BEIRUT: Accusing Prime Minister Tammam Salam of acting like ISIS amounts to sectarian incitement, Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk has said.
Speaking at the annual Iftar that gathers civil servants from his ministry, Machnouk said that "recklessly" accusing Salam of being "Daeshi" (ISIS-like) pushes people away from moderation and fuels extremism.
His comments came as a response to the Free Patriotic Movement-run Tayyar.org news website, which described Salam Thursday as being ISIS-like and accused him of “insulting Christians.”
The message was sent as a news flash after Salam engaged in a shouting match with the FPM's foreign minister Gebran Bassil during the session.
The dispute sparked a protest by hundreds of FPM supporters in Downtown Beirut which turned violent, leaving seven soldiers and 17 protesters wounded.
“What worries me,” Machnouk said, “is that the encroachment on the state is not merely a popular culture [thing] anymore, but has rather transformed into a political practice by the elite.”
“We saw one episode of that yesterday (Thursday) in the Cabinet,” he continued, saying Bassil’s behavior was “unconstitutional” and “illegal.”
However, the minister warned that it was not about the words used to describe Salam, but FPM’s whole strategy of sectarian sedition.
“The matter is beyond the allegations and their provocative content,” he said. “It reflects a political position on which a popular and political movement is being built, creating one of the ugliest scenes of sectarian mobilization in the history of Lebanon.”
He said the FPM’s protest had no “serious political horizons” and only served to polarize the Lebanese population along sectarian lines.