Lawyer calls for action against Al-Azhar Grand Sheikh

Yasmine Saleh
4 Min Read

CAIRO: Essam Sultan, lawyer and member of Al-Wasat party, called on the Islamic Research Council to take the necessary action against Sheikh Mohamed Sayed Tantawy, the grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar, for violating Al-Azhar s constitution and misrepresenting it.

Sultan told Daily News Egypt that he sent an official warning to the Council demanding that they relieve Tantawy of his position for a recent statement he made on TV, deemed insulting to the Palestinian cause.

When Tantawy was allegedly asked about the Gaza blockade, he replied that he was not unaware of it. At a time when the humanitarian crisis in Gaza has been gaining immense support and sympathy from Egyptians, the Sheikh impatiently said “Why all the fuss over Gaza?

He reportedly also said, “To hell with Gaza.

According to Sultan, Al-Azhar’s bylaws indicate that Al-Azhar Sheikh is “a representation of the Arab and the Islamic nation and should not behave in any way that undermines or insults any country in the region he is representing.

“This insulting statement that Tantawy made did not only insult the Palestinian people but the whole Arab world, Sultan said.

“It is also against Al-Azhar’s bylaws that Al-Azhar Sheikh makes any contact with a terrorist who killed thousands of innocent people, Sultan added referring to Tantawy shaking hands with Israeli President Shimon Peres during a UN religious dialogue conference in the US last month.

According to Sultan, Tantawy’s recent actions “clearly violate Al-Azhar’s constitution.

He further clarified that he sent the warning to the Islamic Research Council rather than Tantawy himself as per Al-Azhar’s bylaws, which state that the Council is the sole entity responsible for nominating or dismissing the Sheikh of Al-Azhar.

Still, Sheikh Ali Abdel Baki, secretary general of the Council, told Daily News Egypt that he does not understand why Sultan raised the matter with the them and not with Tantawy himself.

He added that the Islamic Research Council did not “receive any official warning from Sultan.

“Sultan has filed a lawsuit against the Council but no warnings were sent to us, Abdel Baki added.

He expressed his discontent with Sultan’s approach. “Does any person, lawyer or political party member have the right to file a lawsuit against a public and respectable figure like the Al-Azhar Sheikh?

“I think this lawyer is only doing that to cause controversy in order to gain popularity, Abdel Baki said.

However Sultan stresses that he did not file a lawsuit.

He explained that legally speaking, warnings should precede the lawsuit, adding that he will file a lawsuit if the Islamic Research Council does not respond to the warning.

“I do not think that [Abdel Baki] has any clue about the Egyptian law or Al-Azhar law, Sultan said.

Last week, a Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated MP tabled a questioning plea against Tantawy regarding his recent comments to a Qatari daily newspaper indicating that the bastion of Sunni Islam would welcome Israeli officials if they wanted to visit.

Tantawy had told Al Arab daily that his office is open to Israeli political figures, including the Israeli president and prime minister if this will boost the peace process.

“Why not? he was quoted as saying.

According to Abdel Baki, “Tantawy was at a peace conference and his mission was to enhance the image of Islam and the Muslims to the west, so what would it look like to the world when Al-Azhar Sheikh refuses to shake hands with someone, regardless of who this person is, standing in front of him extending his hands.

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