Lebanese pop star renounces jihad

Fadl Shaker, a fugitive Lebanese pop singer-turned radical Islamist wanted for terror related murder in his home country, has renounced his brief stint with militancy and now wants to surrender and return to his regular life.

He made the revelations in an interview with Lebanon’s private channel LBC, causing a stir on social media and dismay to a prominent Saudi jihadist in Syria.

Ostensibly, Shaker seems to have renounced his militant career and traded his bushy beard for a cleaner look, in a complete reversal of his transformation over two years ago from an Arab pop music icon to a companion of Lebanese militant Sunni cleric Ahmed al-Assir.

As a radical Islamist, Shaker declared his past life sinful and became Al-Assir’s right-hand man, echoing his vehement opposition to the Syrian regime and his vitriolic sectarian statements against Damascus’ allies in the Shiite political and military movement Hezbollah.

Shaker at a rally with Sunni cleric Ahmed al-Assir. 

The LBC interview was reportedly filmed in Shaker's home in the southern city of Sidon’s Ain al-Hilwe Palestinian refugee camp, the site where at least 48 people, including 20 soldiers, were killed in a two-day battle between the Lebanese army and Al-Assir’s supporters in June 2013.

Clean shaven Shaker in the exclusive interview with LBC. 

Since then, Shaker has been on the run facing an indictment and possibly the death penalty, as requested by a military investigative judge.

Al-Assir is believed to have joined Al-Qaeda affiliates fighting in Syria, though Shaker’s connection to Al-Qaeda remains speculative. Now Shaker wants to surrender to the dismay of Saudi jihadist, Abdallah al-Muhaysini.

A self-proclaimed “independent jihadist” in Syria, known for his criticism of Islamic State (ISIS), Al-Muhaysini tweeted: “Brother Fadl, I did not know you as a singer but I have known of you as an instigating mujahid….Now I am surprised to find that you quit a life that, I doubt, you have experienced to the full”.

He asked him to beware of “a setback” after experiencing “divine guidance”, and appealed to him “in the name of God not to go on stage to sing and entertain because if you did, that would be a source of schaden freude for people of falsehood”.

Overall, responses have been negative on Twitter to Shaker’s resurfacing and his denial that he took part in the attack on the Lebanese army.

This denial has provoked widespread cynicism and disbelief on twitter.

Fadi Hawwa @fadihawwa: “Irrespective of whether or not he was involved in the attack, his incitement against the army and the intelligence services is enough.”

Walid Al Omary @WalidAlOmary: “notwithstanding your shaven beard, to us you will remain a murderer and a mean, ungrateful person.”

The Saudi-funded, Maronite Christian LBC drew criticism for its exclusive interview with Shaker.

Amin Kobeissy @akobeissy: “How do you renounce terrorism in three steps? 1-shave your beard; 2-deny all charges; 3-do an interview with LBC. Fadl Shaker is still a terrorist.”

Stephanie @StephanieRady: “This is the second time that LBC does an interview with a wanted man. So simple?”

Ra…LF @EbenJbeil : “Fadl Shaker is wanted for justice and a warrant for his arrest was issued. How could LBC do that? Our media is promoting terrorism. One day they go to talk to ISIS, another day they go to [Al-Qaeda affiliate] Al-Nusra Front and today they are with Fadl.”

Nouran Ayman @Nouran_Ayman wondered “how a singer who moves me emotionally can kill and burn and destroy? I envy ISIS for having a loyalist like you!”