Members representing the prestigious Al-Azhar in the Constituent Assembly have indirectly denied allegations made by Salafist preacher Yasser Borhami they brokered a deal with Islamists to make Al-Azhar’s Grand Imam Ahmed El-Tayeb immune from removal from his position in exchange for agreeing to Salafists' push to give sharia law a more dominating role in a new constitution.
During an emergency meeting on Monday, the delegation said that such allegations are nothing more than “fabrications.”
“The status of Al-Azhar and its Imam is above such accusations,” the delegation said.
“The truth is that we were fighting for the values of the nation, the rights of its citizens and the rights of equal citizenship for non-Muslims. We only asked them to respect Al-Azhar’s historical status and independence.”
In a video circulating on social media networks, Borhami, a member of the Constituent Assembly which wrote the draft constitution, could be seen apologising at length to a Salafist congregants at a conference last month, who deem the Grand Imam soft on sharia.
"We were unable to convince the assembly to remove the article making the Al-Azhar Grand Imam immune from removal from his position."
Borhami explained to listeners that Islamists in the assembly would not have been able to pass a strict interpretation of sharia (Islamic law) had they not coupled it with rendering the Grand Imam immune from attempts to unseat him.
"It was a package deal," the one-time surgeon turned preacher told his audience.
According to Borhami, Article 219 of the draft constitution which included a stricter definition of the "principles of sharia" named in Article 2 of the draft as the main source of legislation, could only pass in exchange for rendering El-Tayeb's position immune.
Borhami also assured his followers that a new parliament can issue a new law that sets a retirement age for the head of Al- Azhar, thus removing the 66-year-old El-Tayeb from office without instigating popular anger at Islamists.