BEIRUT: Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani said Tuesday he would remain at his post until the end of his term and said former prime ministers Saad Hariri and Fouad Siniora would be held responsible should any harm come to him.
“I hold both [former] Prime Ministers Saad Hariri and Fouad Siniora responsibility should my blood [be shed] or for any harm that comes to me,” Qabbani told reporters following his meeting with the head of the Journalists Union Elias Aoun at Dar al-Fatwa.
Qabbani also voiced defiance in the face of his opponents, saying: “I am staying until the end of my term or until the day I die before the end of my term and I say to them: If you are able to fire the grand mufti then that would be shameful for some Future Movement leaders.”
The rift between Qabbani and the Future Movement began to surface in 2011 when the mufti visited Hezbollah officials after the international tribunal probing the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri indicted four members of the resistance group of involvement in the 2005 killing.
Qabbani also opposed the toppling of then Prime Minister Najib Mikati's government, which was a demand by the Future Movement following the 2012 assassination of Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hasan.
The row between Qabbani and the lawmakers led to disputes within Dar al-Fatwa, particularly when 21 members of the council allied with the party met last December under its deputy head, former Transport Minister Omar Miskawi, and extended the term of the 32-member body for a period of one year without the approval of the mufti.
Qabbani dubbed the extension illegal and called for the council’s election on April 14 of this year.
In a bid to resolve the issues within Dar al-Fatwa, Lebanon's highest Sunni authority, former prime ministers including Mikati and Siniora met on several occasions and in their meeting last month gave the mufti until March 16 to convene a session of the Higher Islamic Council in order to schedule its elections.
The former prime ministers urged Qabbani to comply with their request, warning that they would take suitable measures, “given that his eminence will be refraining from doing what the high interest of the sect requires.”
In his chat with reporters Tuesday, the mufti said he was the authority entrusted with holding the elections.
“I am entrusted with holding the elections and I support amendments but [only] after the elections, knowing that those who called for reforms prior the polls had met with Siniora and then later held a session that involved fraud and we have evidence of this and the probe will reveal this in the case against them," he said.
Earlier this month, the mufti filed lawsuits against the Higher Islamic Council and an unidentified individual over what he described as the fraudulent extension of the council.
“They don't want a strong mufti and their calls that I have no power to call for elections are lies and inaccurate and I am entrusted with holding the elections for the Islamic Council even if it witnesses boycotts in some Lebanese districts,” he said, reiterating his call for the April 14 elections.