Lebanon News

Qabbani countersues Miskawi as rift widens

File - Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani speaks during a press conference in Beirut, Sunday, Jan. 12, 2014. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani filed a lawsuit Friday against members of the Higher Islamic Council that is being chaired by former minister Omar Miskawi, accusing them of misrepresenting themselves.

The lawsuit was lodged with the state prosecutor’s office.

The move came nearly three weeks after Miskawi’s Higher Islamic Council filed two lawsuits against Qabbani’s separate HIC.

One was filed against all 32 members of the body excluding Qabbani, accusing them of violating Shura Council decisions and calling their council illegitimate. The second was against Sheikh Hisham Khalifa, a close ally of Qabbani, accusing him of inciting strife in a speech he delivered in 2012. Khalifa is the director general of the Islamic Endowments.

Mounting disputes in recent years between Qabbani and the Future Movement have split the HIC into two rival councils, one chaired by Qabbani and the other by Miskawi. Each council considers the other illegitimate.

The council, set up in 1930, supervises the financial and administrative affairs of the institutions of Dar al-Fatwa, the top Sunni religious authority in Lebanon.

Separately, Dar al-Fatwa’s media office denied reports that Qabbani backed Sheikh Abdel-Latif Derian, the head of the Higher Sunni Religious Court, as his successor. Qabbani’s term expires in September.

“Dar al-Fatwa clarifies that this news is totally false. Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani neither named Sheikh Abdel-Latif Derian, the head of the Higher Sunni Religious Court, nor any other person [for the post],” it said.

Media reports emerged earlier this month stating that Prime Minister Tammam Salam and former Prime Ministers Najib Mikati, Fouad Siniora and Omar Karami had agreed to support Derian’s candidacy.

If divisions persist till September, Lebanon could have two grand muftis. Last month, Khalifa called for elections on Aug.31.

Miskawi’s council has also urged Salam to hold a vote as soon as possible.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 19, 2014, on page 2.




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