The head of Egypt’s Al-Azhar, Ahmed El-Tayyeb, has cancelled a planned meeting with US Vice President Mike Pence after this week’s decision by the US to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, which he said in a statement “forges history and steals people’s rights, and attacks their holy places."
"How can I sit with those who gave what they do not own to those who did not earn them? The US president should immediately reverse this illegal and illegitimate decision," the statement published on Al-Azhar’s Facebook page on Friday said.
President Donald Trump on Wednesday recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, drawing a flurry of condemnation from the Arab world and Western allies.
The US embassy in Cairo had requested a meeting between Vice President Mike Pence and El-Tayyeb on 20 December.
The grand sheikh had initially accepted the meeting, but he said he has now declined it "in a steady stance towards the US administration’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of the Zionist occupation, and move the US embassy to Jerusalem, in a provocative act to the feelings of Muslims around the world."
The head of Al-Azhar holds the Trump administration responsible for “sparking hatred in the hearts of Muslims and supporters of peace,” and squandering the principles of democracy, justice, and peace, the sheikh said.
Following Friday prayers, El-Tayyeb addressed Jerusalem residents, saying, "Let your third intifada be as much as you have faith in your cause, and love to your home country; we are with you and will not let you down."
Hundreds of Egyptians demonstrated on Friday in Cairo and Alexandria against the US decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Several Arab and Asian countries have also witnessed protests against Trump's decision.
The move broke with US longstanding policy that the status of the city must be determined in negotiations with the Palestinians who seek to establish an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital.