Lebanon News

Muslim religious leaders meet to avert further tensions

Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani speaks during an interview with The Daily Star in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2012. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: Seven suspects were detained Tuesday over the recent attacks on four Muslim scholars, the state prosecutor told The Daily Star, as Shiite and Sunni religious leaders met to avert further tensions in the country over the affair.

Meanwhile, the opposition Future parliamentary bloc called on the government to refer the cases to the Supreme Judicial Council tasked with crimes that threaten civil peace.

“I ordered the detention of seven suspects in the [two] attacks against Muslim scholars and there could be further detentions depending on the course of the investigation,” said Judge Hatem Madi.

He said four of the suspects were detained over the Sunday attack on Sheikh Mazen Hariri and Sheikh Ahmad Fekhran in Khandaq al-Ghamiq in Beirut. The other three were detained over their suspected involvement in the attack on Sheikh Ibrahim Abd al-Latiff and Sheikh Omar Imany in Shiyah.

Hariri and Fekhran were attacked and beaten up by a group of Shiite men in Khandaq al-Ghamiq shortly after leaving the Mohammad al-Amin Mosque in the downtown area. Abd al-Latiff and Imany were assaulted in Shiyah while on their way to Chtaura in the Bekaa Valley.

Madi said that the judiciary was looking closely at the identity of the attackers and their motives.

“We are also investigating their possible link or affiliation to any local party,” he added.

In remarks to As-Safir newspaper published Tuesday, Interior Minister Marwan Charbel said that around 10 people, including suspects and witness, were being questioned over the attacks.

“It is not enough to arrest suspects. We should know who is using these people for such dangerous actions,” he added.

Meanwhile, Lebanon's Grand Jaafarite Shiite Mufti Sheikh Ahmad Qabalan met Tuesday with Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani in a step aimed at containing the situation that almost plunged the country into chaos.

“We came to this dignified, national house in solidarity with the stance of Mufti Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani and to stress our condemnation to what recently happened of attacks on the sheikhs and [we] reject all kinds of assaults on any person, let alone religious figures,” Qabalan told reporters outside Dar al-Fatwa.

Qabalan also echoed remarks by Qabbani when he urged politicians to refrain from sectarian rhetoric that could fuel conflict and called for a national dialogue to bridge the gap among the country’s leaders.

“We affirmed the prohibition of the [spilling] of Muslim at the hands of another Muslim and of Sunni-Shiite strife that we must work on confronting ... and refuse sedition as well as sectarian and confessional incitement, particularly between the sons of this one country and one house,” he added.

Qabbani, who warned Monday of sectarian clashes in light of the incident, said those behind the attacks had failed in their objectives, which he said was to throw the country into strife.

“[Those] who wanted strife and supported those who carried out [the assault] thought it was going to extend, but they were disappointed,” Qabbani told reporters, adding that Lebanese should be on the lookout for such attempts in the future.

“Lebanon will not be in isolation from what is happening in Syria and Iraq in particular which has become a model of civil war... Lebanon will enter in this strife and so we should be aware,” he warned.

The Mufti also met with Loyalty to the Resistance parliamentary bloc MP Kamel Rifai, who said the perpetrators should be punished as though they had threatened civil peace.

The attack against the scholars sparked nationwide condemnation and prompted some citizens to block roads in several parts of the country in protest.

Also Tuesday, the Future parliamentary bloc held the government responsible for repeated security breaches in the country and asked the Cabinet to refer the cases of the attacks on the preachers to the Supreme Judicial Council tasked with crimes that threaten civil peace.

“The bloc ... holds the government responsible for the security chaos due to its complacency in dealing with the presence of illegal weapons and asks it to arrest the perpetrators and reveal who planned and provoked this crime,” a statement from the bloc said following its weekly meeting.

“[The MPs also] ask the Cabinet to refer the case to the Judicial Council given that it is a crime that threatens civil peace in Lebanon,” it added, describing the aim of the attacks as seeking to incite inter-Muslim and inter-Lebanese divisions.

The bloc, headed by MP Fouad Siniora, also said that the culture of armed bullying against the “citizens, the law and the state” was the source of the country’s ailments.

It also hinted that the Syrian regime could be behind the attack, accusing it of planning to divert attention away from the two-year crisis.

“This crime, as it appears, was carried out by someone seeking to blow up the situation in Lebanon and we have witnesses repeated and known attempts that have been revealed and foiled and that were in the framework of the Syrian regime's plan to transport its crisis outside its borders ... as well as diverting attention away from what it is doing against the Syrian people,” the bloc said.

Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, in remarks to An-Nahar daily published Tuesday, said that the incidents aimed at provoking Sunni-Shiite strife in the country.

“The real aim behind the incidents was to create Sunni-Shiite strife that would lead to a bloody conflict in the country,” said Geagea.

He called on Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi to order a widened investigation into the incidents.





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