The appointment of Mohamed Yousri Ibrahim as Minister for Religious Endowments, or Awqaf, has been widely criticised by several top religious and political authorities.
Critics from Al-Azhar University, Sufis and even liberal sects from within the Salafist movement, have voiced concern that Ibrahim will attempt to impose Wahabbism – Saudi-style conservative Islam – upon the country.
Sources within Al-Azhar report that the religious institution’s Grand Sheikh, Dr Ahmed El Tayeb, vocally rejects Ibrahim’s appointment. The sources also allege that El Tayeb is in talks with the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) and Field Marshal Tantawi to nullify or otherwise reverse this appointment.
The Grand Sheikh usually selects the Minister for religious endowments personally, based on individual capability and compatibility with Al-Azhar’s moderate Islamic image.
Ibrahim’s appointment without consultation with Al-Azhar has sparked speculation that his selection was politically motivated. Critics have noted Ibrahim’s close relationship to Muslim Brotherhood leader and former presidential candidate Khairat Al-Shater.
Ibrahim, however, has denied the rumours.
“I bear the greatest respect for Khairat al-Shater, but I can confirm that rumors that he was behind my nomination for Minister of Religious Endowments are untrue,” Ibrahim said on his Facebook page.
Ibrahim did not win a seat in parliamentary elections while campaigning for his Salafi Al-Asala party last winter.