Middle East News
Lebanese Muslims rally in support of Syrian protesters
Apr 22, 2011, 12:56 GMT
Tripoli, Lebanon - Hundreds of followers of a conservative Lebanese Sunni Muslim movement with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood rallied Friday in northern Lebanon in support of anti-regime protests in Syria.
In the first such rally in Lebanon, the Hizb al Tahrir protesters left the al-Mansouri Mosque in Tripoli after Friday prayers and gathered in a square about one hundred metres from the mosque.
The government had earlier said the demonstration would be banned if it was held in Tripoli's main Nour square.
According to organizers the rally was being held to support 'the Syrian protesters who are calling for their freedom,' a reference to ongoing anti-government unrest in neighbouring Syria since March 15.
'God bless the free people of Syria,' the crowd chanted. The majority of Syrians are also Sunni Muslims.
'Freedom and dignity are both important to the Syrian people and if the regime does not grant it, the uprising will continue,' protester Ahmad al-Ashi told the German Press Agency dpa.
'The more force the Syrian security forces use against the people, the more determined the protesters will get,' the movement's official spokesman, Ahmad Qasas, told dpa as he came out of Friday prayers.
'Politicians in Lebanon have their own agenda. We, however, support our people (Sunni Muslims in Syria) who are subjected to injustice and oppression in Sham (Syria),' Qasas said.
Lebanese caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri met Thursday with Internal Security Forces chief General Ashraf Rifi and army commander General Jean Khwaji and warned that security forces would crack down on anyone organizing a rally in Tripoli's main square, Nour.
A Lebanese security officer on the ground near the mosque told dpa 'we have firm instructions to stop the rally if the protesters move only a few steps from the mosque.'
Pro-Syrian groups had earlier planned their own demonstrations, but cancelled them after the government banned rallies.
Tripoli Mufti Sheikh Malek al-Shaar stressed that everybody in Lebanon was allowed to express their opinion, but in such a way that it did not 'pose a challenge to other movements' in the city.
Hizb al Tahrir is a Muslim movement which works to convince Muslims to overthrow their present governments peacefully and establish a worldwide caliphate, which would then impose conservative Islam upon all majority Muslim countries.
The organization is banned in all Arab countries except for Lebanon, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates.
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