clerics on woman's rights. He called for the abolition of the tribal system of "honor killing." He called the practice primitive and non-productive. He warned Muslim men that abuse of women was against Islam.

I met Fadlallah in 1990. He was willing to take the risk of meeting with a young Christian journalist from the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation. Fadlallah was at the height of his power. As I was ushered in, I was told that he would not look at me in the eye and to make it quick as there was a long line of dignitaries waiting.

The interview went 45 minutes, during which I asked him about Hezbollah's agenda for an Islamic state in Lebanon. He bluntly told me that was his group's dream but there would be room for other religions. He also joked at the end of the interview that the solution for Lebanon's civil war was to send "all political leaders without exception on a ship away from Lebanon with no option to return."

He challenged me to run the entire interview on LBC without editing. We did.

This does not mean I respected him for what else he did or said. Far from it.

It is no secret that Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah hated with a vengeance the United States government and Israel. He regularly praised the terror attacks that killed Israeli citizens. And as recently as 2008, he said the numbers of Jews killed in the Holocaust were wildly inflated.

But it was his commitment to Hezbollah's original mission - resisting Israel's occupation of Lebanon - that made him popular and respected among many Lebanese, not just people of his own sect.

In 1983, as Fadlallah found his voice as a spiritual leader, Islamic Jihad - soon to morph into Hezbollah - bombed the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, killing 299 American and French peacekeepers. I lost family members in that terror attack.

And it was during his time as spiritual leader that so many Westerners were kidnapped and held hostage in Lebanon.

When the Lebanese Civil War ended in 1990 with Syria taking full control of Lebanon, Hezbollah was and remains the only armed militia in Lebanon. Under Syria's influence however, Hezbollah - declared a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union started becoming even more militant, with designs beyond Lebanon's borders to serve agendas for Syria and Iran.

Fadlallah himself was designated a terrorist by the U.S. Treasury Department.

In later years, Hezbollah's leadership apparently did not like Fadlallah's vocal criticism of Hezbollah's allegiance to Iran. Nor did they like his assertions that Hezbollah's leaders had been distracted from resistance to Israeli occupation of portions of Lebanon and had turned weapons against their own people.

At first, he was simply pushed to the side, but later wasn't even referred to as a Hezbollah member. Rather, he was referred to as the scholar - the expert on Islam - but nothing more. During the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel, his honorary title "Sayyed" - indicating that he's a descendant of the prophet - was dropped any time he was mentioned on Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV and other Hezbollah media outlets.

Through his outspoken Friday sermons and his regularly updated website, Fadlallah had a platform to spread what many considered a more moderate voice of Shia Islam than what was coming out of Iran. Immensely popular in Lebanon among the various religious groups, he also had followers across the region including in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain and even as far as Morocco in northern Africa.

Sayyed Fadlallah. Revered across borders yet designated a terrorist. Not the kind of life to be commenting about in a brief tweet. It's something I deeply regret.

soundoff (315 Responses)
  1. ojsimpson23

    Pathetic arab. Islam is a form of social retardation

    July 7, 2010 at 6:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      You must be the Grim Sleeper!

      July 9, 2010 at 12:11 am | Report abuse |
  2. m.

    bravo Octavia,it's a very good explanation.

    July 7, 2010 at 7:05 am | Report abuse |
  3. Omar

    Kevin, What i meant was the behavior of the people commenting in addition to what CNN and media is doing does't encourage freedom of speech at all!! I know people can say whatever they want, but you are familiar with media being owned by big businesses which control governments, whcih makes things very connected...Can you name some big media in US with different opinion regarding middle east, or at least objective coverage for what is happening everyday?? hope i answered your questions...if not please don't hesitate to ask again and again...it is always nice to talk with people with different point of views in a civilized way...

    regarding "ojsimpson23" comment, i want to say that I am an atheist Arab and think that you are pathetic; you should keep your racism for yourself...people like you should have lived in Medieval Age , i think you would have find yourself there....

    July 7, 2010 at 7:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Kevin Bford


      the behavior of the people commenting here is what defines freedom of speech! If you don't agree with a comment you can make your own comment to answer it – everyone is free to speak what they want! When CNN and the rest of the American media allow all of us to make published comments on their websites (for free!), that is encouraging freedom of speech! We wouldn't be talking at all right now if CNN didn't believe in freedom of speech.

      You also freely replied to ojsimpson23's comment; he has freedom of speech and so do you – you both commented and all the readers can judge what they believe to be true about those comments, and freely comment back. In America, big business does not control government; government controls big business.

      July 7, 2010 at 7:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Alain

      Yes kevin!! america is the epitome of human civilisation! free speech for all!
      now lets compare Israel to the third Reich, Jews are Nazis and lets not forget that the allegations of me being an antisemite are the biggest lie since the holohoax which is just that a holohoax.

      now if i had slandered God my comment would pass without controversies in free america, lets see how long it lasts now that I've spoken my mind.

