Sheikh Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayeb, Egyptian Imam of al-Azhar Mosque (Photo: Reuters)
Several Egyptian political and religious figures have lashed out over Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyib Erdogan's recent criticism of Al-Azhar institution and its Grand Imam Ahmed Al-Tayeb.
Erdogan made a speech at the University Development Foundation on Sunday in Rize province, where he reportedly condemned what he described as a "military coup" in Egypt, stating that he was "disappointed" to see the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Al-Tayeb, side with the "coup" leaders.
On Tuesday, Interim Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi denounced Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyib Erdogan's criticism of Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed Al-Tayeb.
El-Beblawi, in a statement, affirmed that Al-Tayeb holds great value for Egypt, the Islamic and Arab world, along with heading up "one of the largest Islamic institutions in the world, which works to spread Islam's accurate tolerant teachings."
Al-Tayeb, according to El-Beblawi, has carried out a "national role in his efforts for Egypt and the Muslim nation's greater good, hence the call for reason, wisdom and the avoidance of division and partisanship."
Al-Tayeb was among national and political figures to endorse a 'roadmap' to democracy in partnership with the military on 3 July, following the overthrow of former president Mohamed Morsi.
Meanwhile, presidential media advisor Ahmed El-Moslimany said on Tuesday, after meeting with Al-Tayeb, that "it's time we tell the Turks and their likes that tolerance and moderation are the basis for any renaissance," MENA reported.
According to El-Mosilmany, Interim President Adly Mansour is working in solidarity with the grand imam.
"All of Egypt refuses any insults to Al-Azhar," El-Mosilmany added.
On Tuesday, Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II telephoned the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed Al-Tayeb, denouncing insult to the Sunni Sheikh, State News agency MENA reported.
Tawadros's Secretary, Father Angelos Issac, said the pope has expressed his strong disapproval of the Turkish Prime Minister's insults of the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, one of the oldest Sunni global authorities.
The pope, according to Isaac, has also expressed his condemnation regarding foreign interference in Egypt's domestic affairs, stating that "both the Church and Al-Azhar need to support the Egyptian people, army and police in the great 30 June revolution."
"Our religious and national figures will not be affected by these insults, and we always denounce the insult of our national and religious figures," Issac quoted Tawadros as saying.
On Monday, The Egyptian Ministry for Foreign Affairs strongly condemned Erdogan's attack on Al-Tayeb.
The ministry stated that Erdogan's views are an insult, not only to Egypt, but all Muslims worldwide.
Also on Monday, the Egyptian Grand Mufti, Shawqi Allam, called on the Egyptian state, represented by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to address all those who insult Al-Azhar and its Grand Imam.
"Any insult to the Al-Azhar institution in all its tributaries represents a threat to Egyptian national security," Allam said.
Turkey has maintained its support for the deposed president and the Muslim Brotherhood, from which he hails, causing a rift between the two countries.
Last week, Egypt's interim cabinet critiqued a statement by Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan in which he claimed that Israel was behind the overthrow of Morsi.
The cabinet stated that Egypt's "Arabic and Islamic identities are clear" and that "Egypt is running out of patience" as a result of Erdogan's repeatedly hostile statements towards the current Egyptian government.
A couple of days after the bloody dispersal of pro-Morsi sit-ins in Cairo, two countries recalled their ambassadors for consultations just hours after Erdogan said Egyptian leaders should stand trial for the military's move against Morsi's supporters.
Egypt has also recently cancelled joint naval exercises with Turkey, which were scheduled for October, to protest Erdogan's 'unacceptable' position on Egyptian affairs.