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Morsy calls Al-Azhar to clear air - Daily News Egypt

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Morsy calls Al-Azhar to clear air

Reasons behind Grand Sheikh’s walkout unclear, Morsy not taking chances

By Connor Molloy

New President Mohamed Morsy has not had an easy first five days as president of Egypt.

Faced with a dissolved parliament, judges appointed by ousted Hosni Mubarak, and protesters milling at the gates, he now seems dangerously close to entering into a fracas with the upper echelon of religious authority in the Sunni world.

On Tuesday, Morsy attempted to calm rising tensions with Grand Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayyeb and the Islamic scholars of Al-Azhar.

The problems began during Morsy’s speech at Cairo University this past Saturday, when a number of scholars from Al-Azhar, including Al-Tayyeb, walked out in protest against their seating arrangement.

The Brotherhood has tried to brush the incident aside as a quirk of poor event-organising. However, religious leaders have called it a sign of disrespect.

Regardless of what happened, Morsy called Al-Tayyeb to make sure those at Al-Azhar know they are appreciated by the president.

If there is indeed a schism forming between the Brotherhood and the scholars of Al-Azhar it would see two of the most preeminent institutions in the Sunni world battling in a very public light.

Al-Azhar long served as a counterweight to the power of underground Islam in Egypt, with Egyptian presidents allowed by law to handpick the institution’s Grand Sheikhs. Al-Tayyeb himself was chosen by Mubarak.

This status quo is being challenged on many fronts.

SCAF passed a decree, derided as illegal by the Brotherhood, which grants further autonomy for Al-Azhar.

Meanwhile, a coalition of thousands of Al-Azhar sheikhs is advocating for even more independence.

All of this, in addition to the relationship between Morsy and Al-Tayyeb, will work to structure a new, post- revolution relationship between the members Al-Azhar and those who rule Egypt.

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