07/14/2009, 00.00
LEBANON
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Leading Muslim cleric promoter of Islamic-Christian dialogue quits

by Fady Noun
Shaykh Mohammed Nokkari, who first launched the idea of a joint celebration in the name of Mary, gets in a verbal tiff with Lebanon’s Grand Mufti who is against the project. Despite his resignation he wants to continue working for inter-faith dialogue.
Beirut (AsiaNews) – Shaykh Mohammed Nokkari, editor of Dar el-Fatwa (House of Decrees), resigned because his job was becoming incompatible in his opinion with his commitment to Islamic-Christian dialogue.

In an e-mail message the Sunni cleric said: “Since my position as Director General of Dar al-Fatwa, which includes that of Chief of the Cabinet of the Mufti of the Republic, is incompatible with beliefs I uphold, I have begun procedures to transfer from the post I have occupied for the past 13 years within Dar el-Fatwa to that of judge in the Sharia Court in Beirut which should occur this month of July 2009.”

Shaykh Mohammed Nokkari acquired notoriety when he came up with a bold idea for Lebanon that was presented back on 25 March on the Christian Feast Day of the Annunciation, namely the creation of a national holiday and a day for Islamic-Christian dialogue named in honour of Mary.

Yesterday he said he would continue this endeavour “until it is not fully implemented.”

On 25 March Lebanon’s prime minister was prepared to sign into law the proposal for a inter-faith national holiday until the country’s Grand Mufti vetoed it.

In his letter of resignation Shaykh Nokkari said that his decision was motivated by “the sacred nature of freedom of expression,” suggesting that the “opinion of a higher official cannot erase that of a subordinate.”

The reference to the refusal by Lebanon’s Grand Mufti Mohammed Rashid Qabbani is quite clear.

“I intend to work more than ever to promote my efforts on behalf of Islamic-Christian dialogue, a touchstone of our Lebanese system, and continue to defend freedom of expression everywhere and with all my strength,” he said.

Shaykh Mohammed Nokkari teaches in the Faculty of Law and at the Institute of Islamic-Christian Studies, Saint Joseph University.

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