Egypt's Grand Mufti visit to Jerusalem sparks uproar among political forces

Ahram Online , Thursday 19 Apr 2012

Ali Gomaa's visit to the occupied city is vehemently denounced across the political spectrum as 'normalising relations with Israel'; FJP says the Islamic representative's arguments 'cannot be accepted'

Ali Gomaa
Egypt's Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa

The Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and other political forces have denounced Egypt's Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa's visit to Jerusalem on Wednesday, for the opening of the Imam Ghazali Chair of Islamic Studies, even though it was organised under Jordanian jurisdiction. 

Osama Yassin, assistant secretary-general of the Muslim Brotherhood's political party, announced in a statement Wednesday that the FJP "wholly refuses Grand Mufti's visit to Jerusalem whatever the reasons were."  The MP, who is also head of the parliamentary Youth Committee, added that it is "a total disaster and a blow to the national fight against normalisation with Israel, that has been going on for years."

Yassin said that the Mufti's decision to visit Jerusalem - which is against many Fatwas (religious rulings) issued by key learning institutions like Al -Azhar and the Islamic Research Centre - cannot be considered a personal act since he is one of Egypt's most prominent Islamic figures. The Grand Mufti is also head of the very establishment that declares Fatwas.

The Brotherhood MP also said that Gomaa needs to be questioned about his actions, which he said did not serve the Palestinian cause, in order to prevent any chance of this visit being repeated by any other public figure.

Yassin pointed out that even the past regime, which had strong ties with Israeli officials, refused to normalise relations between Egypt and the self-proclaimed Jewish state. Consequently, he said, it is inconceivable for this to happen after the January 25 Revolution, particularly when all political forces reached a consensus on not recognising the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

Essam Sultan, vice-president of the moderate Islamist Wasat Party, said on his Twitter account Wednesday that this visit will "divide the nation into two parts" adding that this is not the kind of support Palestinians are seeking. "What they need is help against the Israeli enemy," he said.

Mohamed Mahsoub, member of the high committee of the Wasat Party commented on the social media platform, that Gomaa should give up his position as Grand Mufti of Egypt.

He added that the leading Islamic figure should have asked a Muslim scholar whether the visit was acceptable, as Jerusalem is under Israeli occupation that "wants the city to remain open for visits only."

Egyptian cleric Safwat Hegazi said in a Wednesday televised phone call that he no longer considers Gomaa a Mufti after the visit, demanding, like Mahsoub, the isolation of Gomaa from his position. The Egyptian cleric emphasised his point by adding that he would stage a sit-in in front of the Supreme Court until this demand is met.

Hegazi also said that he considers the visit "a slip by Gomaa who belongs to the past regime".

Novelist Youssef El-Qaeed, said to ONTV channel Wednesday, that he was amazed when he heard the news which he described as "free normalisation with Israel and a gift for the Zionist enemy that offered nothing in return."

However, he does not agree with Hegazi's statement demanding the resignation of Gomaa, explaining that Mufti's situation must be fully understood first.

El-Qaeed added that Egyptians still have not gotten over "the disgraceful visit of former Egyptian president Anwar Sadat to Israel in 1977" and that he is against any kind of visit to the Zionist country.

For his part, Gomaa said his visit was arranged by Jordanian authorities and did not involve any Israeli visas or entrance stamps, since Jordan is the supervisor of Jerusalem's holy shrines. 

He repeated his refusal of the normalisation between Muslims and the Israeli occupation, at the same time as highlighting the importance of supporting Jerusalem and re-awakening the Palestinian cause. Those who visit Jerusalem, he concluded, are naturally reminded of the Palestinian issue. 

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