Interview with Faisal Mawlawi Of Lebanon’s Islamic Group
|Sunday, February 25,2007 00:00|
|By Al Said Al Abbadi, Ikhwanweb|
Lebanon is currently witnessing many crises, particularly the ongoing crisis between the opposition groups and the Lebanese government around the issue of the international court, the obstructing third and the ensuing violent clashes between both sides .
A solution for the current Lebanese crisis isn’t looming at least for the time being.
Around the current crisis that the Lebanese arena is witnessing, Ikhwanweb held the following interview with the Secretary-General of the Islamic group in Lebanon, counselor Faisal Mawlawi* who has been reelected as Secretary-General of the Islamic group last January.
Ikhwanweb: What is your evaluation of the current Lebanese crisis?
Faisal Mawlawi: The current Lebanese crisis is revolving around restructuring the authority and rule in Lebanon, and defining the role and size of the current political powers after the withdrawal of Syrian Army from Lebanon. It is well known that Syria had the upper hand in Lebanon due to the distinguished situation it gained according to the 1989 Taif Agreement that put an end to the civil war; due to the presence of Syrian Army and the Syrian security services throughout the last period, the international pressures increased for getting Syria out of Lebanon, while the mistakes committed by these systems increased; the assassination of president Rafik Al-Hariri took place in the midst of rows between him and Syrians, to make the international and domestic pressures reach their peak, leading eventually to the withdrawal of Syrian Army from Lebanon.
This withdrawal gave an end to the decisive source of authority for the structure of authority in Lebanon. The last parliamentary elections took place according to 2000 law (dubbed Ghazi Kanaan’s law) and in coalitions that were very similar to those of the previous stage, leading to a parliamentary majority and a new government; then, Hezbollah and Amal Movement withdrew from this majority in the wake of last July Zionist aggression; the other powers (55% of the parliament) are still able to maintain rule theoretically and constitutionally; however, this reality showed clearly the state of disintegration in the rule in Lebanon:
-There is a president whose extended term is legally impeached.
-There is parliament whose majority backs one side while its speaker is backing the other side.
- And there is a government that gained a confidence in parliament, but it is impeached because of the withdrawal of all Shiite ministers (five ministers) in addition to a Christian minister.
This disintegration in the rule was followed by a sharp popular division among supporters of both sides, leading to discussing during this state of division all previous political and sectarian disagreements. Hundreds of thousands of supporters of both sides took to the streets to increase the difficulty of reaching agreement on a political solution that may restructure the rule and solve the controversial issues that were previously settled in Taif Agreement.
I think that the current crisis in Lebanon will continue till the expiry of the term of president Lahoud, next September. It is difficult to turn into a civil war, because no Lebanese, regional or foreign power has any interest in such a civil war, but there will remain a sharply unresolved political crisis; this obliges all domestic, regional and international powers to increase their efforts to find suitable solutions.
Ikhwanweb: What is your attitude towards the current crisis and towards the disputing parties?
Faisal Mawlawi: There are two main parties in the current crisis:
The first: is the parliamentary majority and the government that emerged from it; they demand approving an International court to try killers of president martyr Rafik Al-Hariri.
The Second: is the opposition that has a parliamentary minority supported by pro-Syria popular sections; they demand a cabinet reshuffle and demand giving them the obstructing third, to approve the international court after introducing their necessary amendments which aren’t currently disclosed; the opposition added another demand: holding early parliamentary elections.
Although the rows aren’t difficult to solve due to the fact that the majority is ready to making a cabinet reshuffle but without giving the obstructing third (i.e giving the opposition ten ministers instead of 11), on condition that it approves the International Court, and the opposition approves establishing the International Court in principle, but it wants to discuss its details, ignoring the demand of holding early elections because it was introduced just for political bargaining, and the opposition knows better than others that it can’t be achieved.
