Sami Gemayel and Carine Tadmouri. Gemayel is a Maronite Christian whereas Tadmouri, 26, is a Sunni. Image Credit: Supplied

Beirut: Phalange party leader Sami Gemayel confirmed on the MTV political talk-show “Bi-Mawdu‘iyyah” [Objectively] programme on Wednesday evening that he and Carine Tadmouri planned to tie the knot.

The 36-year-old leader reiterated his opposition to electing a president that touted the March 8 agenda, even if that message was lost for those who questioned Gemayel’s decision to marry a French-born Lebanese Muslim woman.

Disappointed Lebanese took to social media outlets to express their disenchantment with the scion of a leading Christian family — for marrying a Muslim — though Gemayel was sharp in his rebuttal: “I feel sorry that some people interfere this way in the lives of a young man and woman trying to build a family, and I tell them, instead of being distracted by people’s lives, care for the country.”

Gemayel said that the wedding would occur on October 1, 2016 at his parish, Mar Mikhayel Church, in Bikfaya, although it was unclear whether Tadmouri would convert to Christianity. Gemayel is a Maronite Christian whereas Carine Tadmouri, 26, is a Sunni Muslim whose family hails from Tripoli and whose mother, Jumana Shahal Timery, is a renowned activist in the French Association for the Protection of Tripoli [Association pour la sauvegarde du Patrimoine de Tripoli].

In his Wednesday interview, Gemayel said there were people trying to “harm” him by interfering in his personal life, and added: “What’s more important to me is the spontaneous meeting that took place [between me and my fiancee], and she didn’t even know who Sami Gemayel was and I thought she was [only] French at first, because she looks French.”

Ironically, some of the criticisms arose because the Phalange had long been viewed as a far-right Christian party modelled on the Nazi Party in Germany, with a notorious record during the 1975-1990 civil war when its members participated in sectarian killings. Sami Gemayel has opened up the party for the first time in its history and invited Muslims to join.

Even if his decision to marry a Muslim woman was newsworthy, it was not unusual, as conversions between Muslims and Christians or between Sunnis and Shiites or even between one Christian sect and another, were part of the Lebanon’s diversity. The most famous Muslim to convert was Amir Bashir Shihab II (1767-1850), a Sunni who became a Maronite and ruled largely Christian Mount Lebanon from 1789 to 1840. Riad Al Solh, independent Lebanon’s first Sunni Prime Minister converted to Shiism to ensure proper inheritance to his five daughters, given that Sunni regulations allocate the larger part of the inheritance to the closest male relatives — grandfathers, uncles or cousins — if there are no sons.

Critics speculated that Gemayel’s credibility as a Maronite leader might suffer though this was mere speculation as the new generation of Lebanese tend to distance themselves from sectarian practices.