Jerusalem visit may cost top Egyptian cleric his job

Jerusalem visit may cost top Egyptian cleric his job

Egyptian parliament calls on government to sack the grand mufti for breaking an unwritten ban on tourism to the Holy Land

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

The Grand Mufti of Egypt, Ali Gomaa, visiting the Al-Aqsa mosque last Wednesday. (photo credit: @DrAliGomaa, Twitter)
The Grand Mufti of Egypt, Ali Gomaa, visiting the Al-Aqsa mosque last Wednesday. (photo credit: @DrAliGomaa, Twitter)

The Egyptian parliament has called on the country’s military rulers to sack Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa, the country’s highest official cleric, for his recent visit to Jerusalem.

A statement issued Sunday by the religious affairs committee of the People’s Assembly called on Gomaa to apologize for his April 18 visit to the Al-Aqsa Mosque and resign from his government position.

The first public visit of an Egyptian cleric to Israel, Gomaa’s arrival came amid an atmosphere of deep public resentment toward the Jewish state and has produced unusually harsh reactions throughout the Arab world. In Egypt, the mufti was attacked by representatives of the entire political spectrum, from the religious right to the socialist left.

The parliament rejected Gomaa’s argument that he had not entered Jerusalem with an Israeli visa, stating that the visit nonetheless “granted legitimacy to the occupier and is a model of normalization. It will be negatively interpreted as agreement to the Judaization of Jerusalem,” Dubai-based news channel Al-Arabiya reported.

Gomaa, for his part, began a campaign to clear his name upon returning to Egypt late last week.

Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa (photo credit: AP/Ben Curtis)
Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa (photo credit: AP/Ben Curtis)

In an interview with Egyptian National Television Thursday, Gomaa explained that the plight of Jerusalem had almost vanished from the public awareness, and his visit — which he described as personal — was a response to “calls for help from Jerusalemites.”

Gomaa also utilized his personal Facebook and Twitter accounts to rebuff attacks.

“Israeli forces defend all of Jerusalem and not Dr. Ali Gomaa personally,” he tweeted on Thursday, responding to claims that his visit was coordinated with Israel and that he was guarded by IDF soldiers.

Preceding the Egyptian announcement Sunday that it is suspending the supply of natural gas to Israel, local reactions to Gomaa’s pilgrimage are a bleak indicator of the rapidly deteriorating Egyptian-Israeli relations.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman recently stated that Egypt poses a greater threat to Israel than Iran.

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