BEIRUT: The Committee of Muslim Scholars condemned the decision by caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel to approve a couple’s civil marriage, arguing Friday that such a move was a blatant challenge to Islam.
The committee also asked preachers to inform the public of the “dangers” of the minister’s decision.
"[Charbel's registration of the marriage] is a clear violation of the Constitution and rules governing personal status as well as rules of the religious courts,” a statement by the group said.
"To assert that the law to be applied on those who have married in civil manner is the one they choose; which is the French law and not the Islamic Shariah is a blatant challenge to Islam, Muslims and the general system,” it added.
Last week, Charbel approved the marriage of Kholoud Succariyeh and Nidal Darwish who wed last November before a public notary, on the condition that they retain their sectarian affiliation and abide by personal status laws. The approval was heralded as a positive step against sectariansim by many civil society activists who often criticize Lebanon's religious court system control of marriages.
The approval's conditions were criticized by lawyers including caretaker Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi, who said conditions on the newlyweds’ marriage was not part of the minister’s prerogative given that Succariyeh and Darwish erased their religions from their identification cards and the civil register.
The committee called on the caretaker minister to immediately retract what it described as Charbel’s “false” decision “because it constitutes a threat to the Muslim family and a legal contradiction given that the public notary does not have the legal power to approve the marriage.”
It also called on the Cabinet as well as religious and Lebanese leaders to “urgently confront this dangerous decision and challenge it legally.”
Most religious organizations have strongly opposed secular civil marriages, saying they compromise the sanctity of a union between men and women.
“We ask all Imams and preachers to inform the public during Friday's sermon of the dangerous of such a decision and prepare them for any urgent action,” the statement said.
The marriage of the two, one a Shiite and the other is Sunni, has sparked controversy in the country especially after Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qababni declared those in support of the civil status as infidels.
In January, Qabbani said any Muslim official who supported civil marriage would not be considered Muslim but “an apostate and outside the Islamic religion.”