BEIRUT: The former president and Kataeb leader, Amin Gemayel, said Thursday that extremist takfiri groups are as harmful to Muslims as they are to Christians, and called for all sects to close ranks to combat the trend sweeping the Middle East.
“The whole Middle East region is going through a very difficult phase, especially with the extremist takfiri thought, which not only tarnishes Islam but harms Arabs and humanity as a whole,” Gemayel said at the Dar al-Fatwa building in Beirut, after congratulating Sheikh Abdel Latif Derian on his appointment as the new Grand Mufti of the republic.
Gemayel said the bid to combat terrorism was a common responsibility of all parties and factions, regardless of religious leanings, and that the initiative of the heads of Eastern churches - led by Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai - to curb takfiri groups should be endorsed by all factions in Lebanon and the Middle East.
“The Grand Mufti informed us that he will be assuming a leading role in preaching openness and moderation, and in reinforcing ties between the Lebanese for the sake of safeguarding our national unity and protecting Lebanon against looming dangers,” Gemayel said.
He said an initiative by the Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar, Egypt’s highest Sunni religious authority, to hold a Muslim-Christian spiritual summit was taking shape with the support of other religious parties.
“The responsibility [to fight Muslim extremism] is not restricted to one patriarch or to one sect, but it is the responsibility of all us who feel how dangerous the situation is and must act,” Gemayel added.
Commenting on the presidential deadlock, Gemayel, who served as head of state between 1982 and 1988, said Lebanon needs a president who would inspire confidence to all Lebanese factions and would be able to defend the country’s higher interests on an international level.
“We are all expected to close ranks and devise solutions to protect Lebanon in this phase,” Gemayel said, adding that it was the responsibility of politicians and spiritual leaders to help end the presidential stalemate.