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Lebanon: Lebanese library torched after blasphemy accusation

07 January 2014

A huge library of books collected by a 72-year-old Greek Orthodox priest, but used by the whole community, was torched in Lebanon on Friday (January 3) after he was accused of insulting Islam.

There have been different reports regarding the source of the accusations against Father Ibrahim Sarrouj, who has managed the Al-Saeh (Travellers' or Pilgrims') Library in Tripoli, near Lebanon's northern border with Syria, since 1972.

Lebanon's Daily Star reports that a fatwa was issued against Fr. Sarrouj because of an article allegedly published by the priest on a Danish website in 2010. However, AFP reports that a pamphlet was discovered inside one of the library's books, which was considered blasphemous, and that a "sectarian scuffle followed" which ended in the torching of the library.

Other reports suggested the incident followed a dispute between Fr. Sarrouj and a businessman who wished to buy the property.

Before the fire, the priest had met with Islamic leaders in Tripoli in an attempt to clear his name and a demonstration that had been planned in protest over the allegations had been called off, reported AFP. However, on Thursday one of his employees, Bashir Hazzouri, was injured after being shot.

Following the burning of the library, a local official said Fr. Sarrouj had done nothing wrong.

"Father Sarrouj has nothing to do with the article," said local security chief Imad Ayyoubi at a press conference. "The website is from Denmark and [the article] was published on January 7, 2010. Whoever seeks to incite strife in Tripoli is destined for imprisonment, [as are] those who carried out the attack."

Tripoli's MP Robert Fadel said that the police knew who was responsible for the attack and that they would be brought to justice. "The security agencies know the perpetrator and should arrest him... There will be no political cover for anyone," he said.

Meanwhile a local Salafist Sheikh, Salem al-Rafei, said the person responsible for issuing a fatwa against Fr. Sarrouj should be punished, but not the perpetrators themselves.

Read more at World Watch Monitor New Window