Daher suspends political alliance after Christian symbolism outrage in Lebanon


Lebanese MP Khaled Daher has apologized for saying Christian religious symbols should be removed from outside churches. (AP)
Lebanese MP Khaled Daher has apologized for saying Christian religious symbols should be removed from outside churches. (AP)
MP Khaled al-Daher on Wednesday announced the suspension of his membership in the al-Mustaqbal bloc, following a wave of controversy stirred by remarks he made about some Christian symbols.

“In the face of the current uproar, and in order not to embarrass the al-Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc, I announce the suspension of my membership in the bloc,” Daher said in a statement, amid media reports claiming that he has been “expelled” from the bloc.

The bloc swiftly accepted Daher’s “request” in a statement issued after its weekly meeting.

“As the bloc accepts the dear colleague’s request, it seizes this occasion to reaffirm its firm commitment to the message of coexistence and moderation, the rejection of extremism and bigotry, and the condemnation of terrorism and terrorist groups,” Mustaqbal said.

“The only flag that must be raised, waved and defended in any time and place is Lebanon’s national flag, the flag of Lebanese independence and national sovereignty,” it added.

On Sunday, the lawmaker spearheaded an angry Islamist protest in Tripoli’s al-Nour Square to condemn the removal of Islamic flags from the roundabout. The banners were taken down by police as part of a campaign aimed at removing the flags and banners of all political parties from the streets of Beirut, Sidon and Tripoli.

“If they want to remove religious symbols, let them start in Beirut. Let them start with the Christ the King Statue (in Keserwan). Let them start with the pictures of some saints ‘who are opening their arms wide’ in Jounieh,” Daher said, before announcing a day later that his statement was “taken out of context.”

His remarks prompted a storm of responses on social networking websites and were condemned by several politicians, including Mustaqbal MPs and ministers.

“After my stance that condemned attacks against the religious symbols of all sects, and after I demanded that the law be implemented across Lebanon … my remarks were considered an insult to Christians,” Daher said in his statement on Wednesday.

“In the eyes of some people, we are the ones attacking others, while we were the ones whose religious symbols were insulted, and they should have apologized,” he added.

Daher reiterated that he respects “all Muslim and Christians sects and their religious symbols,” noting that he “would never insult any of them.”

He added in his statement: “The decision to remove political and religious pictures and banners, which targeted the First Pillar of Islam, was a blatant aggression against the people of Tripoli and the Sunni people.”

He was referring to flags carrying the Muslim declaration of faith “There is No God but Allah and Mohammed is His Prophet”, which were removed Saturday night by police.