“This was proof that the streets are slipping from Saad Hariri’s hands,” said another area resident, Iskandar Demaji, a 36-year-old electrician who says he is deeply alarmed by the trends he sees in the neighborhood.
“And what will replace him?” he asked, gesticulating at the black flags fluttering nearby. “Let us not fool ourselves. These are the flags of al-Qaeda, and you are seeing them everywhere.”
Indeed, the black Islamic flags seen in Tariq al-Jdeideh are sprouting also in other Sunni towns, including Sidon to the south and Tripoli in the north. Ultra-conservative preachers such as Ahmed Assir, who led his followers in a series of disruptive anti-Shiite demonstrations in Sidon earlier this year and who earned the loudest cheers at Hassan’s funeral, are gaining in popularity, encouraged by a region-wide resurgence of the ultra-conservative Salafist movement in the wake of the Arab revolts.