Egypt MPs demand Mufti quit over Jerusalem trip (REUTERS) By Dina Zayed CAIRO, EGYPT 04/22/12 1:24pm EDT)
Reuters News Service
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(Reuters) - Egypt´s Islamist-dominated parliament on Sunday called on
the Mufti to quit after a visit to Jerusalem, stepping up pressure on
the state-appointed official over a trip that critics say bestowed
recognition of Israeli control of the city.
Mufti Ali Gomaa´s trip to East Jerusalem, captured by Israel in the
1967 Middle East war, has caused a stir in Egypt and across the Arab
region, where he has been criticized for a visit that has revived
debate about normalization with Israel.
Gomaa has defended himself, saying his trip was in a personal rather
than official capacity and a response to an invitation from Jordan,
which lost the city to Israel in 1967 but remains the custodian of
its Muslim holy sites. He prayed at the al-Aqsa mosque, the third
holiest site in Islam.
Though Egypt made peace with Israel in 1979, most Egyptians are
largely opposed to any normalization between the two countries until
they see that Palestinian rights are restored.
The Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group and the largest party in
the Egyptian parliament, has called Gomaa´s visit "a catastrophe". In
protest at the visit, the Egyptian Writers´ Union also moved to
terminate Gomaa´s membership.
"The brutal enemy controls (Jerusalem´s) entries, exits, mosques, and
churches," the parliamentary committee responsible for religious
affairs said in a statement, recommending the vote that called on
Gomaa to step down.
"Going into (Jerusalem) enforces occupation and bestows upon it
legitimacy, as it also represents a sign of normalization with the
Zionist entity that is popularly rejected."
CALL FOR RESIGNATION
Parliament voted to ask Gomaa to apologize to the Arab and Islamic
people and submit his resignation. The gesture cannot force him from
office but carries symbolic weight and is another example of Egypt´s
newly-elected MPs seeking to punch above the weight accorded them by
Egypt´s interim system of government.
The country is currently governed by a council of military generals
who took power from deposed President Hosni Mubarak. The mufti´s main
job is to issue Islamic legal opinions.
Ibrahim Negm, a senior adviser to the Mufti, told Reuters Gomaa had
not been formally notified of parliament´s vote and doubted he would
step down because the visit was "not a crime".
Earlier, Gomaa defended his trip on his Twitter account. "Jerusalem
is in the heart of every Muslim," he said. "Visiting Jerusalem
increases one´s feelings of rejection of occupation and injustice and
helps strengthen the (Palestinian) cause."
Palestinians want East Jerusalem as a future capital of a Palestinian
state, although peace talks towards the establishment of that state
are at a standstill. Israel describes Jerusalem as its eternal
It annexed the eastern portion of the city, including the holy sites,
immediately following the 1967 war in a move not recognized
While Gomaa´s visit has drawn a wave of criticism in Egypt, the
Palestinian Authority has welcomed it as a gesture of solidarity.
Mahmoud al-Habash, the Palestinian minister responsible for religious
endowments, told Reuters on Sunday the criticism had no religious or
He expected other Islamic figures to visit the city soon.
But the Hamas movement, which governs the Gaza Strip, criticized
Gomaa´s trip as an act of normalization.
(Additional reporting by Ali Abdelatti, Yasmine Saleh in Cairo and
Ali Sawafta in Ramallah; Editing by Tom Perry and Mark Heinrich) (©
Thomson Reuters 2012. 04/22/12)
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