Here is the text of the interview:
- You made a remarkable tour of the spiritual leaders in Bkerke, Dar Al Ifta, and the Supreme Shiite Council, did you carry any initiative for the country to get out of the crisis it is going through?
We are always in contact with the spiritual references, and we wanted to confirm this communication and consult in light of the crisis atmosphere in the homeland, and it was a useful tour. The spiritual references have the same message for our country Lebanon in peace, love, convergence, and coexistence, and Lebanon is dignity, justice, freedom, and national values. These are the spiritual constants of the summits which do not change as these are always considered as a safety valve against sedition and towards reunification. It was a personal initiative and we tried through our proposals to re-launch the work of the Christian-Islamic Dialogue Committee with a new mission, because we found that there has been some stagnation and we received a positive promise as we got to know that there is intent to renew its mission, because this committee is the one that prepares the statements with the spiritual references in all the spiritual summits and the one that announces it, and we are following up on this matter.
- After the last spiritual summit hosted by the Druze community house (Dar Al-Tai’fa), is there a new summit that you are working to hold in light of the very delicate circumstances that Lebanon has reached?
I think this topic needs preparation, and that is why we started activating the Christian-Muslim Dialogue Committee, which would help in holding a spiritual summit in a better way.
- We are witnessing a charged atmosphere in the country, and when you talk about the revival of the Christian-Muslim Eve Committee, does this mean that you are afraid from a possible disorder, God forbid?
We always have hope for one Lebanon and one coexistence. God willing, disorder will not happen as long as there are still good people in our country. But the state is not fulfilling its full duties, and we salute the Lebanese army and security forces who are making all the efforts they can, but without an effective government it would be an abnormal situation and thus we pray for success in forming a government and that security would be controlled and that the economic situation would be addressed.
- Patriarch Al-Rai’ proposed the initiative of the neutrality of Lebanon. Are you with this proposal? How can it be achieved?
The issue of self-distancing was included in many ministerial statements to governments, and positive neutrality was previously undertaken by three of the elders in the middle of the last century, namely the Indian Prime Minister Jawaher Al Nehru, Egyptian President Jamal Abdel Nasser, Yugoslav President Tito and others, and the aim was neutrality between East and West. In the essence of it every person in Lebanon from any sect wants a decent life, comfort, reassurance, state and peace, and no one rejects this matter, but proposing neutrality on the legal and international level requires internal consensus and international blessing, and the third element is the existence of occupied Lebanese territory that must be liberated, but as an idea aimed at the good of our country and its peace, we can only support the Patriarch about it.
- In the recent period, there has been a lot of talk about new norms and propositions that strike the Tai’f Agreement and its components, especially the proposal of the three way division, so what is your position while you represent a sect which has established the Lebanese entity?
The Iranian ambassador visited me and I asked about his opinion of changing the Tai’f Agreement. His answer was that this matter would be a very long path, and we shall pay attention today in Lebanon to the basic living issues and the economic situation. The Tai’f Agreement is neither a permanent home nor a constitution, but any amendment needs an appropriate atmosphere and its proposal should be in a calm atmosphere, with freedom and comfort between people. As for the situation today, it is not appropriate to discuss complex matters that would increase the suffering in Lebanon.
- But if the three way division proposition is put forward, what would be your position?
There is a well-known proverb in mount Lebanon, which is that a ladder has three legs, but without the connecting disc it cannot be upright, and thus "Lebanon without the Druze will not function".
- Last week, the discussion of the joint parliamentary committees on the issue of establishing the Senate returned. Frankly, are you calling for this council to be part of the share of the Druze community?
Who first called for the Senate council was Walid Beik Jumblatt, Prince Majid Arslan, and Sheikh Al-Aql Muhammad Abu Shaqra during the difficult times in the early 1980s, and they prepared a memorandum for peace in Lebanon and for the sake of ending the crisis, and it included the establishment of a Senate in which spiritual families would be represented and thus it would be a doorway out of the crisis. We are the ones who proposed the Senate council and we would not have agreed to the Tai’f agreement if there was no promise for the Druze community in the Senate council, as the Druze community is an establishing pillar of the Lebanese entity and there are loyal people in Lebanon who know that the presidency of the Senate council is for the Druze community.
- In the event that the Senate is established, can you facilitate the establishment of the civil state in Lebanon as spiritual references, especially since there is always blame that the spiritual leaders are the ones preventing this matter, so is the Senate council the entrance to that?
This matter needs consultation on it among the spiritual leaders, and we do not want to preempt matters.
