Hizbullah Slams Assault on Mufti as 'Cheap Attempt at Political Exploitation'

Hizbullah on Monday strongly condemned what it described as a “flagrant assault” on Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Qabbani, after the religious leader was trapped Sunday by an angry mob inside a Beirut mosque for several hours.

“Verbal attacks on religious leaderships are a deplorable attempt to introduce expressions that are alien to our Arab and Islamic culture which respects and revers scholars,” the party said in a statement.

“As Hizbullah stresses its solidarity with His Eminence -- given the Islamic and national position he represents and since he is one of the unifying figures -- it sees in this obscene assault a cheap attempt by some parties to politically exploit the blood of martyrs,” it added.

The party also called on state authorities to “take all the necessary measures to prevent the recurrence of such attacks.”

On Sunday, Internal Security Forces commandos evacuated Qabbani from the al-Khasheqji Mosque in Qasqas in a military armored vehicle, after a number of young men erupted in anger over his arrival to take part in the funeral of Mohammed al-Chaar, a 16-year-old teenager who was killed in the bomb attack that targeted ex-minister Mohammed Shatah.

A major commotion broke out inside and outside the mosque as protesters shouted angry slogans in scenes broadcast live by local TV stations.

On Monday, Qabbani said the protesters tried to "kill" him at the mosque.

The angry mob was led by supporters of the Mustaqbal Movement. Qabbani's ties with Mustaqbal deteriorated last year when he met with a delegation from Hizbullah the same day the Special Tribunal for Lebanon indicted four party members in former PM Rafik Hariri's 2005 assassination.

Relations between the two sides were also shaken when the mufti met with Syrian Ambassador Ali Abdul Karim Ali, whom Mustaqbal and the March 14 opposition alliance have on several occasions said should be expelled.

March 14 has also accused Hizbullah and Damascus of assassinating Shatah in a powerful car bombing in Beirut. Both parties have dismissed the allegations as politically motivated.

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