Uproar after Invitation of Dissident Druze Cleric to Arab Summitإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
The invitation of dissident Druze cleric Sheikh Nasreddine al-Gharib to Beirut's Arab economic summit has dismayed the religious leadership of the Druze community in Lebanon, which said that inviting any figure other than the community's official spiritual leader represents a “violation of protocol” and an attack on the National Pact.
Al-Gharib is backed by Lebanese Democratic Party leader MP Talal Arslan and Arab Tawhid Party chief ex-minister Wiam Wahhab, who have rejected a 2006 law issued by Parliament and limiting the official representation of the Druze community to a single spiritual leader and to an elected confessional council.
Progressive Socialist Party chief ex-MP Walid Jumblat and large segments of the Druze community meanwhile support Sheikh Naim Hassan and consider him the sect's official spiritual leader.
The controversy prompted the Lebanese Presidency, which was in charge of protocol during the economic summit, to issue a clarification.
“To prevent any erroneous exploitation, the Presidency's press office stresses that the invitation of any religious or non-religious figure to an official ceremony does not represent, in any way, a violation by the Presidency of the national values and principles and subsequently does not represent a violation of the constitution or law and regulations,” the office said.
“Therefore, the Presidency is keen on respecting the constitution and preserving it and implementing the laws, as much as it is keen on the unity of Lebanese religious communities and respecting their leaderships and representation in official ceremonies and events,” the office added.
The Jumblat-backed Druze spiritual leadership had slammed in its statement what it called a “suspicious interference in the private affairs of the Druze community.”
“The President is asked to address the whole affair, seeing as the mission of respecting and preserving the constitution, implementing the law and protecting coexistence and sensitivities of Lebanon's religious fabric falls on his shoulders,” the leadership added.
MP Akram Shehayyeb of Jumblat's bloc meanwhile warned that “the invitation of a religious figure to the Arab economic summit for premeditated political goals targeted against a founding community of this country is a bizarre, unacceptable and dangerous issue.”
Arslan had earlier thanked President Aoun for inviting al-Gharib to the summit.
Gharib himself tweeted thanking the President for “respecting diversity and democracy regarding the sensitivities of sects and religions” and for “not bowing to the policies of elimination and hegemony.”
“You will remain the guardian of the republic against those tampering with the country's security, safety and prestige, those who have looted and robbed Lebanon's resources and people. Together with you we will keep in check every corrupt and corruptor,” Gharib added.