Azhar cleric slams Salafist allegation of constitution 'deal'

Ahram Online, Tuesday 25 Dec 2012

Azhar official denies cutting a deal with the Salafist bloc in the constituent assembly to pass article 4, which immunises the Grand Imam from deposition

A member of the office of Al-Azhar’s Grand Imam, Mohamed Mehanna, denounces claims by Salafist preacher Yasser El-Borhami that the Sunni institution made a deal with the constituent assembly members to pass the constitution article that immunise the Grand Imam from being deposed.

"Al-Azhar is bigger than these trivial matters," Mehanna, who is also a Shura Council MP, said to pan-Arab Al-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper Tuesday, adding that those who make these allegations are "ill-intentioned."

In a video of a seminar El-Borhami gave in November, he’s seen saying that the Salafist bloc made a deal with Al-Azhar to secure the Grand Imam from being deposed by the president in article 4. In exchange, El-Borhami claims, they teamed up with the more moderate Al-Azhar to add article 219 to the constitution, which specifies Sunni provisions as an interpretation of the principles of sharia (Islamic law).

Article 2 already references Islamic law in a general manner, but 219 entrenches it and makes the interpretation stricter according to the opposition and rights activists.

"Al-Azhar's independence does not need a constitutional text to be validated; it is an existing historical reality. Constitution or not, nobody can depose the Grand Imam outside the rules stated in its Senior Scholars Committee. Any other claims in that regard are null and void," Mehanna added.

The contentious draft constitution was approved in the national referendum, which took place on 15 and 22 December. An unofficial tallying gives results of around 64 per cent voting ‘Yes.’

The Supreme Electoral Commission is set to announce the official result Tuesday evening.

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