BEIRUT: The debate over the legalization of civil marriage heated up in Lebanon Tuesday with MP Samir Gemayel slamming the mufti’s remarks as a violation of the civil state.
Speaking to reporters in Parliament, Gemayel said: “The mufti’s comments are a violation of the civil state and every Lebanese person’s right which is stipulated in the Constitution.”
“It is a violation of a person’s right to practice their beliefs, convictions and freedom of expression. It is the right of any Lebanese to abide by religion or not and we believe that any violation to that right is a violation of the constitution.”
He added that forcing any Lebanese to do something either physically or mentally is punishable by law, and that every lawmaker is obliged to protect the right of freedom of belief of citizens.
Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani made fiery remarks Monday, saying any Muslim official who supported civil marriage would not be considered Muslim.
“Every Muslim official, whether a deputy or a minister, who supports the legalization of civil marriage, even if it is optional, is an apostate and outside the Islamic religion,” Qabbani said in a religious edict, or fatwa.
“[Such officials] would not be washed, would not be wrapped in a [burial] shroud, would not have prayers for their soul in line with Islamic rules, and would not be buried in a Muslim cemetery,” Qabbani added.
The fatwa was issued less than two weeks after President Michel Sleiman came out in support of granting Lebanese the right to optional civil marriage after two Lebanese attempted to make their civil wedding official.
After deleting a mention of their religious identity from their civil registration document, Kholoud Succariyeh and Nidal Darwish tied the civil knot awaiting the approval of Interior Minister Marwan Charbel
Charbel has said that approving such a contract would require a comprehensive law that would regulate civil marriage as well as divorce.
Meanwhile, the debate over the controversial issue of civil marriage made its way to the Cabinet session at Baabda Palace with Sleiman defending his stance against Qabbani's.
“How can anybody have the right to impose a [fatwa] on those who have lived in coexistence in contradiction to the spirit of the National Charter,” Sleiman told ministers at the beginning of a Cabinet meeting at Baabda Palace.
Sleiman stressed that Lebanon is worthless without such fundamental principles.
The president’s remarks prompted a swift response from Prime Minister Najib Mikati.
“Civil marriage is a sensitive issue and we cannot afford a new dispute in this country,” Mikati said.