Egyptian reform leader Mohammed El Baradei, center, speaks during a press conference following the meeting of the National Salvation Front, as former Egyptian presidential candidate, Hamdeen Sabahi, left, and former Egyptian Foreign Minister and presidential candidate, Amr Moussa, right, listen in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Jan. 28, 2013 (Photo: AP)
Following controversial statements by an Al-Azhar University professor claiming the opposition should be punished by death for attempting to bring down a leader elected by the public, a large number of Egyptians — Islamists and non-Islamists alike — have expressed their condemnation.
Mahmoud Shaaban, an Al-Azhar University professor who also hosts a television show on the Islamic satellite Al-Hafez channel, made the statements, considered a religious fatwa, last week directly targeted at National Salvation Front (NSF) leaders Mohamed ElBaradei and Hamdeen Sabbahi, granting a green light for their killing.
Another Islamic, ultraconservative cleric, Wagdi Ghoneim, echoed Shaaban's statements by calling on all Muslims to "kill the thugs, criminals, and thieves who burn the country."
In response, ElBaradei on his official Twitter account Wednesday criticised the government for its silence over the statements made against him.
On Thursday afternoon, however, Prime Minister Hesham Qandil expressed his rejection of such "extreme" statements, stating that such statements directly incite murder and raise dissent and unrest in the country.
Qandil added that the Cabinet is taking the necessary legal procedures to take action against anyone who issues or promotes incentives to use violence against opponents.
In an attempt to defuse the issue, Kandil underlined the need to end bloodshed through national dialogue, saying efforts to proactively work towards the good of the nation were vital "now more than ever."
Egypt's Ministry of Interior assigned a security presence outside ElBaradie's home in the New Cairo district Thursday.
Shaaban's statements, meanwhile, met widespread condemnation across large number of Egyptians, especially in light of the killing of an opposition politician in Tunisia Wednesday, Shokri Belaid.
Moderate Islamist and Strong Egypt Party head Abdel Moneim Aboul-Fotouh stated Thursday: "Statements made by some ignorant people about killing opposition members is a serious crime that needs to be dealt decisively. Al-Azhar needs to stand up to such incidents by promoting the spread of knowledge and understanding."
More conservative Islamist leaders have also stood up to the statements. Salafist El-Nour Party spokesperson Nader Bakkar called on Al-Azhar's grand imam to take action against Shaaban.
Bakkar underlined that it was everybody's right to oppose the president. If this were not the case, anyone who dared oppose former president Hosni Mubarak would have faced similar death threats.
"We condemn the assassination of prominent Tunisian opposition figure Shokri Belaid, who was shot dead in front of his house. It was a heinous crime that must not happen again,” Muslim Brotherhood spokesperson Ahmed Aref said Wednesday.
Brotherhood lawyer Abdel-Moneim Abdel-Maksoud demanded a speedy process in Tunisia to ensure the perpetrators are put on trial.
Abdel-Maksoud also refuted reports in the Egyptian media that Islamists had drawn up a hit list of liberal politicians and media figures.
Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya leader Aboud El-Zomor said, "The practice of politics has to be carried out peacefully. Assassinations are totally unacceptable."
El-Nour Party Shura Council (parliament's upper house) representative Abdullah Betran stated his party's condemnation of the killing in Tunisia. "We condemn all forms of violence and the use of weapons in the face of ideology," he stated.