After Lebanon’s president gave his full backing to the introduction of civil marriage, various voices, including the highest Sunni authority, have spoken against it, ignoring the interests and the aspirations of those advocating national unity through knocking down barriers.
Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani said Monday that those in support of civil marriage were trying to introduce a “germ” into the country, as if this basic right was somehow dangerous, or evil.
Sleiman has, to his credit, continued to speak out in favor of allowing such unions, highlighting that the lack of civil marriage undermines both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Lebanon signed in 1972, and the Taif Accord, which calls for an end to the sectarian system.
But more than that, the lack of civil marriage can also be seen to contradict the Constitution itself. That a draft law on its introduction has been accumulating dust in some government drawer since 1998, and it’s high time it sees the light of day.
Sleiman has also urged the interior minister to re-examine the case of the first civil marriage in Lebanon, after it appeared it would not be granted official status.
The mufti’s extreme opposition to civil marriage, labeling any Muslim who approved such an act as an apostate, is outrageous and disheartening. He seems to assume a divine role by deciding who will and who will not be blessed upon death.
When politicians and leaders from many sects and parties are calling for national unity, he and other religious leaders seem to be intent on keeping those walls that divide people as strong as ever.
Nobody can, in their true mind, deny that civil marriage would be an important step in bringing people from different backgrounds together. And why should a right allowed to those who can afford to fly to Cyprus be denied to others?
Prime Minister Najib Mikati, who has toned down his rhetoric slightly and is now saying the issue needs more examination, publically defied the president in his opposition to it. His reasoning, that there are more pressing issues in Lebanon, is deplorable. Had his government made any serious attempts to confront the undeniably serious problems of water, electricity, security and social justice during his tenure, then that would be something. But he has not. To tackle such a little issue as civil marriage, as he seems to view it, would be a worthwhile development on his part, seeing as he is apparently unable, or unwilling, to address the bigger issues.
Religious leaders of all sects, motivated by benefits they receive from controlling the population cradle to grave, are clearly not interested in eradicating the plague of sectarianism. All voices, not just presidential, are now needed to support civil marriage as a human right.