BEIRUT — A new episode of controversy between presidential candidate Michel Moawad and Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri has unfolded. The head of the Department of External Relations of the Lebanese Forces, Richard Kouyoumjian, caused anger in Shiite circles by defending Moawad in a tweet in which he criticized the practice of "temporary marriage" within the Shiite Muslim community.
This tweet was denounced by the Shiite Higher Council and by Hezbollah.
Kouyoumjian's remarks came in a climate of political division intensified by the failure to elect a successor to Michel Aoun whose presidential term ended on October 31.
While the Lebanese Forces (LF) favor Moawad and show openness to the election of the army's commander-in-chief, General Joseph Aoun, Hezbollah and its ally Amal, endorse the election of Marada leader Sleiman Frangieh.
زمن قحط الشيعية السياسية مهما بالغت بالفوقية— Richard Kouyoumjian (@RKouyoumjian) March 2, 2023
تجربة الأنبوب تأتي بمولود شرعي من أب وأم معروفين
بينما زواج المتعة، ولو شرّعه الفقه، يبقى حالة زنى تأتي بلقيط تخجل به أمه، وأبوه الفعلي غير أبوه الإسمي
"The in vitro experiment makes it possible to give birth to a newborn child of a known father and mother. As for the temporary marriage [ "marriage of enjoyment"] for a fixed period practiced by some Shiite Muslims...even if it is accepted by the religion it remains an adultery that will give birth to a bastard (...)," Kouyoumjian tweeted.
The former LF minister also attacked "political Shiism", which he called "condescending."
Things got tense between Nabih Berri and Michel Moawad on Thursday, after Berri made statements to al-Akhbar, a media agency close to Hezbollah.
"Our candidate is known, it is Sleiman Frangieh. The blank vote designated him without naming him," Berri said. "In the first election session, on September 29, he got 63 votes. Almost more than half. He remains our candidate, and everyone knows it, we have assured him more than once."
On September 29, 63 deputies voted blank. Frangieh’s name appeared in the ballot box only once during the eleven electoral sessions.
"Their candidate [Moawad] is only an experiment in vitro," Berri said.
MP Moawad was quick to react to these statements.
"The head of the Amal movement, which has monopolized the presidency of the Parliament for over 30 years, surprised us with words that do not correspond to his status as head of the Legislative but to a position of a militia leader," Moawad said in a statement.
In the same statement he denounced the "attack" made on his father, former president Rene Moawad who was assassinated in 1989.
Hezbollah responded on Friday calling Kouyoumjian's statements "an attack on Shiite Muslims in Lebanon and in the world...that show the intellectual decadence of some political forces in the country...and the intentional mixing of customary political disagreements and the attack on religious beliefs.”
"These remarks should be denounced by all religious bodies and political forces," said Hezbollah, calling for “measures” against Kouyoumjian "from the relevant officials.”
The Supreme Shiite Council has threatened to file a complaint against Richard Kouyoumjian and denounced "dangerous remarks that are not only a blatant violation of the Constitution but also an attack on the most basic rules of living together.”
Speaking on a political talk show on MTV Thursday night, Kouyoumjian said that he "did not mean to offend the Shiite community at all."
"What I was implying by citing the 'temporary marriage', is the 'political marriage' between the Shiite duo [Amal and Hezbollah] and the head of the Marada movement, Sleiman Frangieh," he said.
"The content of my speech was confined to the political field only," Kouyoumjian justified.
"Those who know me know how much I respect all religions and beliefs," he concluded.
Faced with the outcry from his tweet, Kouyoumjian apologized Friday to the Shiite community. "I used the term 'temporary marriage' in my remarks to describe the relationship between the Hezbollah-Amal tandem and their allies," he said in a statement.
"It is an expression used in politics like the one referring to the 'Maronite marriage,'" which cannot be broken, in reference to the difficulty of obtaining a divorce in the Maronite community. "I apologize if my words were perceived as an attack on the religion by some Shiites," he said.
'We are not students in a classroom'
Early Friday afternoon, Michel Moawad spoke again of his tense exchange with the Parliament speaker, at a press conference.
"What Berri said is unacceptable. Coming from him or anyone else, I will not accept these attacks on my dignity," he repeated to local channels. "We are not students in classroom," he added.
BEIRUT — A new episode of controversy between presidential candidate Michel Moawad and Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri has unfolded. The head of the Department of External Relations of the Lebanese Forces, Richard Kouyoumjian, caused anger in Shiite circles by defending Moawad in a tweet in which he criticized the practice of "temporary marriage" within the Shiite Muslim community.This tweet...