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Qabbani reverses call for Islamic Council polls
Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani speaks during a meeting by the Higher Islamic Council at Dar al-Fatwa in Beirut, Monday, May 21, 2012. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)
Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani speaks during a meeting by the Higher Islamic Council at Dar al-Fatwa in Beirut, Monday, May 21, 2012. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)
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BEIRUT: Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani Thursday reversed a controversial call to hold elections for the Higher Islamic Council at the end of this year.

The mufti issued a statement in which he announced that he canceled his prior “decision ... of Nov. 25, 2012, to call on electoral bodies to elect a new Higher Islamic Council on Dec. 30, 2012.”

Prime Minister Najib Mikati met with Qabbani later in the day, and suggested holding elections in the next three months.

“The proposal is to hold elections within a maximum period of two or three months, with members of the current Higher Islamic Council remaining in office until elections are held in order to avoid a vacuum,” Mikati told reporters after a visit to Qabbani’s home. The term of the Higher Islamic Council expires at the end of the year.

“I discussed this proposal with the mufti and he asked for until ... [Friday] morning to make a final decision on the matter,” Mikati added.

Mikati said that despite talks with leaders about the elections, he had not discussed the details of the plan he pitched to Qabbani with anyone else.

“Yesterday I discussed the issue [of the Higher Islamic Council] with former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and we almost reached a solution and we [Mikati and former prime ministers] will take a united stance on the matter in light of talks which I held and will continue today with former prime ministers,” Mikati explained.

Twenty-one members from the 32-member council who are close to the Future Movement challenged Qabbani’s initial call for elections before the Shura Council. They argued it violated the decree that regulates the administration of Dar al-Fatwa.

Last week, the Shura Council suspended Qabbani’s call for the polls, saying it violated regulations.

Efforts to reform Dar al-Fatwa have led to a cooling of ties between the Future Movement and Qabbani.

The prime minister denied abandoning the mufti: “If I had abandoned his eminence, I wouldn’t have visited him today. I repeat that I will not abandon him ... and I fully respect him.”

Sources familiar with the issue told The Daily Star that Qabbani would inform Mikati about his opinion about the proposal early next year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 28, 2012, on page 3.
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