The election of a new grand mufti for Lebanon Sunday signaled a resounding defeat for parties that have spent several years trying to sow division in the Sunni community’s highest religious body.
The overarching message of Sheikh Abdel-Latif Derian’s election was one of firm consensus by leading Sunni political and religious figures. The smooth election both advanced the institution of Dar al-Fatwa and highlighted how the Sunni community is united on priority issues such as national cohesion, support for the Lebanese Army and security institutions, and upholding the Constitution.
This was evident when former Prime Minister Saad Hariri hosted the electoral body’s members and others for a luncheon afterward. The event gathered figures who have sparred in the past over Dar al-Fatwa and also saw Qabbani also take part, meaning the former mufti made a dignified exit from the political scene.
Hariri stressed how long-standing support for Christian-Muslim coexistence in Lebanon would remain a cornerstone of Dar al-Fatwa – a message urgently needed today, as the region is afflicted with ultra-extremists who claim to speak and act in the name of Islam.
The array of figures who gathered for Sunday’s election and luncheon were not participating in an ordinary set of ceremonies. By coming together at this time, they delivered a strong message that by being unified on the core issues – moderation, national sovereignty, and the rule of law – their community can contribute to isolating the extremists who pose a challenge to Lebanon, the region, and the more than 1 billion Muslims worldwide.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 11, 2014, on page 7.