Shamseddin, Muhammad Mahdi (1933–2001)

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SHAMSEDDIN, MUHAMMAD MAHDI (1933–2001)

Lebanese Shiʿite religious leader. After studying theology in Iraq, Muhammad Mahdi Shamseddin returned to Lebanon in 1969. In 1975, along with Musa al-Sadr, president of the Supreme Islamic Shiʿa Council, he participated in the creation of AMAL. Within the Supreme Islamic Shiʿa Council, he often advocated a moderate line and came up against the intransigence of both the vice president, Abdul Amir Qabalan, and of Nabi Berri (another cofounder of AMAL). In February 1981 Shamseddin escaped an assassination attempt. In April 1984 he spoke in favor of deploying the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon in all of South Lebanon and also in favor of keeping Syrian forces in the country as long as the Israel Defense Force remained on Lebanese soil. That June, commenting on the Israeli occupation of Lebanon, Shamseddin demanded "the reapplication of the armistice agreement reached between Lebanon and Israel in March 1949, which, in itself, did not necessitate negotiations," and renewed his support for a Syrian presence in Lebanon as long as Israeli forces remained on Lebanese territory. In February 1988 he presided over a commission responsible for ending combat between AMAL and Hizbullah. In December he visited Tehran and was received by the leaders of the country. In January 1990 Shamseddin received an Iranian delegation, led by the Iranian ambassador to Syria, Muhammad Hassan Akhtari, which had come to discuss measures to end the fighting between AMAL and Hizbullah. In 18 March 1994 he was elected president of the Supreme Islamic Shiʿa Council. From then on he worked for a rapprochement between the Christian and Muslim communities in Lebanon. He died of cancer in Beirut.

SEE ALSO AMAL; Berri, Nabi; Hizbullah; Sadr, Musa al-; South Lebanon; United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon.