Egypt’s top Islamic cleric continued Sunday to draw fire over his visit last
week to Jerusalem, eliciting condemnation from Cairo’s Islamist-dominated
parliament and a possible ejection from the country’s writers union.
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 Grand Mufti Ali 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
Parliament voted to ask Gomaa to apologize to the Arab and
Islamic people and submit his resignation. The gesture has symbolic
significance, but parliament cannot force him from office – a senior adviser to
Gomaa said the cleric had not been formally notified of parliament’s vote and
doubted he would step down because the visit was “not a crime.”
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]
On Saturday, an official in Egypt’s Writers’ Union told Cairo’s
Al-Ahram newspaper that it was discussing terminating Gomaa’s
membership. Salah Alrawy, a member of the union’s board, told the paper
the cleric had “broken the national consensus” on an all-encompassing boycott of
Israel, including in particular visits to the holy city.
Alrawy said the
union would meet Monday to issue a final decision on the matter.
weekend, Yussuf al- Qaradawi, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Qatar-based chief
ideologue, issued a fatwa determining Gomaa’s visit to be haram, or forbidden by
Islam’s written or oral traditions.
“I did not expect such an eminent
person like Sheikh Gomaa to go against this consensus and visit Jerusalem and
offer prayers in al-Aksa Mosque,” said Qaradawi, a popular regular contributor
to the Al Jazeera satellite network who also serves as president of the
International Union for Muslim Scholars.
“There is a mutual agreement
among Muslims and Christians that visiting Al- Quds shall remain prohibited as
long as Israel continues to occupy it by force,” he said, according to the
“We must feel as though we are banned from
Al-Quds and fight for it until it is ours,” Qaradawi told the AFP news agency.
“Those who visit legitimize an entity which plunders Palestinian lands, and are
forced to cooperate with the enemy’s embassy to receive a visa.”
decades Egypt’s Muslim and Christian religious establishments have forbidden
followers from visiting Jerusalem’s Islamic holy sites as long as the eastern
part of the city is under Israeli control.
But in February of this year,
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called on Arabs and Muslims
worldwide to visit Jerusalem in a show of solidarity with
Palestinians. “Visiting a prisoner is an act of support and does not mean
normalization with the warden,” he said at the time.
Over the last month,
two members of the Jordanian royal family have heeded Abbas’s call, and one of
them accompanied Gomaa on his visit to the city Wednesday.
Shenouda III had forbidden his flock from visiting Jerusalem, but following his
death a month ago several hundred Coptic pilgrims seized the opportunity to fly
to the holy city for Easter.
Gomaa justified his trip by arguing that it
was “unofficial,” and that he had entered the city via Jordan and the West Bank
rather than through Israel proper. He said he viewed the trip as a “gift from
God” but reiterated that he remains adamantly opposed to normalization with the
Hamas has also condemned Gomaa’s visit. “We reaffirm that
this visit meant a recognition of the occupation, meant the normalization of
relations with the enemy, gave [Israel] ethical testimony, and meant supporting
Israeli policies that go against the right of our people in the West Bank and
the Gaza strip to pray [at al-Aksa],” wrote Mousa Abu Marzook, deputy chairman
of Hamas’s political bureau, on the group’s Facebook page.
Writing in the
London-based newspaper Al-Hayat, Lebanese columnist Elias Harfoush condemned
Gomaa’s visit but warned against blowing it out of proportion. Gomaa’s
visit, while lamentable, did not represent a betrayal of Egypt on the scale of
president Anwar Sadat’s historic 1979 visit to Israel, he wrote.
visit was to the Knesset, the heart of the State of Israel, and represented an
indisputable recognition of it,” Harfoush wrote. “The Grand Mufti of Egypt, on
the other hand, went as a pilgrim to a place over whose religious standing in
the hearts of millions of Muslims there is no disagreement. Furthermore, his
visit was arranged with the Jordanian side... and welcomed by the Palestinian
Authority, and the man certified that he did not meet a single
Reuters contributed to this report.