Egypt's Grand Mufti Sabry Allam (Photo: Al-Ahram)
Egypt's Grand Mufti Shawky Ibrahim Abdel-Karim Allam said on Thursday any attack on the Al-Azhar Institution or its head, Grand Imam Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayeb, "undermines Egypt's security."
Allam, who serves as the first elected Grand Mufti since early March, warned in a Thursday statement that any attempt to pull Al-Azhar into a “political game" would come to no avail. He asserted, that Al-Azhar "will always remain an institution dedicated to the nation at whole," in addition to standing "at equal footing from all political factions."
He further called on all complaints against Al-Azhar to be addressed with legitimate and peaceful means and to maintain the principles of Al-Azhar, as the leading Sunni Islamic institution in the world, upholds.
"We call on all Egyptians to refrain from dragging Al-Azhar into political matters and grievances because this is the only way in which the moderate version of Islam and our institution's independence will persist," Allam asserted.
Allam's statements come amidst increasing calls by many of Al-Azhar University students and other commentators, demanding for the stepping down of El-Tayeb, following a massive food poisoning scandal on Monday.
Around 500 Al-Azhar students were hospitalised after eating at a cafeteria on the university's campus.
On Tuesday afternoon, thousands of students marched from the university's campus in Cairo's Nasr City district to the main building of Al-Azhar in Cairo's Darrasa district to protest the alleged negligence by university administration.
Protesting students shouted chants against the university president – who was sacked earlier on Wednesday – and campus management.
Following the incident, the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) rejected rumours linking the Islamist group to the event. Rumours suggested that the Brotherhood was involved in the incident to discredit Al-Azhar's Grand Imam Ahmed El-Tayeb and have him replaced with a Brotherhood ally.
On Wednesday, the Brotherhood spokesperson Mourad Ali commended the dismissal of the university head, saying "It is a sign that the revolution is on the right path."