- French President Emmanuel Macron came and presented an initiative to get out of the crisis, and recently former prime minister Saad Hariri presented himself as a candidate for prime minister. In your opinion, which government does Lebanon need in these circumstances?
I call on all politicians to work to restore confidence, and with confidence all the details can be addressed. It was said that Macron called for a government of specialists, but I think that what is meant is to leave the big contentious issues aside and to deal with people's affairs and this is required. Therefore, sincere intentions are required to alleviate the crisis that the Lebanese people have experienced.
- Walid Jumblatt frankly demanded that the Druze obtain a sovereign portfolio in the next government. Will you share this demand with him?
It is true that in the past the Ministry of Defense was part of our share as Druze or the Ministry of the Interior, but the Ministry of Health also or the Ministry of Construction are service ministries. Unfortunately, I don’t know why sovereign ministries were named recently, and why these sovereign ministries have become allocated to certain parties, even though this matter is unconstitutional, and of course we are with Walid Baik Jumblatt in this matter because there are rights for this founding sect of the Lebanese entity, and of course we demand this matter.
- After the recent reconciliation in the Druze community between Jumblatt and the head of the Lebanese Democratic Party, Talal Arslan, are you comfortable with the current status of the Druze community on the national level?
Of course, through the reconciliation that took place and through the work of the sectarian council, we in the sect do not differentiate between any individual and another, and this is the general atmosphere in Mount Lebanon, and this harmony is reflected positively on the community. At the national level, there are rights for this community that we cannot let go.
We, as a Druze sect, are indispensable to this nation, and institutions and the state are indispensable to us. We haven’t even established a university as a sect. Our only university is the Lebanese University, and we do not act except on a national basis and on the basis of good treatment. Treatment is a prerequisite for our brotherhood and in our faith, and I do not know why there are still among our partners in the homeland people who are ignorant of the validity of what we demand for this country and what we act on the basis of.
- The Lebanese people are suffering from a stifling economic and financial crisis that has started to lead to very high rates of unemployment, poverty, school dropout, and the social chaos that those can create as well as the high crime rate. From your position, what are you doing to confront the mentioned issues?
The main resources of the sectarian council are the endowments, and we were aspiring to develop a lot more, but the founding stage took time and unfortunately some difficult minds tried to delay us, but we are advancing based on our capabilities as there is a small group of good people who provide support and are always on our side. We provide school aids, hospital and health aids for insured patients at the expense of the Ministry of Public Health, as we cover the Ministry's teams in hospitals within a certain ceiling. During the past two years we focused on health services, as we provided about 4000 assistance services during last year, and we also allocate cancer and chronic disease patients with bigger quotas. We cooperated with the Farah Foundation to distribute food aid as much as possible, as the council’s priority today is social assistance.
- What is required of people to be able to withstand the hardships?
The matter is not easy in light of the financial ease in which the country lived and the comfort that existed in addition to the requirements of today's life and financial pressure. Much contentment and patience are required, and in the mountain areas we must return to the land.
- Corona has become a daily reality that we have to live with, but large social groups still underestimate this virus and do not adhere to preventive measures, what message to you in this field and what do you say to these people from your position as a spiritual reference and as a national reference?
I issued several awareness and warning statements, and we blame those who violate more than one rule in Tawhid, including “be wise and trust God” and “an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of treatment,” and we will continue to issue directives and emphasize the need for awareness.
- What is your comment on the recent events in Jabal Al Arab in Syria, and do you fear for the mountain against the mysterious Syrian future?
The Sheikhs and our people in the mountain of Syria are more knowledgeable about their affairs, and I believe that the mountain which have brought us Sultan Basha Al-Atrash can only remain in the Arab and monotheistic framework, and we always call for attention of disorder and the preservation of brotherhood between the components of the Syrian people, especially between Jabal Al-Arab and its neighbors. And we have a rule that “we do not transgress and we do not accept that anyone trespasses us,” and if they apply this rule, success will be their ally.
- The region is witnessing major transformations in light of the deal of the century. Is there a word for the Palestinian cause and the Arabs of 1948?
The Palestinian cause was carried out by the Druze community, and martyrs were incurred, foremost of whom was Kamal Jumblatt, and most important of all at this stage is the Palestinian-Palestinian consensus, and this is the basis for stopping the Israeli attack on Arab lands.
There was contact with a group of free Druze Arabs who resisted the Israeli conscription, and the Druze of Palestine had to hold out despite the Israeli arrogance that was taking place.