      July 8, 2010 at 5:23 am | Report abuse |
  4. Jocelyn

    Dear Mrs Nasr,
    I don't understand why you are explaining or your even justifying your tweet. Always you have extremists and fanatics from all sides. Where were all these comments and propaganda when civilians were recently killed on Freedom Flotilla and when other people show sympathy and shake hands with terrorists and war criminals. Fadlallah is indeed a great loss for the whole world.

    July 7, 2010 at 7:13 am | Report abuse |
  5. Caper29

    Respect? This man is responsible for the deaths of 241 U.S Marines.
    Then again this isn't surprising coming from someone that works for CNN. The news organization that self censored news of atrocities committed within Iraq by Saddam Hussein's regime.

    July 7, 2010 at 7:14 am | Report abuse |
  6. Chantal

    @Kevin don't you have anything else to do but replying on other's comments!
    & we thought your show was nice!! pfff...

    July 7, 2010 at 7:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Kevin Bford

      Hi Chantal,

      Gee, I was hoping to respond to your comment but there's nothing to respond to...! 😉 BTW, I like your name, it's cool.

      I'll try to post (for the fourth time) my original response to Nasr's explanation for her tweet but after seeing how this works I might have to split it into two or three posts for it to post properly.

      July 7, 2010 at 7:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Kevin Bford


      Looks like I've used up all my CNN free speech points – the moderator is blocking Part 3.

      July 7, 2010 at 8:02 am | Report abuse |
  7. ojsimpson23

    Omar, i regretted writing it and wish i could delete it. That notwithstanding i feel powerless here, knowing that someday the children of ishmael will destroy the world. What can you do when an entire culture's metaphysics is based on resentment and victimhood? It doesn't matter whether it's Chechynia, Kashmir, Ethiopia, Yugoslavia or Israel.......anywhere these quarrelsome people exist, they make trouble, they build stuff on other's monuments, they start fights and whimper and whine when they are whipped, they kill innocents and justify it based on some historical mythical "injustice" that fuels the resentment and hatred. Without one of the five pillars, jihad, based on mythical injustice, the moslem is lost and unable to function, they have no governments other than theocracies and tyranny, Saddam was actually an easy going guy by moslem standards, he used just enough brutality to rule these quarrelsome people....the bible said "and i will call you ishmael and you will be a wild ass of a man and you have your hand againt all man and they will have their hands against you" God help us, btw I'm sorry for the "arab" part, I'm sure secular arabs are fine, it's islam that's the root cause. be well

    July 7, 2010 at 7:44 am | Report abuse |
  8. Kevin Bford

    Octavia Nasr,
    Part 1:

    Your explanation isn't very clear about what you believe. You've given us a short history lesson on Fadlallah and what he thought of some groups and countries and what some groups and countries thought of him, but you say hardly a thing about what YOU think of Fadlallah's decades of terrorist associations and direct links to acts of terror.

    Seems you have a warm fuzzy feeling about the 1990 interview – that's great, I'm glad you have a glowing memory of that and it sounds as if you were quite taken with him. However, does Fadlallah supporting women's rights and calling for the abolition of honor killing make up for your family members being killed by the group he spiritually led back in 1983? If my family members were killed by Fadlallah's cohorts in 1983 and I interviewed Fadlallah in 1990, all those warm feelings would be gone forever.

    July 7, 2010 at 7:53 am | Report abuse |
  9. Kevin Bford

    Part 2:
    Why don't we hear about your family members that Fadlallah's group killed and how grateful you are that they can now finally rest in peace?… but if you had said that it would smack of hypocrisy given your original tweet. (In fact, I'm not sure I believe you lost family members – what are their names and any proof you have to offer?)

    You end your explanation with a very interesting statement – "Sayyed Fadlallah. Revered across borders yet designated a terrorist. Not the kind of life to be commenting about in a brief tweet. It's something I deeply regret."

    July 7, 2010 at 7:53 am | Report abuse |
  10. Maria

    Kevin: Fadlallah didn't kill any member of my family, but i see you attacking a woman from my country and that only because she showed respect to a certain Leader you dislike and call terrorist... What is it you want her to say, "Yes i am against him and i consider him a terrorist and here are the names of my family members who were killed so that she survives so that she is back a professional reporter...!!" I think people who think this way are not worth any respect nor even the privilege to be taken seriously! I am sorry there are people that hide their "what being" behind the Freedom of Speech

    July 7, 2010 at 8:11 am | Report abuse |
    • Kevin Bford


      Sorry if you are upset, but I'm simply pointing out what Nasr said:

      "In 1983, as Fadlallah found his voice as a spiritual leader, Islamic Jihad – soon to morph into Hezbollah – bombed the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, killing 299 American and French peacekeepers. I lost family members in that terror attack."

      Nasr said she lost family members in that terror attack. Fadlallah as "spiritual leader" probably planned that attack, as Nasr implies. I'm not hiding anything at all – I'm exposing everything I can about Nasr and what she said. But she hasn't responded to anything I've asked.

      July 7, 2010 at 8:30 am | Report abuse |
    • John


      "...only because she showed respect to a certain Leader you dislike and call terrorist... "

      Actually, "terrorist" has a meaning. Look it up in any dictionary, and he will fit any definition of the term. So, it's not that I or he, or the USA calls him a terrorist; he is a terrorist because he committed acts of terror.

