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Lebanon News

Candidates for Islamic council elections announced

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: The General Directorate of Islamic Endowments announced Monday the candidates for the Higher Islamic Council elections, set for April 14, despite a Shura Council decision to cancel them. A hundred and thirty-four names were posted at the entrances of mosques, respective Dar al-Fatwa departments and its social media networks.

Forty-three candidates are running for council seats in Beirut, 42 in the north, 4 in Hasbaya-Marjayoun, 12 in Akkar, 10 in Mount Lebanon, 8 in Sidon and 15 in the Bekaa.

Sheikh Hisham Khalifah, the director-general of the Islamic Endowments, said reports that the Shura Council issued a decision to cancel the polls were mere “rumors.” He denied receiving any such verdict.

“We stress that up till now, neither Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani nor the Directorate General of Islamic Endowments received a decision from the Shura Council [about canceling elections],” Khalifah told a news conference.

“We ask here whether the judiciary is starting to announce its decisions through media outlets, contrary to the legal process,” Khalifah added. Future TV reported last week that the Shura Council issued the decision.

Khalifah also dismissed as “lies” claims that there are pro-Hezbollah sheikhs in Dar al-Fatwa, warning that this was a “very scary” media campaign against Dar al-Fatwa.

“This form of moral assassination usually precedes physical assassination and there is no doubt that it sparks divisions among Muslims,” Khalifah said. “These are dangerous and unprecedented sayings, Dar al-Fatwa has never been biased to any group at any day.”

“At a certain period, his eminence [the grand mufti] decided to support one group. Apart from this, Dar al-Fatwa maintains a patriotic stance that advocates for unity,” he said. Up until 2010, Qabbani supported the Future Movement of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri. But ties between the grand mufti and the Future Movement have deteriorated in the past two years.

Last December, 21 members of the 32-member Higher Islamic Council, who are close to the Future Movement, extended the term of the council till the end of 2013 and filed an appeal against Qabbani’s call for elections, set for Dec. 30. The Shura Council accepted the challenge and canceled the elections.

During the news conference, Fayez Eaaly, Qabbani’s attorney, argued the Shura Council decision was not legally sound, regardless of what the 21 members said when they filed their appeal against Qabbani’s call for elections.

The 21 members had cited ruling 182 from 2004 as the legal basis for granting the Shura Council the ability to challenge calls for elections at the Higher Islamic Council. However, Eaaly said that when he read the law, this was not stated explicitly.

Eaaly said that when Cabinet Secretary-General Suheil Bouji sent a letter to the Shura Council, in which he supported canceling the elections, he relied on this erroneous decision.

The lawyer added that according to decree 18 of 1955, which organizes Dar al-Fatwa’s internal affairs, a special committee is supposed to look into such challenges, and not the Shura Council.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 02, 2013, on page 3.

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