BEIRUT: A small group gathered outside Dar al-Fatwa Saturday voicing support for Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani in light of his decision to relinquish management of the organization.
Speaking on behalf of the men outside Dar al-Fatwa, Ahmad Meree said the gathering was not planned and aimed at supporting Qabbani and the top Sunni body.
“This meeting and spontaneous movement by Beirut’s youth comes to affirm that this organization is fortified and should not be used for political purposes,” Meree said.
Sheikh Hisham Khalifah, General Director of the Islamic Endowment, welcomed the men and relayed the mufti's appreciation for their support.
Khalifah expressed hope that politicians would take notice of the showing of support for the mufti.
"We hope that this movement will represent the return of wisdom to the minds of our politicians and [we hope] they will reconsider their thoughts and that Dar al-Fatwa cannot be treated this way,” he said.
“We all refuse to divide the Muslim unity just like the mufti, who has held stances calling for the elections of the Higher Islamic Council to bring about a new one rather than a council that only convenes to issue political statements,” he added.
Qabbani announced Friday he would transfer the day-today management of Dar al-Fatwa to religious scholars but would remain in his post until the end of his term in September 2014.
The surprising move comes after Qabbani had earlier in the day sounded defiant in the face of Prime Minister Najib Mikati and former prime ministers who urged the leading Sunni preacher to invite and convene the Higher Islamic Council no later than Saturday. The meeting would have assigned a date for the elections of new members.
The officials also said they would take unspecified measures in the event that Qabbani turned down their request.
The grand mufti maintains that the council's term has expired. The 32-member council extended its own term last year until the end of 2013. The mufti refuses to hold or join any meetings at Dar al-Fatwa and called last month for elections of council members to be held on April 14.
The majority of the council is aligned with Future Movement whose ties with Qabbani began to deteriorate in 2011.