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Is Lebanon a Veiled Theocracy?

Recent debate in Lebanon over the legalization of civil marriage has caused an uproar and raised questions about the true nature of the Lebanese Republic, writes Jean Aziz.
A Lebanese activist, dressed as a bride, carries a sign during the Lebanese Laique Pride, a secular march towards citizenship, in Beirut May 6, 2012. The signs read, "A Muslim secular supporting the civil marriage" and "Freedom, peace, human rights" (L). REUTERS/Wadih Shlink   (LEBANON - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST SOCIETY IMMIGRATION) - RTR31OXC
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A Sunni Muslim religious official responsible for the Lebanese Sunni community caused an uproar in Lebanon this week, when he issued a religious edict threatening any Sunni official in government or parliament with apostasy if they approve a civil marriage law in Lebanon. The event raised questions of whether Lebanon is a veiled theocratic republic and of whether the state’s “civil” character is just a veneer.

After a meeting of Sunni clerics on Monday, Jan. 28, Sheikh Rashid Qabbani issued a fatwa, or religious edict, that said, “Any Lebanese official in government or parliament who approves the legalization of civil marriage is deemed to be an apostate (murtad) and outside of Islam. He may not be washed, shrouded, prayed upon or buried in Muslim cemeteries.”

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