BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Higher Shiite Council said Thursday that it was against legalizing civil marriage in the country and called for an interfaith dialogue to discuss the issue among various sects.
Deputy President of the Higher Shiite Council Sheikh Abdel-Amir Qabalan said a national committee bringing together all religious leaders should be established to discuss marriage outside religious institutions in an objective manner.
“I call on the heads of sects in Lebanon to form a committee and discuss the prospects of civil marriage in detail, in a way that does not violate religious law but satisfies God and benefits the people,” the sheikh told reporters.
A few days after Lebanon’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani issued a religious edict against legalizing civil marriage, the Shiite council joined forces with him and voiced its opposition to secular weddings as well.
Civil marriage was rejected on the grounds of “religious and national capacity for moral, religious, national and rights-related reasons,” the council said in a statement.
The council said that “political sectarianism” was the problem, not sectarian diversity. It called for steps to be taken to abolish such sectarianism, as prescribed in the Constitution.
“Talking about the personal status law as a sectarian problem constitutes a fallacy since it is necessary to distinguish between political sectarianism, which is a dividing factor in the country, and cultural sectarianism which is a message of diversity,” the council said.
“The principle of governing the personal status law according to religious diversity does not violate the civil state and its secularism,” the Shiite council statement said.
The statement elaborated that approving civil marriage, even it were an option, implied adopting a new system of governing personal status that would transcend sectarian lines. Such a requirement would violate the accepted social ties between sects and requires national consensus to implement, the statement said.
“Allowing a different minority the opportunity to break through the cultural structure of the majority [of Lebanese] for political reasons is a violation of the civil state and threatens the social contract that guarantees its unity,” the statement said.
The council also said that marriage according to Islam is subject to certain contractual conditions and that “any violation of such conditions makes the marriage religiously void.”
The controversy over the legalization of civil marriage was renewed earlier this month when President Michel Sleiman voiced his support for its adoption, saying the Constitution guaranteed it as a civil right.