BEIRUT: Outgoing Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Awad Asiri called Thursday on Lebanese journalists to raise the voice of moderation against extremism, which he said is “new to Lebanon.”
“I hope the Lebanese press will be inspired by what the Saudi King has called for, which is fighting terrorism and the murky ideology that deviates from Islam and human values,” Asiri said after a visit to the Journalists Union’s office in Hazmieh.
"The change that happened in Dar al-Fatwa is an embodiment of the moderation required of all sects and people,” Asiri said in reference to the consensus among Sunni leaders that led to the election of a new grand mufti Sunday. “Your pens and your screens have a great role in embodying this moderation in your society."
Asiri said that the extremism was “new to Lebanon.”
Separately, Asiri said that the Sunni-Shiite divide had distracted the region from the Palestinian cause.
“Since I was young child, this cause has been stuck in our minds and hearts. ... We were raised and we would die supporting it,” he said. “But a new phenomenon appeared to Islam a while ago ... which is Islamic fanaticism.”
Asiri surprised reporters by saying he had never known that he was a Sunni until the emergence of the Islamic Revolution in Iran.
“We used to welcome the Iranians pilgrims with love and respect,” he said. “Unfortunately, the virus of sectarianism appeared and the fanatic voice rose, and some forces exploited them.”
The Saudi envoy praised former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s return to Lebanon, saying his move was “necessary and came in the right time.”
In this vein, Asiri explained that the bureaucratic problems facing the previous Saudi donation to the Army necessitated a quicker one be implemented immediately.
“Former Prime Minister Hariri listened to all sides and their needs, to present it to the kingdom, so that they are purchased immediately without any delay,” Asiri said in reference to the recent $1 billion donation. “This was the quickest and best way.”