Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Hezbollah, declared in a televised address that Islamist extremists are harming their religion much more than anything they are fighting against. Mr. Nasrallah stated that the religious extremists are “the biggest threat to Islam” today. In recent years, Mr. Nasrallah has repeatedly spoken of the threat posed by Al Qaeda and the Islamic State to people of all religions, including devout Shiites.
He said in the address that extremists claiming to act in the name of Islam while performing beheadings and massacres hurt the religion more than any cartoon could. The killings of 12 people at a satirical newspaper in Paris by Islamist militants was not mentioned in the address, but it was clear to many that the recent massacre was what Mr. Nasrallah was referring to. Non-muslims mocking the Prophet Muhammad in books, films or drawings has brought quick condemnation and threats of retaliation from extremists concealed in connected cells around the world.
The rise of Sunni extremist groups like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State has resulted in mass killings and the beheading of hostages in the areas they control. While continuing to focus on its original mission of fighting Israel, Hezbollah has also intervened in the civil war in neighboring Syria to prevent the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad, which could allow the Islamic State to take over the entire country. Compared with those radical jihadist organizations, Hezbollah and Iran see themselves as posing little threat to the West.
Hezbollah, Lebanon’s strongest political party, has not always denounced Islamic extremists over their attacks on Western targets. This includes when some Muslims rioted over a Danish newspaper’s cartoons satirizing the Prophet Muhammad in 2006. The Shiite militant group is allied with Iran and is famously known for taking Americans captive in the 1980s.