Despite the above mentioned, but the reason for not managing to solve the disagreement was the presence of a mistrust between both parties; The majority believes that the opposition will not approve the International Court, and that it will introduce amendments that may empty it of its content, and the opposition believes that the government is conspiring with the enemies of the resistance, and that it is controlled by US and Zionist pressures, and that it plans to disarm the resistance and carry out resolution 1701; therefore, the opposition insists on getting an obstructing third, to prevent changing the Lebanese political identity and political strategy particularly in the issue of the conflict with the Zionist enemy.
The attitude of the Islamic Group towards the current crisis is that it doesn’t fully back one of the two parties, while it supports both parties in key issues; and it calls for restoring the missing mutual confidence, and to return to the table of dialogue, and agree on every thing that preserves Lebanon’s unity, identity and its role in the conflict against the Zionist enemy.
Ikhwanweb: Are there any covert reasons for the current crisis?
Faisal Mawlawi: There is no covert reason for the current crisis; all reasons of both parties are declared and clear, but I think that there are more important matters; I think that the most important reason for the current crisis is electing a new president, , a constitutional right that will come seven months later. The majority that claims 55 % of the parliament can not choose the president it wants, because it needs, during the election session, two thirds of the MPs. The opposition can obstruct the session; consequently, there must be an agreement on a new president chosen by the majority and approved by the opposition, which is possible in case the atmosphere of mutual confidence and dialogue return. I think that one of the reasons for the political escalation is that every party is exercising pressures on the other party to reach this agreement. If they agreed on this, I think agreeing on other controversial issues will be easier, after electing a president who can assume the role of a judge between both parties because he will be approved by both of them.
Ikhwanweb: Do you think that the Lebanese opposition has gained a wide-scale legitimate popularity since it started its strike?
Faisal Mawlawi: It is crystal clear in Lebanon that the opposition has lost some of its popularity since the beginning of Central Beirut sit-in; it is true that its main popularity among the Shiites was not greatly affected, but it lost so much among the Sunnis and Christians: First: Because of the huge damage it caused on Beirut residents in particular, and on the Lebanese economy in general
Second: because this sit-in did not succeed in forcing the government to resign, and it was clear that it wouldn’t succeed in that.
Third: because it was a political escalation that some exploited it and was about to turn it into a doctrinal sedition, holding the opposition accountable for this.
The opposition – that mainly adopted the resistance – lost so much of its suppoeters among the Sunnis and the Islamic Group who considered it indulging in minor local issues that affected the resistance, and caused schism among the Lebanese who were united around it. It also lost some of the supporters of the Free Patriotic Movement public led by general Michel Aoun who gained this position among the Christians due to his opposition to the Syrian regime, and he found himself currently allied with a opposition sect accused of seeking to restore the Syrian influence over Lebanon.
Ikhwanweb: Who-do you think, can solve the current crisis in Lebanon?
Faisal Mawlawi: I think the solution of the crisis in Lebanon is in:
- On the Lebanese level, in the hands of the chairman of Al-Mustaqbal (Future) movement, MP Saad Al-Din Al-Hariri, and Hezbollah Secretary-General, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah; both of them are the two main parties of the dispute. MP Saad Al Hariri sticks to the International Court and Hassan Nasrallah sticks to resistance. Every one of them formed coalitions with other powers that approve every party’s target but they seek also other targets. Holding a direct meeting between both of them redefines the main stuck points in their dispute; both of them are obliged to agree with each other in order to achieve their own targets, but they need an effective mediator who can restore the missing atmosphere of mutual trust. There are many mediators in Lebanon, but they aren’t considerably effective.
- On the Arab level, The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Iran can exercise pressures on both parties, and they have considerable interests in Lebanon. There can be a possible agreement between both of them; when indications of agreement appeared between both of them, this had a positive effect in Lebanon, and the tensions that were about to destroy the country came to and end; therefore,, both of them are required to exert their efforts with the two main Lebanese players to help them restore the atmosphere of dialogue and understanding. The Lebanese public opinion is pinning hope on The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, especially after it took the initiative and the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques king Abdullah bin Abd Al-Aziz sponsored Mecca agreement, that put an end to the deadly sedition among the Palestinian people; the Lebanese are waiting for an initiative like this from the kingdom to sponsor an agreement between the disputing parties.
