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Sheikh Ali Gomaa was noted for "progressive" fatwas such as ones supporting equal rights for women, including to be president, against female genital mutilation and the death sentence for apostasy, and for saying that Islam was compatible with liberal democracy.
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Setback for Brotherhood As
Choice for Grand Mufti Rejected

The London Telegraph
The Muslim Brotherhood suffered its first major setback in its domination of Egyptian public life Monday when a clerical selection panel rejected one of its most senior figures for the post of Grand Mufti.

The panel, comprising senior clerics from the Al-Azhar Islamic University, chose Shawki Ibrahim Abdel-Karim Allam, a professor of religious jurisprudence and a compromise candidate not affiliated to any of the leading political or religious factions.

The Grand Mufti, who until the fall of ex-dictator Hosni Mubarak was appointed by the president, is responsible for vetting fatwas, the religious advisory edicts issued by Muslim clerics.

The position has little political power but is an important indicator of a country's religious trends, vital when Egypt and the rest of the Arab world is torn between progressive schools and conservative brands such as the Brotherhood's and those of the puritanical Salafi movement.

Al-Azhar University, the oldest and most prestigious religious school in the Muslim world, has been at the vanguard of progressive thinking in recent decades, but the Brotherhood has also made inroads there. Abdul Rahman al-Bar, a member of its Supreme Guidance Council, was favorite for the Grand Mufti post even though the Brotherhood denied it had proposed him as a candidate.

Gamal Qutb, a former head of the Al-Azhar Fatwa Committee, said the selection committee had tried to distance the appointment from political infighting, but was aware of the divide between the Al-Azhar leadership and the Brotherhood.

"The Grand Sheikh of Azhar has no power over the committee, but on the other hand he would clearly not have supported someone related to the Brotherhood on account of the attitude gap between them," he said.

Sheikh Shawki Allam, 55, replaces Sheikh Ali Gomaa, who had been asked by Egypt's interim ruling military council to stay on for an extra year after reaching the official retirement age of 60 in March.

Sheikh Ali Gomaa was noted for "progressive" fatwas such as ones supporting equal rights for women, including to be president, against female genital mutilation and the death sentence for apostasy, and for saying that Islam was compatible with liberal democracy.

The Brotherhood's record in office since Islamists swept to power last year has split the country.

There were more protests Monday, the second anniversary of Mr Mubarak's resignation. Among the most striking and worrying developments was disruption of the metro service, apparently by the Black Masked Bloc, a new anti-Brotherhood group modeled on European anarchist movements.


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