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Grand Mufti's Al-Aksa Visit Raises Islamist Ire

Egyptian Islamists slammed Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa's visit to Jerusalem this week saying it defies a 'national position'
By Gabe Kahn
First Publish: 4/19/2012, 2:43 PM

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Al-Azhar students and political activists in Egypt are calling for a protest Friday in front of Al-Azhar's administrative office after Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa made a rare visit to Jerusalem Wednesday.

Al-Azhar students protested Wednesday in front of the Al-Azhar student residence building for the same reason.

Gomaa's visit was in honor of the inauguration of the Imam Ghazali chair of Islamic studies under the auspices of the Jordanian Al-Bayt Foundation.

The spokesman for Egypt's powerful Muslim Brotherhood, Mahmoud Ghozlan, told al-Arabiya the visit was "very strange."

"Muslim clerics have taken a position that there is no visiting Jerusalem with continued Israeli occupation," Ghozlan said. "He violated this opinion of the majority of clerics. Why, I don't know."

Abdel-Akher Hamad, the leader of the more radical Al-Gamaa al-Islamiyya, told the Associated Press the visit was a "challenge" to the boycott.

He said Gomaa was "taking advantage" of Egypt's turbulent political scene to defy a national position.

He called the mufti a holdover from the era of ousted President Hosni Mubarak and predicted Gomaa would not last in his position after a new president is elected.

Gomaa was appointed by Mubarak in 2003 to be Egypt's top religious law expert.

He heads Dar al-Ifta, an advisory body where Muslims go to seek a religious opinion on anything from marriage rituals to commercial dealings.

As the top government-appointed cleric, Gomma also provides the state with religious opinions.

"This visit only endorses the occupation," Hamad said. "But the country is going through a tough time and it is not now that we should call for his dismissal. After an elected president, all these figures must be changed."

Earlier this month, noted the report, the Jordanian king's half-brother, Prince Hashim, paid a similar visit to Jerusalem. Jordan's Interior Minister Mohammad Raud also visited Jerusalem this week.