Lebanon News

Meeting fails to resolve row between Future, grand mufti

File - Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani leaves after attending a press conference in Dar al-Fatwa in Beirut, Monday, Jan. 27, 2014. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: A recent meeting between the son of Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani and an aide of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri is unlikely to thaw ties between the Future Movement leader and the head of Dar al-Fatwa.

Speaking to The Daily Star, Dar al-Fatwa’s spokesperson confirmed that an “icebreaking” meeting had taken place around a month ago between Ragheb Qabbani, the son of the grand mufti, and Nader Hariri, an adviser of former Prime Minister Hariri.

Media reports had suggested that the visit was aimed at coordinating a reconciliatory trip to be made by the grand mufti to Saudi Arabi, where he is expected to meet Saudi officials and Hariri, but the spokesperson denied the claims.

He also dismissed reports that Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Awad Asiri, who is currently abroad, telephoned Qabbani a few days ago.

The spokesperson said he did not believe that the visit aimed at restoring ties between the grand mufti and the Future Movement.

The grand mufti and the Future Movement have been at odds for several years, as reflected in divisions within the Higher Islamic Council. The council organizes the affairs of Dar al-Fatwa, the top Sunni religious authority in Lebanon.

Contrary to Qabbani’s will, members of the council who are close to the Future Movement convened in late 2012 under former Minister Omar Miskawi, the body’s deputy head, and extended the council’s term until the end of 2013. At the end of that year, they met again and extended the council’s term from January 2014 to June 2015.

Qabbani considered the move illegal and held council elections in April 2013.

Qabbani also filed a challenge before the Shura Council against the latest extension of the council headed by Miskawi. Earlier this week, the Shura Council rejected the challenge.

The Future Movement accuses Qabbani and his son of involvement in financial mismanagement, claims dismissed by the grand mufti.

Speaking to The Daily Star, Miskawi said that the visit was an attempt by Qabbani to improve ties with the Future Movement.

Miskawi said he had been informed about what was discussed during the talks between Hariri and Qabbani, leaked in media reports this week.

The reports said that Qabbani visited Hariri and offered to put an end to the “misunderstanding,” adding that the grand mufti – whose term expires in September – wanted to leave his post in an honorable way.

Hariri said he would convey Qabbani’s request to former Prime Minister Hariri.

Hariri added that the grand mufti had to go back on a number of decisions he made regarding the Higher Islamic Council, along with the appointment of muftis for several Lebanese districts.

As for the lawsuits filed against Qabbani over financial violations, Hariri said the Future Movement would not interfere in the functions of the Lebanese judiciary.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 18, 2014, on page 3.




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