BEIRUT: Several members of the Higher Islamic Council headed by Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani resigned Tuesday, dissolving the top Sunni religious body in a move that could jeopardize the election of a new mufti.
A statement read at a press conference at the Press Federation said nine members of the council submitted their resignation in a move aimed at “preserving the interests of the Sunni community” and checking the “disintegration of Dar al-Fatwa” eroded by escalating rift between Qabbani and the Future Movement.
“In light of the escalation linked to the election of a new grand mufti, we announce our mass resignation which entails the dissolution of the Higher Islamic Council, which loses all legitimacy,” said the statement read by Mostapha Banbouk, who heads the Reality Association that was initially set up to settle the raging dispute.
Banbouk said the nine resigning members in addition to him and the other five members of the Reality Association brought to 15 the number of people who had resigned from the 32-member council, which is the required quorum for bringing down the council.
The Higher Islamic Council has been split in two due to mounting disputes between Qabbani and the Future Movement, with each of the two councils considering the other illegitimate.
Banbouk said the move, which came at Qabbani’s instruction, was motivated by fears of having two grand muftis in Lebanon.
The rival councils under Future Movement and Qabbani had set two different dates for electing a new mufti, on Aug. 10 and 31 respectively, to succeed Qabbani whose term expires in mid-September.
Banbouk pointed out that the mass resignation also entailed the annulment of the “Judicial Committee” tasked with reviewing the candidatures to the top Sunni religious post, jeopardizing the election.
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.