A multi-faith memorial service for Lebanese activist Lokman Slim, who was killed last week, triggered a row Thursday after a Shiite cleric was attacked on social media for taking part.
Slim, an academic and leading secular voice from the Shiite community, was routinely criticised and often threatened over his stance against the powerful Shiite movement Hezbollah.
The service, broadcast live by several channels, included a reading from the Koran 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 Shiite cleric who read the Koran, 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 Shiite group.
Christian supporters of the Hezbollah-allied Free Patriotic Movement also objected to the service, but for different reasons.
“This is clear heresy and an insult to sanctity,” said one social media user who identified as an FPM supporter and took issue with the choice of music.
“Christian rituals dictate that Good Friday hymns are to be chanted exclusively at funerals for Christians,” he said.
Several other FPM activists on Twitter echoed his grievance.
Lokman was widely hated by Hezbollah loyalists who accused him of being a Western puppet.
اصلا الحاج علي الخليل معروف تاريخه وتاريخ عائلته الكريمة انه ابن بيت ايمان وأخلاق رحم الله والده الشيخ جعفر وعمه الشيخ سلمان انهم خيرة الناس وخيرة المؤمنين والله لا يستحق الحاج علي هذا التهجم لان تاريخهم معروف بالإيمان والأدب والاخلاق الرفيعة https://t.co/2Xy8RUgDT9— Mariam Rammal (@MariamRammal18) February 12, 2021
He was found shot dead in his car on February 4 in Lebanon’s Hezbollah-dominated south.
The Shiite group has denounced the murder and called for an investigation.
© 2021 AFP