The spiritual leaders of the main Islamic sects in Lebanon in a joint statement have warned after an “urgent summit” Tuesday, against fueling sectarian tensions in the country, underlining that inter-Muslim violence is forbidden. While denouncing the threats to the unity, security and stability of the Arab world, they slammed Israel for its alleged plans to divide Muslims. They also came to the defence of Christians and other minorities in the Middle East.
The special Islamic summit was held at Sunni Islam’s main body, Dar al-Fatwa's headquarters in Beirut and was attended by a number of religious figures from all four sects. The meeting was headed by the Grand Mufti Abdel-Latif Derian, of Dar al-Fatwa, and was held for the first time after he was appointed on August 10, last year. The other religious heads were: Deputy Chief of the Higher Islamic Shiite Council Abdel-Amir Qabalan, Druze spiritual leader Naim Hassan and the religious head of Lebanon’s Alawite community Assad Assi. Mohammad Sammak, co-chair of the National Committee for Islamic-Christian dialogue, coordinated the event.
The representatives of the four Islamic groups voiced in a joint statement their “concern over the allegations exchanged between political officials that are taking sectarian natures.” They said adopting such rhetoric would “give a sectarian dimension to their disputes and thus widen the gap that the Israeli enemy is working to expand and exploit.” The statement said conflicts within Arab states wrongly suggest that “Muslims in general and Arabs in particular have given up the priority of the Palestinian cause," which further benefits Israel.
They made several points, like condemning violent and discriminatory practices by takfirist Islam, condemning coercion in religious matters, calling for respect for everyone’s private and public rights, and reiterating the principle of pluralism in Muslim-Christian relations and intra-Muslim relations
The leaders argued that when conflicts take on a sectarian nature, they “endanger unity in the societies of these countries, including Lebanon, and thus their security and stability.” The summit called on “Muslims, all Muslims, to stick to God’s solid path and avoid fragmentation.”
“This does not mean avoiding disagreements, but rather accepting differences and respecting [them] based on the core principle of faith saying ‘believers are brethren,’” it clarified.
The spiritual chiefs notably underlined the “prohibition of fighting between Muslims,” and called for committing to the teachings of “Allah and the Prophet Mohammad.”
The third item of the statement “condemned all forms of extremism and takfir,” which is the practice of accusing rivals of blasphemy over religious disagreement. Sectarian tensions are running high in the region as Iraq's government has called in Shiite militias to combat ISIS's advance in Sunni-dominated Anbar province and locally as Hezbollah has threatened to confront jihadis hiding in the rugged hills of northeast Lebanon along the border with Syria.
The summit also reaffirmed their commitment to a national state that provides equal rights and duties for its citizens and called on the Lebanese to respect state institutions, abide by the constitution and defend civil peace by recognizing the plurality of one national community.
Warning Lebanese citizens against being dragged into sectarian strife, the attendees also emphasized the religious fraternity of Muslims and the national unity between Christians and Muslims, while renewing their confidence in Lebanon’s ability to address internal problems in a manner that rises above sectarian impulses.
The statement also called on lawmakers to elect a president following the year-long vacuum in the country’s top Christian post.
Following are the eight recommendations issued at the summit:
- We urge Muslims to see no differences among themselves. This does not mean the absence of disagreements, but it does mean the acceptance of differences and respect for others, based on the rule of faith according to which 'believers are brothers'. The variety of schools and interpretations does not abolish nor weaken this sense of brotherhood based in the belief in God, His Prophet and the Qur‘an [. . .].
- We say that "the killing of a Muslim by another Muslim is banned in accordance with the Qur‘an."
- We condemn all forms of extremism and judgments of apostasy (takfir) pronounced against other believers in a God, a practice that is also a deviation from the tolerance that characterises Islam [. . .] and twists or distorts its image."
- The right way for intra-Muslim and Islamic-Christian relations involves justice, moderation, respect for diversity and differences among men."
Condemning terrorism and extremism
"5 We condemn the terrorist behaviour that accompanies extremism and against which the Prophet had warned us. Such actions are contrary to Islamic Sharia and the principles that affirm the dignity of man and the immunity of every human soul."
"6 We invite Muslims from all schools in Lebanon and the Arab and Islamic world to focus on the fundamentals of faith of the Muslim doctrine and avoid misinterpretations that make Islam say what it does not say; avoid getting caught in the trap of discord that the Israeli enemy and the forces that support it are trying to rekindle. There is but one Muslim religion, although its ways (sharia) are multiple. God alone is the judge of the differences among people.”
"7 In the name of religious, humanitarian and national principles, the summit condemns religiously motivated attacks against Eastern Christians, including attacks against their homes, villages, property and places of worship, when in fact the Prophet had recommended that they be respected, protected and defended. These attacks, like those suffered by other Muslims and non-Muslims belonging to other faiths and cultures, like the Yazidis, are tantamount to aggression against Islam itself.”
"8 The summit reiterated its faith in respect for human dignity, private and public freedoms, especially religious freedom, and its rejection of any coercion in religion or in the name of religion."
Respect for the Lebanese Constitution
In conclusion, the summit reiterated "its faith in the existence of national states that ensure the equality of rights and duties, and urged the Lebanese to respect the state’s institutions, their constitution and their laws, to defend civil peace whilst acknowledging diversity within the state.”
It also "warned against calls that lead to discord and reiterated fraternal ties among Muslims of different schools, as well as Lebanon's ability to wisely resolve its internal crisis [. . .]. It reiterated its hope that Lebanon, once it elected a new president, the only Christian president in the Arab world, can become a model to solve the crises that affect many brother Arab states."
Source: Vatican Radio