BEIRUT: Several politicians, including a Future Movement lawmaker, slammed Monday fiery speeches that targeted Hizbullah during a rally one day earlier in the northern coastal city of Tripoli.
Future Movement MP Ahmad Fatfat, who hails from Dinnieh, a district close to Tripoli, told The Daily Star that the escalatory discourse heard Sunday in the northern city was neither representative of the Future Movement’s position nor its leader, Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
Islamist factions, as well as the Future Movement and municipal figures from north Lebanon slammed during a rally to mark Muslim New Year attempts to impede the course of justice and target Lebanon’s Sunni community.
Tensions have significantly mounted in recent months over the indictment to be issued by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), which is probing the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
The Hague-based court is expected to indict members of Lebanon’s Hizbullah. The group has slammed the STL, describing it as an “Israeli project” aimed at targeting the resistance.
Many fear sectarian violence among Sunnis and Shiites could ensue if the STL points the finger at Hizbullah.
In a fiery speech, Tripoli MP Mohammad Kabbara said attacks on the prime minister – a post reserved for a Sunni – as well as attempts to force Prime Minister Saad Hariri to relinquish the STL would be challenged.
“I tell Hizbullah and its allies everywhere in Lebanon that the Sunnis will not be the weak link,” Kabbara said.
“From Tripoli, the capital of Lebanese Sunnis, I honestly and clearly declare that every finger that rises against Lebanon will be broken and every tongue that will attack our institutions will be cut and every eye that looks cruelly to the STL will be scooped out,” he added, in clear reference to Hizbullah.
Also at the rally, Dai al-Islam al-Chahhal, founder of Lebanon’s radical Salafist movement, said Sunday that his followers would use all means available to defend themselves against “injustices.”
“Our words of truth are stronger than your rockets,” said Chahhal, referring to the artillery of Hizbullah. “If necessary, we are ready to use our bodies as mines to defend Sunnis for we will never accept injustice,” he added.
Fatfat said though he regretted such negative speeches, these nevertheless mirrored tensions among the Lebanese in response to the provocative discourse adopted by Hizbullah over the tribunal.
He added that the Future Movement was working on containing tensions and toning down the adopted rhetoric. He said Sunday’s rally in Tripoli would have been even more radical had representatives of the Future Movement not taken part in the rally.
Echoing similar sentiments, Tripoli MP and Economy Minister Mohammad Safadi said passionate rhetoric harmed Lebanon’s interests.
“Tripoli is the city of moderation and believes in unity among the Lebanese and with all due respect to those speaking [at the rally], responding to a challenge with a challenge does not serve national interests,” Safadi said.
“We are against any challenge that leads to negative reactions and other challenges,” he added.
Kabbara’s stances also drew criticism from former Minister Wadih al-Khazen who said the declaration of Tripoli as the “Capital of Sunnis” paved the way for extremist movements to infiltrate the city.
He said Kabbara’s discourse raised fears of sectarian strife under the current sensitive situation.
In a statement released in response to Khazen, Kabbara accused him of being a Syrian agent. The MP clarified that he had declared Tripoli as the “capital of Sunni Lebanese.” Kabbara added that the city of Tripoli had backed the Lebanese Army in its fight against the Al-Qaeda inspired Fatah al-Islam group in 2007. The Lebanese Army crushed Fatah al-Islam, based in the north Lebanon Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared.