In her personal blog, Frances Guy wrote that Ayatollah Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah was "a decent man". Israel's Foreign Ministry said in response later that Fadlallah is "unworthy of praise".
Ayatollah Fadlallah passed away on Sunday, at the age of 74. He was one of Shiite Islam's most influential clerics, and a harsh critic of both Israel and the US.
"One of the privileges of being a diplomat is the people you meet; great and small, passionate and furious. People in Lebanon like to ask me which politician I admire most… I usually avoid answering by referring to those I enjoy meeting the most and those that impress me the most," Guy wrote in her blog.
"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."
The ambassador explained why she admired the spiritual leader. "
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. That for me is the real effect of a true man of religion; leaving an impact on everyone he meets, no matter what their faith," she wrote.
Guy also recounted her first meeting with the ayatollah.
"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," she wrote.
"If I was sad to hear the news I know other peoples' lives will be truly blighted. The world needs more men like him willing to reach out across faiths, acknowledging the reality of the modern world and daring to confront old constraints. May he rest in peace."
Earlier, CNN editor Octavia Nasr also praised the ayatollah in a tweet that ran, "Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah… One of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot."
A Foreign Ministry official told Ynet in response that seeing as the US news channel decided to dismiss Nasr, it would be "interesting" to see how the British Foreign Office reacts to the newest praise of the terror group's spiritual leader.
"Between the phrase: 'Hezbollah spiritual leader' and 'decent' lies a moral and political ocean. We believe that the spiritual leader of a terror group such as Hezbollah, which publicly calls for Israel's annihilation, kidnaps people, fires thousands of missiles at women and children, and carries out murderous terror attacks in Lebanon, the Middle East, and the entire world, is unworthy of any praise or eulogizing. If Hezbollah was firing missiles at London and Glasgow, would this leader still be called 'decent'?" official asked.
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