One of CNN’s most senior reporters has been sacked after mourning the death of a Muslim cleric.
Octavia Nasr was the news network’s most senior Arab journalist, joining in 1990 after making her name in Lebanon when she became the first female reporter to interview Shia leader Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah. Two decades on, and a seemingly innocent comment about that man’s death has cost Nasr her job.
She posted the following statement on Twitter: “Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah… One of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot.”
It was that single word, the H-bomb, which caused all the trouble, even though Fadlallah had been sidelined by Hezbollah in recent years, and certainly wasn’t one of the group’s leaders. Fadlallah was considered a liberal in many circles, and a passionate defender of women’s rights.
Lobby group Honest Reporting (which says it is monitors anti-Israel media bias) led the internet campaign to hound Nasr out of her job. CNN’s decision to drop her points to America’s jittery reaction to half-heard anti-Israeli statements, regardless of what was behind the comment.
Nasr went on to clarify her position, explaining that she was mourning the loss of an influential religious figure who had taken a stand against honour killings and Muslim misogyny more widely. That backpeddling couldn’t save her.
Imagine if Nasr had been working for the BBC. Would the reaction have been as uncompromising? How about if she was working for the British government? Britain’s ambassador in Beirut, France Guy, went much further than Nasr, without causing a single diplomatic ripple:
“People in Lebanon like to ask me which politician I admire most. … Until yesterday my preferred answer was to refer to Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, head of the Shia clergy in Lebanon and much admired leader of many Shia muslims throughout the world. When you visited him you could be sure of a real debate, a respectful argument and you knew you would leave his presence feeling a better person. …
Lebanon is a lesser place the day after but his absence will be felt well beyond Lebanon’s shores. I remember well when I was nominated ambassador to Beirut, a Muslim acquaintance sought me out to tell me how lucky I was because I would get a chance to meet Sheikh Fadlallah. Truly he was right. …
The world needs more men like him … May he rest in peace.”
Nuances like that seem to be completely ignored because of the trigger-happy instincts of America’s Israel-apologists.