This story is useful for one reason: its demonstration of how uselessly relative descriptions of “moderate” and “extremist” Islamic groups can be. Just as few people will stand up and say “Yes, I’m a terrible driver,” few people will volunteer that “Yes, I really take my ideology beyond the pale.” One reason is that there are always worse drivers, and more extreme ideologues. But the fact that the “extremist” is not as extreme as the next guy doesn’t make him “moderate” any more than the existence of worse drivers makes a bad driver good.
Then, the more interesting question is: What passes for “moderate?” If it’s Fatah, that’s not saying much at all, except that “moderate” need not mean “friendly,” “peaceful,” or “harmless.”
Indeed, all of the discussion of “extremism” below is relative to the conduct of the jihadist group Fatah al-Islam. As such, this article only considers violence between Muslims and other Muslims. That is, until last paragraph. “Palestinian extremism ‘pure fiction’ – Aynayn,” by Mohammed Zaatari for the Daily Star, October 5:
SIDON: All reports about extremist groups in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon are pure fiction, said Fatah central committee member Sultan Abu al-Aynayn on Saturday during a meeting with Education Minister Bahia Hariri. The two met in the southern town of Majdalyoun as part of the minister’s tour to examine the situation in the Palestinian camps and to discuss Palestinian affairs.
Aynayn told Hariri that even though some people may have radical thoughts, they would not dare to consider Palestinian camps as their refuge or to shake Lebanon’s civil peace and stability. He added that the Palestinians had not yet forgotten the events of Nahr al-Bared and that they still saw them as “a lesson.”
Islamist militants from Fatah al-Islam fought the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) for more than three months in mid-2007 at Nahr al-Bared, largely destroying what had been one of Lebanon’s most prosperous camps. The Ain al-Hilweh camp in Sidon has long been home to any number of armed groups, some of whom fought deadly battles with the LAF during the Nahr al-Bared conflict.
“Our camps are in a state of stability, in spite of the pain we live with every day,” he said. Aynayn also tackled the issue of the dialogue Fatah is to hold with Hamas in Cairo, saying Palestinian unity was essential to confront Israel.