Qabbani insists on elections of Higher Islamic Council

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Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani speaks during an interview with The Daily Star in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2012. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani sounded defiant Friday, rejecting the call by Prime Minister Najib Mikati and former PMs to convene the higher Islamic Council.

He also insisted on holding elections for the council, whose term he maintained expired last year and voiced disappointment over official’s call for him to convene the council.

“Inviting and convening a meeting for the Higher Islamic Council is incorrect since its original term has ended as well as its extended term therefore it is unlawful given regulations that govern [the internal affairs of the council],” the mufti said in a letter to Mikati.

He also noted that the “real party behind the disruption in the operations of Dar al-Fatwa was the council members” who the sheikh accused of refusing to carry out their duties within a caretaker capacity.

Divisions within Dar al-Fatwa began to surface last year when the 21-member council extended its own term until the end of 2013, a move Qabbani argues is illegal. The mufti refuses to hold or join any meetings at Dar al-Fatwa and called last month for elections of council members to be held on April 14.

Qabbani had called for elections to the council’s 32 positions last year but the move was suspended by the Shura Council after 21 members of the council who are close to the Future Movement challenged the call.

In his statement Qabbani said his insistence on holding the elections stemmed from his conviction in implementing the law regarding council elections.

In a bid to resolve the dispute, Mikati and other MPs have held meetings in search for a solution.

Earlier this week, the statesmen asked Qabbani to convene the Higher Islamic Council and warned him against failing to do so before Saturday.

They also said that it was necessary in the meantime to begin preparations for elections of administrative bodies and local sheikhs, as well as the members of the new Higher Islamic Council.

Qabbani hit back at the prime ministers, asking: "Is calling for the elections the problem? And is committing to the laws a problem or is the problem the manipulation of laws by the council members?”

The mufti said he has on several occasions asked the officials to hold a meeting with the members of the council in the presence of the heads of state "to unite, renounce disputes and agree to hold elections for the Higher Islamic Council,” instead of a council meeting.

But the prime ministers rejected, he said.

“If we accept that the council's term has been extended illegally then we will be accepting to build everything based on lies,” Qabbani said.

He voiced disappointment over the statement issued by prime ministers on March 13, for it carried “a warning tone and a hint of measures being taken” against him.

He called on the officials to work together to achieve the good of the sect, its institutions and for this country and to hold the elections of the council on April 14 as he has called for.

The Daily Star - Lebanon