Canadian Lebanese Human Rights Federation (CLHRF)

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January 21/2006

For Immediate Release

Religious decrees "Fatwas"
are blunt infringements on the International Covenant of Human Rights


The CLHRF hails and commends the courageous and unprecedented lawsuit filed in Lebanon earlier this week by eight Lebanese intellectuals, human rights activists and legislators representing all religious denominations of Lebanon against the Shiite clergy Sheik Afif Naboulsi. The lawsuit charged Naboulsi with identity theft, threatening and terrorizing in an
attempt to obstruct the practice of civil rights, instigating sectarian differences and portraying political disputes as disputes between religions and sects.

"The complaint was submitted on Wednesday to Beirut's First Investigating Judge, Magistrate Abdel-Rahim Hammoud and was signed by Talal Husseini, Youssef Zein, Fares Sassin, Fahmiya Sharafeddine, Nada Sehnaoui, Mona Fayyad, MP Ghassan Mokheiber and Mohammad Farid Matar.

The complaint read that on December 21, 2005, Lebanese newspapers published a statement made by Naboulsi, in which he allegedly said: "There are foreign attempts, which some local forces comply with, to put Amal and Hizbullah away and to bring new Shiite representatives [into the Cabinet]. Consequently, we forbid any Shiite political party to replace Amal and Hizbullah
representatives. We stress that the entrance of any Shiite political party is illegal, because it does not represent the people." The Shiite clergyman added: "We address a precautionary, preemptive decree "fatwa" to every Shiite politician who tries to take advantage of the ministerial crisis." The plaintiffs said Naboulsi was not a member of the Shiite sect's religious committee and hence could not issue a fatwa and prevent other Shiite citizens from practicing their constitutional rights.

The CLHRF calls on Lebanese of all religious and denominational affiliations and form the rank and file of Lebanese society to openly and unconditionally support the eight courageous Lebanese intellectuals who challenged the religious establishment's
interference in a purely political issue, in spite of the risks associated with standing for the basic human rights and freedoms of all Lebanese citizens, and the Shiites among them in particular. Their decision to defend the country's constitution, the international human rights charter and the freedoms of the Lebanese people against the dangers of politicized religious
decrees that are otherwise void of any genuine religious value, is a monumental step forward, not only for the Lebanese people, but also for all peoples who live under theocratic regimes. Furthermore, by taking their fight against politicized religion to the
judiciary, they are proclaiming their trust in the rule of law and that no one, not even religious leaders, is above the law. In a diverse society such as that of Lebanon, the rights of individuals should ultimately prevail over the political ambitions of
unelected religious leaders, and should help the Lebanese people move beyond the dictates of archaic and obsolescent religious practices.
Finally, the CLHRF strongly denounces the terrorizing media campaign now targeting the above-mentioned Lebanese intellectuals and spearheaded by Hezbollah and the Amal Movement leadership. This campaign has accused the intellectual plaintiffs with treason, defamation of the resistance and disloyalty to it, interference with religious affairs, stirring sectarian strife. and insulting religious figures and symbols. Despite this wave of criticism, the intellectuals issued a statement yesterday saying they intend to continue the motion. "We are capable of distinguishing between a simple expression of opinion and the clear practice of illegitimate pressure."

The CLHRF requests that all members of the Lebanese Diaspora groups and organizations in general, and the WLCU (World Lebanese Cultural Union) in particular, to step in immediately and offer the eight Lebanese intellectuals all the needed legal, financial, media and moral support at all levels and in all milieus.

The lawsuit filed in Lebanon against Sheik Afif Naboulsi is a judicial precedent not only in Lebanon but also in the whole Middle East. All Lebanese citizens who intend to keep the clones of Bin Laden, the Taliban, and Al-Zarqawi away from Lebanon have an obligation to express their support and give a hand to the eight Lebanese heroic intellectuals in their legal
battle for freedom and human rights.

CLHRF Spokesman
Elias Bejjani