BEIRUT: Preparations are under way to hold a gathering of independent Shiite figures in Beirut on March 31, a source told The Daily Star.
The gathering is set to discuss the necessary steps to avoid Sunni-Shiite strife in Lebanon and organize more meetings between independent Shiite figures to reflect the conflicting attitudes within the Shiite sect, especially toward Hezbollah’s involvement against the Syrian opposition fighters.
The source said that a general secretariat and a follow-up committee would be formed during the gathering to facilitate communication between the independent figures and other Lebanese sects, so they can join forces and prevent internal strife.
The source added that efforts are currently under way to secure the participation of prominent Shiite scholars, political and social activists, including scholar Sayyed Ali al-Amine, scholar Sayyed Hani Fahs, Hezbollah former Secretary-General Sheikh Sobhi Toufeili, political activist Riad al-Asaad and former MP Salah al-Harakeh.
The source added that Toufeili would not attend the meeting due to security concerns, but he would send a representative.
In a recent interview on MTV television, Toufeili slammed Hezbollah’s involvement in the Syrian war, and said “Hezbollah fighters who are killing children and terrorizing people and destroying houses in Syria ... cannot be considered martyrs.”
Amine told The Daily Star that he had not yet been contacted by the organizers of the gathering, but said his participation was contingent on the stances and the framework to be adopted at the meeting:
“We have always stressed the need for diverse opinions within all the Lebanese sects and in particular within the Shiite sect. All groups have the right to express their stances concerning national issues and it is not normal when a single party seizes the opinions of all other groups that form the Shiite sect in Lebanon.”
Asked about the implications of Hezbollah’s involvement in the Syrian war, Amine said: “The danger of the Syrian crisis spilling over and causing sectarian strife in Lebanon will not only affect the Shiite sect but also the Lebanese people. For that reason, all the Lebanese parties should cooperate to prevent such devastating consequences.”
“We reject any intervention in the war between brothers in Syria and we have always emphasized that the battlefield of jihad is not rubber and thus we can’t expand it according to our interests,” he stressed.
Amine continued: “As a Shiite sect in Lebanon our jihad is to build our country and preserve its coexistence and national unity, and making the state institutions our sole point of reference ... to confront any enemy that threatens us especially the Israeli enemy. Our jihad is not in the involvement of civil strife in Syria.
“If those parties had raised their voices and expressed their opinions boldly and loudly years ago we would not have to face the danger and oppression we do today, however, it’s better late than never.
“We support all those who want to express their opinions against the dangers that threaten not only the Shiite sect but the whole country.”