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Tuesday, April 12, 2011     FOR YOUR EYES ONLY

Egypt's top Sunni targeted as Mubarak 'apologist'

CAIRO — The theological seat of Sunni Islam has been rocked by a reform campaign that ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.


Egypt's Al Azhar University, regarded as the official theological center of Sunni Muslims, has been enswirled in a drive by reformers to oust its grand sheik. The sheik, Ahmed Al Tayib, has been warned to resign and the Sunni cleric was barred from his office in Al Azhar.

The opposition, which has been holding demonstrations, said that the sheik allowed hundreds of plainclothes security officers to attend Al Azhar in a regime drive to monitor dissent.

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"Al Tayib was one of the biggest apologists for the Mubarak regime and he cannot stay in his position," an Al Azhar opposition cleric said.

Al Azhar, financed and controlled by the regime, has long been divided between Mubarak apologists and clerics close to the opposition Muslim Brotherhood. Al Tayib, himself, has been involved in the dismissal of hundreds of clerics deemed disloyal of the government.

With the ousting of Mubarak in February, Al Tayib has faced a wall of opposition, Middle East Newsline reported. The university has prevented Tayib from entering his offices and demanded that he resign.

In response, Al Tayib has offered to step down. But the new military regime of Defense Minister Mohammed Tantawi has refused, saying this could spark a purge of other Mubarak appointees.

"The military promised to support him and that he should be patient," the cleric said.

In mid-March, a military delegation met in Al Azhar with the opposition to Al Tayib. The opposition has demanded the dismissal of Al Tayib as well as all of his appointees and called on Al Azhar to become independent of the regime.

Egyptian sources said Al Tayib's plight has been that of thousands of appointees by Mubarak, who ruled from 1981 to 2011. They said that should Al Tayib and other Mubarak appointees resign they would be vulnerable to criminal charges linked to corruption and abuse of human rights. Already three of Mubarak's ministers, including former Interior Minister Habib Adli, have been on trial on charges of abuse.

Al Tayib has been accused of retaining aides at huge salaries who do not actually work.

"If there is to be democracy and reform in Egypt, it has to start with Al Azhar because of its enormous influence in Egypt and the rest of the Arab world," the cleric, who feared identification, said.

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