BEIRUT: The Union of Beirut Families visited the head of the Higher Sunni Religious Court, Sheikh Abdel-Latif Derian, Wednesday, in a show of support for his candidacy for grand mufti post - the highest official of religious law in the Sunni sect.
Dr. Fawzi Zeidan, president of the Union of Beirut Families, told The Daily Star that the union’s support of Derian as a candidate sprung from his “wisdom in leadership,” as well as his moderation.
“He gets along with everyone, with his religious constituency and with all religious sects in the country, be they Muslim or Christian,” Zeidan said.
“Derian is a man of dialogue and is the right person to bring Dar al-Fatwa back to its leading role, distancing it from the stalemate in the country,” he added, referring to the top Sunni religious authority in Lebanon.
During his visit, Zeidan expressed regret over the current standing of the Sunni sect, saying he “did not wish that the sect would reach the unfortunate situation that it has today.”
Zeidan announced the union’s support for Derian’s campaign, assuring that “that the majority of the Sunnis, and especially Sunnis in Beirut, support his nomination in upcoming elections.”
The union head also expressed his belief that Derian would organize Dar al-Fatwa’s internal units and relieve it of any bad reputation it has acquired recently.
“We want unity, we want to unite, and we know you are the man of the hour, and the sect is with you,” Zeidan said.
For his part, Derian lauded Beirut’s diverse social fabric, claiming that it was the versatility of religions and sects that distinguished the capital.
Derian condemned the religious strife and bloody incidents that have overwhelmed Beirut for years, stressing that as citizens “we owe the country unity, in the name of stability and security.”
“This country needs us to revive Islamic ethics [in a manner] that allows it to coexists with all religions in the country,” he said.
Derian expressed hope that he could bring Dar al-Fatwa back to a golden age, recollecting his work with the former Grand Mufti Sheikh Hasan Khaled.
“I was part of his team at one point, during which Dar al-Fatwa proved it was an important Islamic reference nationally and regionally,” he said.
Derian also said that he was coordinating efforts with religious leaders from various sects to prevent religious strife, especially Sunni-Shiite discord, stressing that he would stand in the face of whoever called for such a conflict.
“There will be no religious conflict between Sunnis and Shiites in Lebanon, because as religious figures we are in constant communication with religious leaders from the Shiite sect and we have agreed with them that there is not a single religious issue that would lead to conflict,” Derian said, adding that “religious conflict within the same religion is heretical and abominable to Islam.”
The term of the current grand mufti, Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani, expires in September.
Last month, Sheikh Hisham Khalifa, who is the director general of Islamic Endowments and is close to Qabbani, called for the election of a new grand mufti on Aug. 31.
Media reports alleged that Salam and former Prime Ministers Najib Mikati, Fouad Siniora and Omar Karami have agreed to support Derian as a candidate for the post.
Speaking to The Daily Star, a source close to Siniora said he could neither confirm nor deny the reports.
“Salam and the former prime ministers have agreed on implementing the law and holding the election,” he said.
Separately, Dar al-Fatwa’s media office denied reports that Qabbani backed Derian as his successor.