BEIRUT: Grand Mufti Mohammad Rashid Qabbani has taken the case of the extension of the Higher Islamic Council, which he regards as illegal, to the Penal Court, sources close to Dar al-Fatwa told The Daily Star Thursday.
The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that Qabbani, who heads the top Sunni body, filed lawsuits against the Higher Islamic Council and an unidentified individual over what he describes as the fraudulent extension of the council.
The controversy in the council began when 21 of its members met last December under its deputy head, former Transport Minister Omar Miskawi, and extended the term of the 32-member body for a period of one year without the approval of the mufti.
Qabbani argues that the extension is illegal, since he did not approve or chair the session. However, the council members said the move was legal and had been published in the official gazette.
Following a meeting held at the Grand Serail Wednesday, Prime Minister Najib Mikati and former prime ministers, including former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, gave Qabbani until Saturday to convene a session of the Higher Islamic Council in order to set a date for electing members of the disputed body.
Qabbani has turned down previous requests by Mikati and the former prime ministers to convene a council session because he considers that the term of the body expired at the end of 2012.
The grand mufti has called for the elections of new council members to take place on April 14.
Mikati and the former prime minister warned that if the mufti does not heed their call, they will hold an urgent meeting in order to take suitable measures, “given that his eminence will be refraining from doing what the high interest of the sect requires.”
The dispute between the council and the mufti has taken a political dimension because the 21 members who resigned from the council are close to Hariri’s Future Movement.
Ties between Qabbani and the Future Movement deteriorated after the grand mufti opposed the toppling of the Mikati government, following the assassination of Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hasan last October.