BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Deputy President of the Higher Shiite Council called Thursday for inter-faith dialogue to discuss the legalization of civil marriage, while the council rejected the idea, saying sectarianism is an issue in politics, not society.
Sheikh Abdul-Amir Qabalan asked the heads of sects in the country to form a committee and study the issue.
“I call on the heads of sects in Lebanon to form a committee and discuss the prospects of civil marriage in details, in a way that does not violate religious law but satisfies God and benefits the people,” the sheikh told reporters.
Meanwhile, the Shiite council joined forces with Dar al-Fatwa in the latter’s opposition to the legalization of civil marriage.
“Civil marriage is rejected from the viewpoint of the Shiite religious institution in its religious and national capacity for ethical, religious, national and rights-related reasons,” the council said in a statement.
It added that “political sectarianism” which governs administration and politics in the country was the problem rather than sectarian diversity in society.
“Talking about the personal status law as a sectarian problem entails a fallacy since it is necessary to distinguish between political sectarianism, which is a dividing factor, and cultural sectarianism which is a message of diversity,” the council said.
Efforts, the council said, should be directed toward abolishing political sectarianism, as stipulated in the Constitution.
The controversy over the legalization of civil marriage was renewed earlier this month after President Michel Sleiman voiced his support for its adoption, saying the Constitution guarantees it as a civil right.
Activists took advantage of the president’s remarks to up their campaign for the full adoption of civil rights but Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani’s outright rejection minimized such chances.
In a religious edict, or fatwa, Qabbani said any Muslim official who supported civil marriage would not be considered Muslim.
“Every Muslim official, whether a deputy or a minister, who supports the legalization of civil marriage, even if it is optional, is an apostate and outside the Islamic religion,” Qabbani said earlier this week.
The Shiite council’s statement also noted that approving civil marriage even if it is optional means the adoption of a whole new system governing personal status, adding that such a demand is a violation of the social contract.
Any changes to that contract should be implemented via a national consensus, it added.
“The principle of governing the personal status law according to religious diversity does not violate the civil state and its secularism but it is considered as a cultural sponsor for a faithful society,” it said.
“Allowing a different minority the opportunity to break through the cultural structure of the majority for political reasons is a violation against the civil state and threats the social contract that guarantees its unity.”
The council also said that marriage according to Islam is subject to certain conditions related to the format of the contract and the individuals involved and “any violation to such conditions makes the marriage religiously void.”