Several northern leaders condemned on Saturday the torching of Father Ibrahim Sarrouj's historical library in the northern city of Tripoli, considering that this act does not conform to the teachings of Islam.
Hundreds of civil society members also took to the streets of Tripoli to protest the torching of a decades-old library owned by the Greek Orthodox priest.
The demonstrators held up banners that read "Tripoli, peaceful town" and "This is contrary to the values of the Prophet," in reference to the Muslim Prophet Mohammed.
Meanwhile, Father Sarrouj announced that he "forgives those that burned down the library."
"I pray for God to protect Tripoli,” OTV quoted him as saying.
LBCI television revealed that two people were behind setting the library on fire, and that security bodies were able to identify them.
"They will be detained by Sunday,” it added.
The torching of the al-Saeh Library came after reports claimed that the father had published an article deemed insulting to Islam.
However, Internal Security Forces commander in Tripoli General Bassam al-Ayoubi announced at a press conference that Sarrouj has “absolutely no links to the published article.”
"The perpetrators will be penalized,” al-Ayoubi assured.
Sarrouj and other northern figures were also present at the press conference.
Tripoli Salafist cleric Sheikh Salem al-Rafei stressed that “Islam denounces any unjust act against anyone.”
He noted: “Some groups want to incite sedition between Muslims and Christians in Tripoli.”
"Christians have never migrated from the city and this will not change. We will keep living side-by-side.”
Meanwhile, northern MP Robert Fadel stated that Tripoli will always remain a city of religious coexistence, adding that “no local or regional problems will change this reality.”
He continued: “Security forces know the suspects behind the attack and we demand arresting him as this is the only way to deal with this incident.”
Mufti of Tripoli and the North Sheikh Malek al-Shaar offered his consolation to Father Sarrouj.
“This cannot happen and these acts that incite strife must be stopped,” he said addressing security forces.
He added: “Security forces must disclose the names of the attackers behind this awful crime as well as their political and religious affiliation until they get the punish they deserve.”
Al-Shaar also insisted that the torching of the library “does not conform to Islam.”
“To Christians I say that this attack is not against them and we are ready to embrace them.”
Earlier in the day, former ISF chief Ashrad Rifi assured that Tripoli “will bear the responsibility of rebuilding the library.”
"We insist that Father Sarrouj and his library must be present in the city to protect our heritage and religious coexistence,” he said.
He remarked that the library was not entirely burned, saying that, nevertheless, the “loss is huge.”
Rifi explained that the study that tackles Islam and Prophet Mohammed, and which was rumored to have been written by Sarrouj was actually prepared by a non-Lebanon national called Ahmed al-Qadi.
"It has no links to Sarrouj,” he revealed.
"Sarrouj is a cleric that lived his entire life in Tripoli, communicating with all its residents and his writings prove his respect to religious values, dialogue, and religious coexistence.”
Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati also condemned the incident, stating his rejection to “any offenses and reactions against Tripoli and its residents.”
Former premier Fouad Saniora considered burning the library a “suspicious crime.”
"Those behind the attack are serving the enemies of Lebanon and distorting the image of Tripoli by portraying it as a city of extremists.”
The Orthodox Archdiocese in Tripoli and Koura considered that “agents of sedition that have been extending to Tripoli were able to fabricate lies and accusations and blame an article on Father Sarrouj, although he has nothing to do with.”
"We urge concerned authorities to conduct a transparent probe to unveil the perpetrators, try them and penalize them,” a released statement said.
"They need to become aware of the fact that attacking the city and subjecting it to dangers is a crime and that they will never achieve their goal.”
The Archdiocese expressed also that this is an attack on “culture, wisdom and on humans.”
"It reminds us of the torching of the libraries of Baghdad and Alexandria and of what followed afterward like ignorance and degeneration,” the statement said.
A meeting for the March-14 affiliated Tripoli Declaration committee was held in al-Mustaqbal MP Mohammed Kabbara's northern house to tackle this issue.
“March 14 condemns and deplores the attack that only signals the immoral character of the perpetrators,” Kabbara said after the talks, stressing that March 14 forces “insist on religious coexistence in Tripoli.”
He added: “It is security's forces' duty to unveil the attackers and the instigators and punish those that were negligent in protecting people's properties.”
Kabbara said that “nothing stands in the way of implementing the Tripoli Declaration.”
“We all stress on the necessity to end the spread of weapons because this has become a must to protect religious coexistence.”
March 14 forces general-secretariat coordinator Fares Souaid also highlighted the the importance of religious coexistence in Tripoli.
“We are Lebanese people against any Christian, Sunni and Shiite extremism,” he said.
Caretaker Youth and Sports Minister Faisal Karami “strongly” deplored torching the library, accusing political leaders, the educated and the social elite and the silent majority of accepting to transform Tripoli into a “refuge for outlaws.”
Addressing Sarrouj, he said: “Do not ask for someone's permission, for a permit of stay, or for fake security measures. You are from the city and your presence is a priority.”
Friday evening's attack left the shelves and walls of the library charred.
Bashir Hazzouri, an employee at the library, was shot and wounded on Thursday in the old souks of Tripoli.
Al-Saeh Library is considered one of the most renowned libraries in Tripoli and the second largest in Lebanon.
Sarrouj says the library contains more than 80,000 books.
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