By Tim Nanns
Mohamed Omara, Editor-in-Chief of Al-Azhar magazine, a monthly publication by the religious institution, resigned on Saturday as reported by various Egyptian media outlets.
Grand Imam Ahmed Al-Tayeb replaced Omara and reshuffled the Editorial Board, now led by authorities from Al-Azhar University.
Omara claims to have resigned to commit himself full-time to his work as an intellectual and theologian, arguing that he had already offered his resignation to Al-Tayeb multiple times and that the Grand Imam only accepted his resignation due to his “determination and intense insistence” as reported by Al-Shorouk newspaper.
Yet in the past weeks, pressure mounted on Omara after the Egyptian Union of Human Rights Organisation filed a complaint against him for “disturbing peace and public security”. Free booklets had been distributed with the magazine, calling Christianity a “failed religion” and demanding to fully replace it with Islam in the Middle East.
This not the first time Omara has come under fire. In 2009, he had also distributed his most recent book, “A Scientific Report”, along with the Al-Azhar magazine. In it, he claimed Christianity was “a polytheistic religion” and the Bible an altered book, sparking protests by outraged Copts.
Further, in 2012 he also alienated Shi’as by accusing them of opposing Islam and siding with “US Imperialism, Zionism and Christianity against Muslims”.
Omara, himself a former Marxist, increasingly turned towards more hard-line Islamic teachings, partially leading to him now being suspected of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood. He took over the position of Editor-in-Chief of Al-Azhar magazine in June 2011, vowing to work hard and claiming that it was “a platform for moderate thoughts”.
In recent years, he drew criticism by pro-government commentators for allegedly belonging to the Brotherhood and “turning it [Al-Azhar magazine] into a Taliban-style Muslim Brotherhood magazine”, as Khaled Montasser commented. The accusations were sparked in response to his opposition to the ouster of Mohammed Morsi in 2013, calling it a “military coup”, and due to his religious comments.
Morsi’s ouster saw Omara become increasingly isolated. He had previously writen columns and articles for various publications, among them state-owned newspaper Al-Ahram, before the ouster, but was barred from writing for most of them after Morsi’s downfall.
According to the Cairo Post news website, the Administrative Judiciary Court received a lawsuit to replace Omara for allegedly belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood. The court reportedly set the date to consider the case for 16 June.