The civil marriage and secular status debate is not new. However, the recent marriage of Khouloud and Nidal brought back the issue to the national spotlight. While this attempt is welcomed by many secular activists and youth groups, an outrage from Islamic institution is strongly contradicting and frightening. In her article “Lebanese’s Civil Marriage debate highlights sectarian rule (article number one),” Nada Akl supports civil marriage and considers it an opportunity to revisit the Lebanese personal status law.
However, the Grand Mufti Mohamad Rashid Qabbani issues a fatwa against any move to legalize civil marriage in the country. The two activists tackle the topic from two opposing points of view, and Nada Akel succeeds more in effecting on the population and dragging them to her side. Civil marriage was first debated in the 1990s before the government of the Prime Minister Rafiq Al Hariri rejected it. Personal status law was lobbied for and advocated by civil society groups in the name of personal rights and democracy. However, the result was always a complete failure.
The couple, Khouloud and Nidal, attempted to fight for their right and get the approval for their marriage. Their attempt is now supported by great activists such as Nada Akel, yet a big party of the Lebanese refuses it due to their cultural and religious mentalities. In her article “number one,” Nada Akel succeeds in dragging the population to her side and convincing them. Her article is effective because she presents her ideas in a well-organized and adequate way. She opens her article with a short anecdote about a couple who has struggled a lot before overcoming all the obstacles and making its dream come true.
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This example illustrates real concerns and problems faced by the Lebanese society especially the young rising generation. This relation adds credibility to the text by giving it a sense of reality and not only an abstract image which has nothing to do with real life. Besides, she strongly supports her position by stating factual data based on law. As an example, she explains that people with no religious affiliation have the right to get married in this fashion based on the decree number 60 of a 1936 law ( Akel, para. umber 1). In addition, I predict that she gains the readers’ respect since she establishes her counterargument with no bias; on the contrary, she is very neutral and fair to her opponents. Akel seems to be peaceful in her article, for she does not attack nor offend her opposite views and opinions. By defending civil marriage, she also highlights indirectly its advantages because it diminishes our sectarian and divided culture by making people accept the differences and create a unifying society.
On the other hand, Grand Mufti Mohamad Rashid Qabbani denies civil marriage and declares a religious edict against those who support or endorse it. Qabbani seems to be masterful and wise in his attempt to drag the Lebanese Muslim population to his side by forcing them to fight civil marriage if they wish to gain the pleasure of God – or at least making those who are far from radicalism take the middle ground. Moreover, Grand Mufti seems to be more threatening the population rather than being informing them.
Instead of explaining religious concepts, he fills his fatwa with warnings and threats. Qabbani brands that any Muslim who approves this marriage is going to be expelled and will not be buried in an Islamic cemetery. Furthermore, Grand Mufti’s comments on civil marriage seem to be fiery and disrespectful to all the couples who have got married in this fashion. In his fatwa, the Mufti states it clearly that he considers this attempt to be adultery, and the children of such married couple are illegitimate.
He also displays a profound contempt for his opponents in describing them as predators to the Islam. Needless to say, I find that the Mufti is violently attacking the freedom of choice in Lebanon. Perhaps, our Mufti has forgotten that “Lebanon is a parliament democratic republic based on respect for public liberties especially the freedom of opinion” (Segment c of the Lebanese constitution). To conclude, the love story of Nidal and Khouloud brought back the attention to the existing debate about civil marriage.
In my opinion, Grand Mufti Qabbani should lessen his tension and hatred towards his opponents and learn to accept the different existing opinions that sometimes contradict his. By demonstrating this rough attitude, Qabbani is destroying the real and peaceful image of Islam and therefore he cannot represent the whole Lebanese Muslim population. Meanwhile, Nada Akel’s argument strongly convinces me, and it appears to me that civil marriage is the only way out to establish a civil country.
She makes me really sit down and question myself: “If my real true love was from another religion, would I struggle for the rest of my life in order to just be happy? Is that so much to ask for in a country like Lebanon? ”
- Page Akel, Nada, “Lebanon’s civil marriage debate highlights sectarian rule”
- THE DAILY STAR. ” Breaking News, Lebanon News, Middle East News & World News, 12 Feb 2013, Web 1 March 2013. http://www. dailystar. com. lb/Opinion/Commentary/2-13/Feb-12/206063-lebanons-civil-marriage-debate-highlits-sectarian-rule. ashx#axzz2MENEAnht. Qabbani, Mohammad, “Fatwa”, 28 January 2013
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