Antoine Ghattas Saab
Daily Star
January 19, 2012

BEIRUT: Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani rejects the widespread linkage of Islam to extremism, holding that militant Muslim organizations blamed for terrorist attacks in the world are the creation of foreign countries’ intelligence agencies. In an interview with The Daily Star, the Grand Mufti of the Republic also blamed the Future Movement of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri for strained ties with Dar al-Fatwa, the seat of the Sunni mufti, saying Future MPs are still boycotting him.

Asked for his assessment of extremist Muslim groups blamed for terror attacks around the world, Qabbani told The Daily Star Tuesday: “Any assessment of Islam that is distant from its substance and its content, which are based on mercy and openness toward others, is a mistaken assessment that does not reflect the spirit of Islam and its reality. Therefore, there is no such thing as extremist Islam.

“The foreigners’ portrayal of Islam in the guise of extremism is aimed at distorting the image of Islam and Muslims and also at making Muslims abhor their religion. It is also aimed at creating a hypothetical opponent of the West that can be used as a gateway to attack and tamper with the East,” he said.

Qabbani stressed that the rulings, teachings and practices of Islam show it to be a religion of “forgiveness, love, cooperation, centrism and openness that calls for respecting others [non-Muslims] and living with them in peace, prohibits killing, and punishes the killer even if he is a Muslim.”

Referring to militant Muslim groups blamed for terror attacks in the world, the mufti said: “This continuing extremism adopted by misled groups or fictitious organizations are all the work of foreign intelligence agencies and leading powers, which seek to strike Islam in its own countries and tarnish its image in various parts of the planet so that they can tamper with our countries’ security, control our economic systems and launch wars with a view to fully achieving their aims.

“But the killing continues falsely in the name of Islam,” Qabbani said, adding that crimes committed falsely in the name of religion are an attack on the Muslim faith.

Qabbani voiced understanding toward fears voiced by Christians about their presence in the Middle East, especially amid a wave of popular upheavals in the Arab world that has led to election victories by Islamist groups in countries such as Egypt and Tunisia. He said Muslims were keen on the freedom of Christian sects in the region.

“The Christians in this Levant are an indivisible part of the social fabric in it. They are not aliens, but citizens bound with their Muslim brothers by an identity of fully belonging to this Levant,” Qabbani said.

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