While it is legitimate to discuss the reasons for the sacking of CNN journalist Octavia Nasr, or even the deletion of UK ambassador's blog entry concerning the late Sheikh Hassan Fadlallah, it seems journalists covering the burial procession missed that the pro-Iran Hizbullah had imposed itself as the organizer of the funeral procession, deploying thousands of its security agents to contain the large number of people taking part, while its al-Manar TV covered the event in real time. Dignitaries from Iran attended, notably Ayatollah Ahmed Jannati, the conservative chairman of the Guardian Council, the group in charge of checking to see if legislation approved by Majlis accords with the Constitution and Sharia Law, and also in charge of approving candidates in various elections. Also present was Iraq's prime minister, Nouri al Maliki. The late Fadlallah was one of founders of Maliki's Da'awa Party. Iyad Allawi was also in Beirut to present his condolences, but did not attend the ceremony. Hizbullah did its best to turn the ceremony into a pro-Iran and anti-US event. Cheerleaders chanted the famous "Death to America" slogan, but the masses did not seem to respond. A cheerleader was heard on TV shouting "louder, louder," but somehow the "Death to America" slogan was not echoed back by the huge gathering.

Then, suddenly, al-Manar TV's coverage was interrupted, to be resumed a few minutes later. In the meantime, the coffin of the controversial Fadlallah had changed places.

According to eyewitnesses, Fadlallah's family and supporters had revolted at the heavy Hizbullah hand, and especially against Hizbullah's desire to impose Iran's Ayatollah Jannati as the Imam leading the prayer before the burial. It is no secret that Iran's regime did not have much sympathy for Fadlallah, who had declined invitations to Teheran for the last fifteen years.

Incredibly, shouts were heard of "you oppressed him when he was alive, leave him to lie in peace!" Then the Fadallah's family and supporters snatched the coffin away to the courtyard of "the two Hassans Mosque," which Fadlallah had built. In the courtyard of the mosque, it was Fadlallah's brother, Sheikh Mohamed Ali Fadlallah,who lead the burial prayers; Ayatollah Jannati was not present.

Later, followers, usually called "imitators," of Fadlallah were heard complaining of Hizbullah's attempts to co-opt the late Fadlallah as a means to put its hands on Fadlallah's heritage. Not only his moral heritage but, rather, the huge charity institutions and schools which the late Fadlallah had built and funded.

Independently, it was remarkable that Lebanon's "imitators" of Iraq's highest Shiite dignitary, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, declined to open traditional "condoleances assemblies" for the late Fadlallah. After all, Fadlallah had been a competitor of Sistani's, and had tried to found an independent Arab Marjaiyya away form both Najaf and Qom.

A Funeral Without a Body in the City of Qom

In the end, the snatching of Fadlallah's coffin from Hizbullah's hands reminded those present of a similar episode three months earlier, during the burial ceremony of the late Grand Ayatollah Montazeri's wife in Qom:

"According to the Kaleme website, the funeral was held under a heavy security presence and the family of the deceased said that, for the first time, a funeral was held without a body, in the city of Qom.

"Mrs. Rabbani, the wife of the spiritual leader of the Green Movement, Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, died yesterday, a hundred days after the passing away of her husband. Authorities had warned her family about holding the funeral, fearing a widespread presence of people at the ceremony.

"Saied Motnazeri, son of Ayatollah Montazeri, said that the security forces maintained a "heavy and security atmosphere" and effectively prevented them from holding any ceremony for their mother's death.

"Tens of government vehicles brought the body, under guard, and quickly took the body from the scene after a short stay, away from the people and even the family.

"He said that the authorities did not even live up to their end of their promise about a 'limited funeral,' and 'even our access to our late mother's body was denied.' 'With this unfortunate act they showed their fear and demonstrated that they are even afraid of a corpse and its burial.'

"The son of late Ayatollah Montazeri also stated that they family were not even allowed to bury their mother at the place they had previously intended to." (Report from Irangreenvoice opposition website).

Who could succeed the controversial Fadlallah? An article published in Lebanon's an-Nahar claimed Fadlallah had told Hizbullah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, that he should be his successor -- certainly a false claim, propagated by Hizbullah's rumors mill. It is more probable that Hizbullah shall be trying to impose one of his men as Lebanon's new Marjaa (Shiite authority) -- not an easy task. A number of Shiite dignitaries are preparing themselves for the coveted job. Some are openly anti-Hizbullah, including ulemas [religious scholars] who had joined Khomeini in the first years of his "revolution," and who now accuse Teheran's regime of "betraying" Khomeiny's heritage.

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