- Any form for solving the Lebanese crisis can’t become completely materialize with the approval of Syria, which is still holding the strongest influence in Lebanon, despite its military withdrawal; its influence is actually based on the deep-rooted relations between both peoples in addition to the unity of place, making them have strong relations regarding religion, nationalism and common interests. Syria has a substantial effect on the biggest opposition group, Hezbollah, and it has its attitudes regarding the currently raised controversial issues, and it has interests that need to be taken into consideration. I think that Iran can play a role through holding discussions with Syria; also, I think that the Arab League initiative proposed by the Secretary-General Amr Mousa can have an effect; if a Syrian-Iranian-Saudi understanding is reached, the Arab initiative can have a decisive role in solving this crisis.
Ikhwanweb: What is Islamic Group’s view over solving the current crisis in the midst of these disagreements?
Faisal Mawlawi: The Islamic Group’s own view towards solving the current crisis includes the following points:
A- The opposition and government agree on approving an International Court after discussing and amending its system in order to put an end to the opposition’s fears of a possible exploitation of this court to allow a political revenge on the Syrian regime and the previous regime members in Lebanon.
B- The opposition and government agree on a cabinet reshuffle according to the suggestion of the Arab League’s initiative (19+10+1), on condition that both measures are carried out at the same time to remove the fears of both parties.
C-Agreement on a new president; it is possible matter, because there are still many Lebanese figures who refused to submit to any of the two parties, and they adopt the constants of both parties without being driven to supporting any minor attitudes. This agreement is facing many obstacles, but it is still possible, and it is a national duty that all of us must achieve, because not achieving it means not electing a president, and consequently a collapse for the state. Such agreement, if reached, will help in solving all stuck points, topped by the parliamentary elections, and keeping the resistance, issues which the current president didn’t contribute to solve because the legitimacy of his extended term is impeached, and he, consequently, can’t play the role of a judge between both parties.
Ikhwanweb: What are the latest developments of the weapons case related to the group, in which a number of the group members were detained?; why do you think this step was taken against the group, especially that the Lebanese arena is full of weapons, like Hezbollah’s?
Faisal Mawlawi: The group was not premeditatedly targeted by confiscating these weapons; this measure was a security measure. Everyone knows well that this weapon is for resistance, not for sowing sedition, both for its kind and the place in which it was found. This case is currently solved within the legal framework; one of the detained fellow members was released, and the other two will be released within days, God willing.
Ikhwanweb: Some talk about reported divisions in the Islamic group due to its attitude towards the current crisis, especially the issue of Dr. Fathi Yakan, the former Secretary-General of the group, what is your comment?
Faisal Mawlawi: There is no division inside the Islamic group over its attitude towards the current crisis. This attitude is consensually approved by the group leaders, cadres and grassroots. As for Dr. Fathi Yakan, the former Secretary-General of the group, he has had many disagreements with the group for a long time ago, and he was excluded from the leadership for more than one reason, and he has declared his disagreement with the group before now and in more than one occasion; however, the group leader was and is still keen on not discussing these issues in public to keep the amicability and respect, even after he declared his last attitude of supporting the opposition and his establishing the Islamic Action Front which the group did not meet with any hostile attitude, but surely there is no one inside the Islamic Group adopting his political attitude, although there are some figures who criticize some of the group’s attitudes which they see as closer to one of the two parties, and think that it is not committed to the group’s moderate attitude.
*Faisal Mawlawi was born in 1941 Tripoli Lebanon; he received a Bachelor Degree from the faculty of law and political sciences in the Lebanese University and a Bachelor of Islamic Sharia from the Faculty of Sharia in the University of Damascus. He worked as a legal judge before he became the counselor of Beirut Supreme Court from 1988 to 1996; he is currently Vice-President of the European Council for Ifta’ (Lebanon) and Secretary General Of the Islamic Group, the Muslim Brotherhood’s offshoot in Lebanon.