Arab World · Islam · Middle East · Religion & Spirituality

New Grand Mufti elected in Egypt

Egypt has witnessed deadly violence, insecurity and price hikes, fuelling the political turmoil gripping the country. (Reuters)

Shawqi Ibrahim Abdel Karim was elected on Monday to take over as Egypt’s next mufti, the government’s top interpreter of Islamic law, the highest Sunni Muslim institute in Islam announced.

President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood is to formally ratify the vote by senior Muslim clerics to replace outgoing Mufti Ali Gomaa.

“One candidate has been nominated, Dr Shawqi Abdel Karim,” said Al-Azhar spokesman Mohammed Gemea, after Abdel Karim beat a Muslim Brotherhood member to win the most ballots in a vote by a senior council of Al-Azhar clerics.

The position has in the past been traditionally filled by top scholars from Al-Azhar — the most prestigious Sunni institution — who were generally staunch backers of whoever ruled the country.

Abdel Karim, a professor of Islamic jurisprudence, is not known to hold any political affiliations.

Gomaa, the outgoing mufti, was criticized for reportedly saying that former President Hosni Mubarak would go to heaven, before the dictator’s ouster in a 2011 uprising.

Al-Azhar, the main seat of Sunni Muslim learning, has sought to become more independent of the government since Mubarak’s ouster, positioning itself as a moderate force above the political fray.

The mufti is responsible for Dar al-Iftaa, a body that issues tens of thousands of fatwas a year. The edicts do not carry the force of law but carry weight.

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