Egypt’s Imam Mazhar Shaheen (Photo: Mai Shaheen)
President Mohamed Morsi's recent decision to sever diplomatic ties with the Syrian government is merely an effort to bolster the popularity of the Muslim Brotherhood group from which he hails, Imam Mazhar Shahin, Egypt's so-called revolutionary preacher, has asserted.
“For the first time, war has been declared from a football stadium,” Shahin said sarcastically in an interview on Sunday with the private Sada Al-Balad television channel.
On Saturday night, before 15,000 supporters at Cairo's indoor stadium, Morsi announced the closure of the Syrian embassy in Cairo and the recall of Egypt's diplomatic mission from Damascus, declaring that the time to talk to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad was “over.”
Morsi also accused Lebanese Shia group Hezbollah, which is currently fighting alongside Syrian government troops in the ongoing conflict, of committing “crimes” against the Syrian people.
While the president said both the Egyptian people and armed forces supported the foreign-backed armed insurgency against Al-Assad, Morsi stopped short of making any commitment to arm the insurgents.
Shahin described Morsi's move as a kind of “flirtation” with the US, adding that such decisions should be taken in the Presidential Palace after discussions with all Egyptian political forces.
Shahin also criticised the Muslim Brotherhood for “turning every battle into a battle between Islam and infidels.”
At Saturday's rally at Cairo Stadium, Brotherhood Sheikh Mohamed Abdel-Maqsoud described those planning to take part in upcoming anti-Morsi rallies on 30 June as "infidels."
Shahin, known as “the revolutionary sheikh” for his sermons delivered from Cairo's Tahrir Square, has been a harsh critic of the Muslim Brotherhood and President Morsi.
In April, Egypt’s Ministry of Religious Endowments (Awqaf) ordered Shahin to suspend his preaching activities at the Omar Makram Mosque following charges that he had “criticised the president and the Muslim Brotherhood.”
The ministerial decree, however, was subsequently overturned by court order.