      July 7, 2010 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
  11. ojsimpson23

    Maria, keep that burka on darlin', you wear it well........The modern world is doomed.......Maybe NASA can help by reaching out......Maybe NASA discovered you can save a lot of weight in spaceflight by wiping with your hand?

    July 7, 2010 at 8:21 am | Report abuse |
    • aline

      mm have u ever visited lebanon sir??? or u r sitting miles away imagining us wearing burka's huh??? http://www.dailycandy.com/all-cities/article/84669/DailyCandy-Goes-to-Beirut-Lebanon

      PS: one great book to read: The Islamic Christian dialogue by Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah.

      July 8, 2010 at 5:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Alain

      Yes, Simpson because we're all muslims if we're not americans. well maybe you're right after al,l what do I know about Christianity? other than the fact that its been in my family since before "america" was discovered.
      Maybe naSa can teleport all americans to planet Zorb of section C where you can spend all eternity worshipping your own reflection and not worrying about the "children of ishmael destroying your precious america" ( although in a few years americans will have probably destroyed it themselves."

      July 8, 2010 at 5:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      Mr. ojsimpson23,
      Extremist like yourself will not have much sympathy in the USA for too much longer. So you guys better start behaving.

      July 9, 2010 at 12:26 am | Report abuse |
  12. StarofDavid

    Ms Nasr
    As you are probably aware the IDF and some members of the settlements establishments have organized thousands of writers whose sole job is to post comments on any issue affecting the Jewish state on hundreds of websites like CNN, yahoo, nytimes etc.
    Please disregard these idf soldiers and westbank settlers comments cause they are doing their

    July 7, 2010 at 8:22 am | Report abuse |
    • Kevin Bford

      You seem very knowledgeable – can you name even one of the "thousands of writers" from the IDF and West Bank Settlers you refer to?

      July 7, 2010 at 8:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Alain

      Well, for starters there's this pesky creature called "kevin bford"

      July 8, 2010 at 5:39 am | Report abuse |
    • StarofDavid

      these guys are propped up by billions of U.S. Tax payers dollars not to mention 200 million dollars from private groups and biased media outlet that keeps trivial news on 24/7 while these guys fleece america. They got us into Iraq with pictures of saddam on every outlet and stories about WMD, gazing of the Kurds etc and now they are warming us up on Iran and the bomb. Where does it stop?
      These guys are always the victims of their success
      well they have woken up the sheep, Americans are waking up and slowely realizing that their country has been hijacked.

      July 9, 2010 at 12:50 am | Report abuse |
  13. Maria

    ojsimpson23 yes may be i look nice in it, But i am certain your brain will be more effective without it,,, This is as far as i will reply to you, my friend 🙂

    July 7, 2010 at 8:28 am | Report abuse |
  14. Dania

    As Octavia herself has said, this tweet was a mistake. Now GET OVER IT already. I am by no means a supporter of the Hezbollah or of cleric Fadlallah but you guys jumping on your high “democracy” horses need to use your brains every now and then. You fail over and over to see the grey areas and to understand the complexities of the Middle East and that’s why you find yourself entangled in wars you don’t understand and cannot win. Where killing civilians and causing harm is concerned US presidents and Israeli prime ministers are not much better.

    July 7, 2010 at 9:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Kevin Bford


      Here's the tweet again:

      "Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah.. One of Hezbollah's giants I respect a lot."

      So is Octavia not sad about the passing of Fadlallah? She didn't say in her explanation. Why did she refer to him by his full honorary name of Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah? She didn't say in her explanation. She said he was "One of Hezbollah's giants I respect a lot." She didn't address that in her explanation. Nasr is failing to express what is going on here, not the rest of us.

      Oooh, it's the "complexities of the middle east" argument again. Dania, please explain the complexities of the middle east to the rest of us so we can all understand. Thanks.

      July 7, 2010 at 9:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Darrel

      Go live under Islamic law and see how YOU like it, appologist!

      July 7, 2010 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |
  15. ojsimpson23

    Kevin, it is a web of circular logic they themselves to keep their bs machine afloat. If anything, these "peanut" gallery comment pages are dominated by moslems. They rely on misinformation and wedge issues to survive. Jews are an easy target, a tiny minority that keeps them at bay for the moment. islam is at its weakest point historically, it's been downhill for them since 1782 when the Austrians drove them out of the Europe, for the most part. Turkey's fall after WW1 hastened their fall and it's been resentment city since then. Sooner or later they will get the weapons others have and destroy the world, maybe 15 more years, then they will drag us back into the dark ages, which ironically is what they thrive in. Their so called "golden age" wasn't anything to do with their slavish cripgang metaphysics. It was the fall of the Greco-Roman world and the translation of Greek science into arabic, which did save many important advances, nearly none of those things are islamic. But we are in grave danger because they have succeeded in splitting the idiots among us with this "peanut gallery" world.ie Holocaust denial.... islamic moderate? have you ever heard anything more oxymoronic? It's like "kind of pregnant...." Which brings me to the orginal premise....."pathetic."

    July 7, 2010 at 9:04 am | Report abuse |
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