BEIRUT: Druze Sheikh Nasreddine al-Gharib criticized the newly elected Druze Spiritual Council Friday for including seven women among its 90 members, calling their presence heresy.
Gharib, who Lebanese Democratic Party leader Talal Arslan declared the Druze spiritual leader in 2006, bluntly criticized Walid Jumblatt’s Progressive Socialist Party and the newly elected council for being a “political council in sectarian cover.”
Last month, seven women joined the Druze Spiritual Council when PSP-backed candidates took 80 percent of the seats, with Arslan and his supporters boycotting the polls. The body administers the sect’s religious, non-religious, financial and social affairs.
Gharib charged that the Druze Spiritual Council committed a heresy by electing seven women to the council.
“The mountain [Chouf] appointed the members of the council, but this time it is distinguished by a new heresy that no other legitimate council for any sect in the country has done before,” Gharib said in a statement.
Arslan boycotted the polls after talks with the PSP regarding seat distribution hit a deadend; the sticking point was Gharib’s role in the council.
Arslan and his supporters also opted out of the last elections, after they disagreed with new rules organizing the sect, which were put in place a few months before the 2006 vote.
Judge Sajih Aawar, the head of the election’s Supervision Committee, has welcomed the addition of women to the council.
When announcing election results last month, Aawar said that there had been a noticeably high turnout among female voters, and he had hoped more than seven women would make it to the council.
Gharib criticized the council on multiple fronts, saying “there has never been another legitimate council for any other sect that that has appointed seven women who gather and decide the affairs of the sect.”
He added that this would happen “under the leadership of a spiritual leader who wanted to be a leader and is receiving and implementing orders,” in a likely reference to Jumblatt-backed Druze spiritual leader Naim Hasan, who was first elected in 2006.
Gharib also disparaged the body for re-electing members, and called on the Druze sect to end the situation in which one politician dominates.
“Until when will this circus of hopelessness rule the souls of the people as if they have become herds of oppressors?” asked Gharib in the statement. He also criticized non-PSP politicians who took part in the elections, saying “what is unfortunate is that we do not hear any voice or opinion other than the ones accepting defeat.”
Gharib said that the current council and its leadership have monopolized decision-making in the Lebanese Druze community.
“We tell them, this [Druze] sect is doing very well and does not need guiding. What it needs is honesty to bring us together,” he said.