EGYPT’S leading religious scholars have spurned the ruling Muslim Brotherhood’s choice and picked an apolitical Islamic law professor to be grand mufti – the country’s top cleric.
“Dr Shawki Ibrahim Abdel-Karim Allam, professor of Islamic law in Tanta University, got the highest number of votes and the matter has been sent to the president to issue his decision,” a statement from al-Azhar seat of learning said yesterday.
The post of carries wide influence over legislation and social affairs, and president Mohamed Mursi, a Muslim Brotherhood member, is expected to formalise the appointment soon.
The contender groomed by the Brotherhood, Abdul Rahman al-Bar, 50, a 30-year veteran of the conservative Islamist group and member of its decision-making Supreme Guidance Council, was not even in the top three nominees, officials said.
The grand mufti delivers televised sermons on major Muslim holidays and is empowered to issue opinions (fatwas) on any matter, influencing legislation on social and cultural issues, public behaviour and court rulings.
Dr Allam chairs the department of jurisprudence in the sharia law faculty in al-Azhar’s university in the northern Nile delta town of Tanta.
A panel of Islamic scholars took the decision after “detailed study of the applicants based on scientific legal standards, the adoption of al-Azhar’s moderate agenda and an estimation of their psychological and moral suitability”, the official statement said.
Insiders said the Brotherhood had pushed for Mr Bar despite warnings his candidacy would be seen as part of a power grab to dominate all state institutions.