Egyptian Muslim Cleric Hate
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Muslim clerics shun interfaith forum in Qatar after Israeli scholars invited
DOHA, Qatar - Two prominent Muslim clerics are boycotting an interfaith forum in Qatar after Israeli Jewish scholars were asked to take part, organizers said yesterday.
This is the first time Jews have been invited to take part in what was previously an Islamic-Christian conference held for the past two years in the Gulf Arab state.
Organizers said Egypt's Sheikh Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, one of the Sunni Muslim world's most respected clerics, and Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi, an outspoken Egyptian Sunni cleric, were boycotting the forum, which starts tomorrow in Doha.
"They said they would not attend the conference due to political reasons. ... Opposition is not to Judaism, it is a protest against Israeli aggression against the Palestinians," said Aisha al-Manai, head of the organizing committee.
"Israel has not told us who they will be sending, but we sent them three invitations. We should be hearing from them within the next day or two," she added.
At last year's interfaith meeting, Qatar's Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani said the forum to promote Muslim-Christian dialogue should be widened to include Jews.
Though Qatar has no diplomatic relations with Israel, it has angered other Arab states by maintaining low-level ties with the Jewish state.
It was not clear if the clerics would attend if Israel chose not to send anyone.
Egyptian press union condemns prominent Muslim cleric for provocative comments
The Associated Press
October 11, 2007
CAIRO, Egypt: Egypt's press union criticized one of Sunni Islam's highest authorities Thursday following comments that seemed to condone a recent government crackdown against opposition journalists in the country.
Grand Sheik Mohammed Sayyed Tantawi of Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam's pre-eminent institution and oldest university, did not specifically mention several journalists who were sentenced to prison in September for coverage deemed insulting to the president, but seemed to address the issue in religious terms.
"God will not respond to the invocation of the arrogant and pretenders who accuse others with the ugliest vice and unsubstantiated charges," said Tantawi during a religious celebration Monday attended by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and broadcast live on television.
"The Islamic Sharia (law) subjected all the people to be equally punished for the crime of libel which is a flagrant aggression on the virtuous men and women," he added. Tantawi's comments were published in Al-Akhbar newspaper Wednesday and in Sawt Al-Azhar, the mouthpiece of Al-Azhar, the following day.
The Egyptian Press Syndicate issued a statement Thursday criticizing Tantawi, who was appointed to his position by Mubarak more than 10 years ago.
"The Press Syndicate met with deep shock what sheik of Al-Azhar, Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, said, whereby he seemed to be joining, through his senior post, in an escalating campaign of provocation against journalism, journalists and opinion leaders," said the group.
The government has also targeted the press for recent reports questioning the health of the 79-year-old president, putting one editor of an opposition daily on trial for his involvement.
The president, who has ruled Egypt for more than a quarter century, has no designated successor. But many say his son Gamal is being groomed for power, a prospect that has raised widespread opposition.
Mubarak and state-run media did not comment on or deny the rumors for weeks until the president appeared in photos and gave an interview to state-run media.
First lady Suzanne Mubarak said in a rare television appearance in September that her husband was healthy and argued that journalists who reported otherwise should be punished.
During his speech, Tantawi seemed to argue for serious punishment as well, quoting a verse from the Quran saying that those who accused women of adultery without necessary proof were to receive "80 floggings."
He said his example involved women but added that "libel is also applicable to men ... this punishment is set by God to protect the honor of men and women from bad talk that hurts dignity and honor."
The press union's response was also tough, expressing "deep sadness and anger that such comments and weird fatwas (religious edicts) would contribute in tarnishing Islam."
"The syndicate still expects from Al-Azhar institution to align itself with right, justice and freedom and all the principles that Islam condone and preach," the group added.
Tantawi tried to soften his statements Thursday after the media outcry, telling Egypt's official news agency MENA that he respects journalists and was offering a general ruling rather than targeting any specific group.
But last month Tantawi condemned journalists who addressed rumors about Mubarak's health as "immoral rumormongers."
Meanwhile, 34 members of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange meeting in Montevideo, Uruguay, criticized Egyptian authorities for its crackdown against local journalists.
"Despite the promise made three years ago by President Mubarak to abolish prison sentences in publication cases, instead of journalists being provided with more protection for freedom of expression, such sentences against journalists have increased tremendously in the last few years," said the group in a written statement.
IFEX is comprised of
organizations from all over the world that protect freedom of the press and
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