Al-Azhar representatives in the Constituent Assembly denied Monday having engaged in a deal with the Islamist representatives during the drafting of the constitution.
Salafi preacher and Al-Nour Party member Yasser Borhami said in a leaked video of his speech at a symposium for scientists and preachers that articles 2, 4 and 219 in the constitution passed as “a full package.”
Article 2 states that “Islam is the state’s [official] religion and the principles of Islamic Shari’a are the main source of legislation,” whereas article 219 outlines the principles of Islamic Shari’a. Article 4 declares Al-Azhar as an Islamic, independent body and gives it absolute autonomy over governing its affairs, adding that its grand sheikh cannot be removed from his post.
In a statement released in response to Borhami’s allegations, Al-Azhar representatives said that article 4 is all but confirmation that Al-Azhar is one of the main components of the state and society, being a reference to everything related to Islam and its Shari’a. They added that any services the entity provides are done without any ulterior motives and do not aim at achieving any political gains.
The representatives also stressed that they have repeatedly advocated the nation’s fixtures and the citizens’, both Muslims and non-Muslims, rights and freedoms within the constituent assembly. Borhami accused Al-Azhar representatives as among the most stringent advocates of Christians’ rights within the constitution.
“I have called for taking out the clause which prevents removing Al-Azhar grand sheikh from his post,” Borhami said, adding that his calls were met with disapproval from most of the Constituent Assembly members. He said that insisting on removing the clause would turn the average Egyptians, who hold Al-Azhar at such high esteem, against the Salafis.
“Yet, this matter can be later resolved by issuing a law which sets a maximum age for Al-Azhar grand sheikh, thus forcing the current grand sheikh to resign,” Borhami said. Borhami specifically attacked the current Grand Sheikh, Ahmed Al-Tayeb, in the symposium. He stated that Al-Tayeb referred to article 219 as a red line which cannot be changed or removed. “Thus, we accepted article 4 as a full package with articles 2 and 219.”
Al-Tayeb called for a meeting with all Al-Azhar representatives in the Constituent Assembly Monday to discuss Borhami’s allegations. The meeting was followed with the statement the representatives released.