CAIRO: Chief Editor of Al-Fajr independent daily newspaper Adel Hammouda denied attacking the Al-Azhar institution, saying that his newspaper merely expressed its opinion that Al-Azhar’s Grand Sheikh must not go to the Vatican because the Vatican Pope has insulted Muslims.
His statement to Daily News Egypt came as a reaction to news that Al-Azhar’s Grand Sheikh Mohamed Sayyed Tantawy had filed a lawsuit against him and Ahmed Al-Baz, the journalist who wrote the article.
Titled “The Grand Vatican Sheikh, the article deemed offensive by Tantawy was published with a doctored image of the Sheikh dressed in the robes of the Vatican Pope, with a big cross hanging from his neck.
Tantawy demanded the arrest of both the editor and writer, and accused the newspaper of “intentionally insulting him.
Earlier this week Tantawy turned down an initiative by the Journalists’ Syndicate aiming to solve the issue between the two parties peacefully.
A delegation from the syndicate headed by chairman Makrum Mohamed Ahmed visited Tantawy and asked him to drop the court case in return for the publication of a formal apology indicating that the newspaper never meant to insult him.
According to Hammouda, Tantawy is upset “because we [the newspaper] featured him in a picture dressed in the Vatican Pope’s clothes, which should not have upset him because Muslim religious scholars do not have a specific costume, while the Pope’s outfit is a religious costume.
“In Islam we are taught to accept all the different religions, he added.
“The Journalists’ Syndicate’s delegation was trying to resolve the matter peacefully especially that we fear that Tantawy’s position on the image might aggravate sectarian sentiments between Muslims and Christians and that Tantawy might be accused of radicalism, Hammouda said.
He said that the newspaper will have to challenge the court case as there is no other solution after the failure of the Journalists’ Syndicate’s delegation.
Last year, Tantawy issued a fatwa (religious edict) saying that journalists who promote false information and help spread rumors should receive 80 lashes.
Tantawy’s fatwa came at a time when the editors of four independent newspapers – one of which was Hammouda – were on trial and threatened with jail sentences for spreading rumors about President Hosni Mubarak’s health.