Lebanon’s multi-faith service for slain activist touches off row

Published February 12, 2021
BEIRUT: Activists hold up pieces of paper with words in Arabic,  ‘zero fear’, during a memorial service on Thursday to pay tribute to Lokman Slim, a publisher and activist who was found dead in his car last week.—Reuters
BEIRUT: Activists hold up pieces of paper with words in Arabic, ‘zero fear’, during a memorial service on Thursday to pay tribute to Lokman Slim, a publisher and activist who was found dead in his car last week.—Reuters

BEIRUT: A multi-faith memorial service for Lebanese activist Lokman Slim, who was killed last week, triggered a row on Thursday after a Shia cleric was attacked on social media for taking part. Slim, an academic and leading secular voice from the Shia community, was routinely criticised and often threatened over his stance against the powerful Shia movement Hezbollah. The service, broadcast live by several channels, included a reading from the Quran and hymn-singing. It was attended by friends, family and diplomats, including US ambassador Dorothy Shea.

Many praised the service as an expression of co-existence between Lebanon’s many sects but it also invited criticism.

Ali al-Khalil, the Shia cleric who read the Quran, came under attack on social media from Hezbollah loyalists and later apologised for attending the event.

“I apologise to all brothers and sisters who watched me on television channels I should not have appeared on,” Khalil said in a video widely circulated online.

“I should not have... put myself in a position that invites suspicion.

“My (political) orientation is known,” he said, referring to his support for the Iran-backed Hezbollah. Activists on social media saw the apology as further evidence of the kind of pressure the movement exerts on dissenters or anyone perceived as cosying up to its enemies.

“They made him apologise because he prayed for Lokman Slim,” the BlogBaladi activist page said on Facebook, referring to the Shia group. Christian supporters of the Hezbollah-allied Free Patriotic Movement also objected to the service, but for different reasons.

Published in Dawn, February 12th, 2021

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