Pro-Hezbollah Mufti declares end to Lebanon’s confessional system

Qablan’s speech urges Lebanon to disregard the nearly century-old agreement that provides the basis for fair representation for the country’s diverse religious groups.
Tuesday 26/05/2020
Supporters of Lebanon’s Hezbollah hold party flag in Marjayoun, Lebanon. (REUTERS)
Supporters of Lebanon’s Hezbollah hold party flag in Marjayoun, Lebanon. (REUTERS)

LONDON –Ahmed Qablan, a mufti close to the Lebanese Hezbollah movement, said Lebanon’s confessional system is no longer warranted in a public address lambasting the country’s leaders and warning of a “huge disaster.”

“The Lebanese state, as we know it today, was created on a sectarian and authoritarian basis to serve the colonial and monopolistic project. This formula has ended,” said the Shia Jaafaria mufti in a speech delivered on the Eid al-Fitr holiday.

“What Riad Al Solh and Bishara Al Khouri have created is no more suitable for the people and the country. That was a phase and now, it is over,” he said.

In September 1943, Solh was chosen by then president Khouri to be his first premier. They implemented the National Pact (al Mithaq al Watani) later that year that served as the official framework for Lebanon’s confessional system.

The unwritten accord held that the positions of president, prime minister and parliament speaker should be split between the country’s three major confessional groups — Maronite Christians, Sunni Muslims and Shia Muslims, respectively.

Qablan’s speech urges Lebanon to disregard the nearly century-old agreement that provides the basis for fair representation for the country’s diverse religious groups.

A file picture of Mufti Ahmed Qablan.
A file picture of Mufti Ahmed Qablan.

“The country has fallen because its constitution is corrupt,” said Qablan. “The state’s system is corrupt. Sectarianism is corrupt. The political project is corrupt, and the various agreements are corrupt.

“Loudly I say: No to the sects, not to the state of quotas, not to the quota system, not to the state that starves the citizen and monopolizes his wealth. Not to the federations of sects and barricades,” he added.

Qablan also levelled veiled criticism at former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, who was assassinated in 2005. He held Hariri responsible for Lebanon’s post-war instability in the 1990s.

After the end of Lebanon’s civil war in 1990, the country was plagued by periodic rounds of violent conflict. Hariri, who became the first post-civil war prime minister under President Elias Hrawi, attempted to put the country back on the financial map by seeking aggressive economic reforms.

In his speech, Qablan responded to some Christian leaders who have criticised Hezbollah’s control of weapons as being linked to the country’s economic crisis.

“Nobody is allowed to sum up our people, our citizens, our hopes, our torments, and our project in one person or in one sectarian or political form,” he said. “…Otherwise, we are facing a huge disaster and a fate of a defeater and defeated, a poor and a rich, an owner and an owned, a monopolist and a monopolised. This will lead the country into a dark tunnel that it will never leave, ending the project of state and homeland.”

Qablan repeated Hezbollah’s attacks on some banks, businessmen and others who believe Lebanon must chose “either the economy or illegal weapons.”

“As for the insistence of the banking community, the big merchants and businessmen on confrontation, on the basis of facing, detecting and reducing the threat, it is very, very serious matter, and it must not pass without accountability,” he said.

Qablan also repeated Hezbollah’s rally to pursue a policy of economic resistance to the West, saying “what is required from the government is full openness to all countries, especially in the East, as a major rescue route, provided that we implement political, customs, supervisory and social reforms to steer away from lobbies here or there.”

Qablan implicitly threatened that the Lebanese army could be thrown into disarray if the public questioned Hezbollah’s role.

“Lebanon is a country that has its political function and its national and moral project, and any play with priorities means a catastrophe, and we do not want a new May 17,” Qablan said, in reference to the agreement of 1983 that was signed between Lebanon and Israel calling for the withdrawal of the Israeli Army from Beirut and which provided a framework for the establishment of bilateral relations between the two countries.

Qablan’s statements drew the ire of many Lebanese politicians, who accused the Shia mufti of stoking tensions in the country to support the objectives of Hezbollah and its regional sponsor Tehran.

“Bishara Al Khouri and Riad Al Solh created the most beautiful country in the region. You [Hezbollah] killed Lebanon and the Taif Agreement with your illegal weapons,” said former deputy Fares Saeed.” However, we are children of hope and no one is greater than Lebanon.”

“History will record that you are leading Lebanon into an unknown and that we will confront any recklessness from any party,” Saeed said.

A member of the powerful Republican bloc, MP Ziad al-Hawat, also criticised Qablan’s statements, saying ” If the National Pact Bishara Al Khouri and Riad Al Solh is no longer valid for some, let us return to the pact of Emile Edde.”

Edde, the third Lebanese president to serve during the French mandate, was known for being pro-French and was accused of abusing his constitutional powers.