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.
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, according to the sources, who did not want to be identified.
The controversy began when 21 of its members met last December under its deputy head, former Transport Minister Omar Miskawi, extended the term of the 32-member body for a period of one year without getting the mufti’s approval.
Qabbani has argued that the extension of the council is illegal because he did not approve or chair the session. However, the council members said the move was legal and has been published in the Official Gazette.
Following a meeting Wednesday at the Grand Serail, Prime Minister Najib Mikati and several former prime ministers gave Qabbani until Saturday to convene a session of the Higher Islamic Council in order to set a date for electing members of the body.
Qabbani has called for the elections of new council members to take place on April 14.
Speaking to a delegation from the Journalists Union Thursday, Mikati said the time had come for a final decision on the matter, saying the mufti had rebuffed his requests for a solution.
“We asked the [grand] mufti to convene the Higher Islamic Council on Saturday, but if he doesn’t, we will meet to discuss the situation,” the prime minister said.
“I visited Qabbani twice and I asked him to supervise a solution that would unite the sect, but unfortunately this did not happen.”
Mikati and the former prime ministers warned that if the grand mufti failed to heed their call, they would hold an urgent meeting in order to take suitable measures because Qabbani has refrained from taking decisions in line with the interests of the sect.
The dispute between the council and Qabbani 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 have become strained after the grand mufti opposed the toppling of the Mikati government, following the assassination of Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hasan last October.