SIDON, Lebanon: The Future Movement and Al-Jamaa al-Islamiya, the Lebanese branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, voiced support Thursday for the Lebanese Army and security forces in their battle against terrorism, while rejecting any form of religious extremism.
In a joint statement issued after a meeting of senior Future and Jamaa officials and attended by Sidon MP Bahia Hariri at the Hariri family’s residence in Majdalyoun, the two sides called on Lebanon’s rival political parties to engage in dialogue in order to shield Lebanon from the repercussions of the turmoil in the region.
In discussing the recent political developments and security incidents – including the deadly clashes between the Lebanese Army and Islamist militants in the northeastern town of Arsal earlier this month – as well as street protests by civil servants and school teachers to press their demands for salary increases, the two sides underlined the need for a swift election of a new president.
“The participants affirmed adherence to the state project and the building of institutions, voiced support for the security forces and the Army and rejected any form of extremism by any party,” the statement said.
The participants voiced their satisfaction with the calm and stability prevailing in the southern port city of Sidon and its region and praised efforts by the Army and security forces, as well as the city’s influential figures, in this respect.
They also lauded the level of awareness shown by various Palestinian factions that led to restoring calm to the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp following the deployment of an elite 150-member strong security force, the statement said.
The two sides saluted the Palestinian people’s steadfastness and resistance against Israel’s aggression in Gaza that has killed more than 2,000 Palestinians since July 8.
Referring to Islamist detainees arrested for their alleged involvement in last year’s deadly clashes between the Army and armed followers of fugitive preacher Ahmad al-Assir in Abra, east of Sidon, the participants urged judicial authorities to speed up the trials of the detainees and release those found to be innocent.
Last month, the military court postponed the trial of 71 people, including Assir, charged over the Abra clashes, until Aug. 26.
The suspects, including Assir and 24 other fugitives, are accused of murdering and attempting to murder soldiers and civilians, of committing terrorist operations, possessing weapons and explosives, instigating sectarian tension and calling for sectarian fighting.
Assir, an anti-Hezbollah preacher, whose followers clashed with the Lebanese Army in June 2013, is still on the run. The clashes resulted in the death of 18 soldiers and around 40 of Assir’s followers.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Bassam Hammoud, Jamaa’s political representative in south Lebanon, said: “We affirm that terrorism and extremism are rejected by everyone. We reject all forms of extremism and all forms of killing by any party. We support the state project. We support the security forces and the Lebanese Army. But we also refuse that the so-called ‘Daesh’ be used as a pretext to muzzle the freedom of opinion and expression.”
He was referring to the Al-Qaeda splinter group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), whose Arabic acronym is “Daesh.”
Indirectly referring to Hezbollah’s involvement in the war in Syria, Hammoud said protecting Lebanon from the fallout of the regional turmoil can be achieved through “a speedy and complete withdrawal from the military intervention in the Syrian crisis,” a quick election of a president, and addressing the citizens’ socioeconomic demands.
Separately, measures taken by the Army and security forces to maintain stability and security in Sidon were discussed during a meeting in Majdalyoun between MP Hariri, the Governor of the south Mansour Dao, and Samir Shehadeh, the Internal Security Forces chief in south Lebanon.