79. Controversy over Shaykh condoning violence against protesters

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There has been widespread condemnation of a fatwá issued by an Azhar Shaykh Hāshim Islām in which he condoned violence against those who are set to protest against the Muslim Brotherhood on August 24, 2012. Islām reasoned that “the 24 August protests are a revolution by ratters against democracy and freedom." [Update: Al-Azhar cleric encourages fighting demonstrators, sparks controversy, Author not mentioned, Egypt Independent, August 15, 2012]

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He went on: "Fight those who go against the president,” and that “If they kill you, then you shall go to heaven. And if you kill them, then their blood goes in vain since you won’t be punished for it.” [Ranā Muhammad Tahā, Statements on killing protesters denounced by Al-Azhar, The Daily News Egypt, August 16, 2012]

Among those opposing the statements was the former presidential candidate ‘Amr Mūsá who accused the Shaykh of corruption and ignorance. [Political forces condemn fatwa supporting spilling of protestors’ blood, al-Ahrām, August 17, 2012] Via Twitter, Muhammad Al-Baradei [@ElBaradei] warned that “unless those responsible are promptly prosecuted we will slide into fascism cloaked in religion.” 

Former MP Muhammad Abū Hāmid, who is among those who had initially called for the 24 August protests, said that "this is what we told Egyptians would happen if religion was mixed with politics." [A Warning Sign: Cleric's fatwa risks dragging Egypt back to the darkness, al-Bawābah, August 19, 2012] The Facebook group calling for "a second revolution on 24 August to dissolve the Muslim Brotherhood and its party" asked President Mursī to take a clear stance on the right for citizens to demonstrate non-violently. [Group warns of violence against anti-Brotherhood protesters, Author not mentioned, Egypt Independent, August 20, 2012]

The Muslim Brotherhood have distanced themselves from the quotes stating that the group opposed calls to kill or criminalize anyone, stressing that every citizen enjoyed the right to stage demonstrations as long as they remained within the confines of the law and did not damage public property. [Critics blast Egyptian cleric's fatwa against anti-Morsi protesters, al-Ahrām, August 15, 2012] 

Al-Azhar also condemned Islām's statements saying: “We have heard with anger and worry about the fatwá legalizing the killing of anyone taking part in a protest against the president.” [Ramadān al-Shirbīnī, Death fatwa against protesters causes a stir, Gulf News, August 17, 2012]

The unofficial group "Azharis for the Civil State" have also condemned the statements saying that  "we reject the Muslim Brotherhood and their control of all national institutions. We will therefore be participating in the rally of August 24 to declare our refusal of the Brotherhood policies of controlling the Constituent Assembly, and forming a government composed of Muslim Brotherhood. We also reject the President's attainment of all powers, including judicial abilities." ['Azhari's for civil state' announce their participation at the 24th August demonstrations, Mīnā Ghālī, al-Misrī al-Yawm, August 21, 2012] 

As a result of this controversy, some groups have decided to participate in the upcoming demonstrations with Sayyīd Kamāl, head of Egypt's Democratic Front Party, stating that his party would consider joining the protests to defend the public's right to stage peaceful demonstrations. [Critics blast Egyptian cleric's fatwá against anti-Morsi protesters, Author not mentioned, al-Ahrām, August 15, 2012] Salāh Sulaymān, director of the al-Naqīb foundation added: “It is time the Muslim Brotherhood and the president are reminded that they succeeded [in the elections] with only a quarter of of all votes.” Fathī Muhammad, Sa'd al-Dīn Ibrāhīm: I participate in the 24th of August demonstrations in support of the civil state, Author not mentioned, al-Tahrīr, August 19, 2012]

Islām has defended his statements despite the widespread outrage saying “I heard the demonstrations would turn into a bloody revolution, but I talked about the right to self-defense, not killing.” He also apologized to the Egyptian people for the misunderstanding and called on the media to be careful to accurately report the news. [Al-Azhar Shaykh denies reports he advocated killing protesters, Author not mentioned, Egypt Independent, August 16, 2012]

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