Qatar-based controversial Islamist scholar Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi whose fiery sermons have caused tension between Gulf states said on Monday that voting in the upcoming Egyptian elections is prohibited and that ex-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi would bring the downfall of Egypt.
Sisi, the former Egyptian military chief, toppled Islamist President Mohammad Mursi last July, and is widely expected to win this month's presidential election. The only other candidate is leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi, who came third in the 2012 election won by Mursi.
“Sisi deposed the elected president and took power unfairly. How can we elect him?” the cleric told AFP.
Sheikh al-Qaradawi is seen as a spiritual guide to the Muslim Brotherhood, the group Mursi hails from. He had issued a fatwa urging Egyptians to support the deposed head of state following his overthrow.
Asked if he would prohibit participation in the election, al-Qaradawi replied: “Of course.”
He was speaking after taking part in a conference on Jerusalem organized in Doha by the International Union for Muslim Scholars.
Egypt's military-installed interim government has designated the Muslim Brotherhood a “terrorist organization” and launched a brutal crackdown on Mursi's Islamist supporters since his ouster last July 3.
Al-Qaradawi said that Israeli leaders supported having Sisi win the upcoming presidential elections, saying that Sisi protects Israel's interests and will not go into confrontation with them over the Palestinian issue.
“You have people like Ehud Barak (Israel's former defense minister) saying, Vote for Sisi, Sisi is our man, he is our Sisi not your Sisi,” Qaradawi said late on Sunday at a conference that was organized by an association of Muslim scholars in Doha.
In response, Egypt’s Dar al-Ifta, in charge of issuing official religious rulings, described Qaradawi’s statement as an “anomaly and contradictory to Islamic jurisprudence and interests of the country.”
In addition to al-Azhar, which is considered as the Sunni Islam’s highest seat of learning, Dar al-Ifta is one of Egypt’s highly-revered religious institutions.
Dar al-Ifta added that Qaradawi’s fatwa was fulfilling to his political interests.
Involving religion in Egypt’s political tussles will smear Islam and any moderate approach to represent its jurisprudence, it cautioned.
Al-Qardawi's comments have contributed to a major rift in political relations between Qatar and its Gulf neighbors.
On March 5, in an unprecedented move, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain recalled their ambassadors from Qatar, accusing Doha of failing to abide by an accord not to interfere in each other’s' internal affairs. Qatar denies the charge.
The three states were especially angry over Qatar's support for the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist movement that reveres Qaradawi and whose ideology challenges the principle of conservative dynastic rule long dominant in the Gulf.
Since then, Qaradawi has refrained from delivering sermons on Fridays. However, Sunday's conference proved that the ageing sheikh has not been deterred from criticizing Egypt's affairs.
In April, asked if he had plans to leave Qatar to ease pressure on the government, Qaradawi, a naturalized Qatari citizen, said he would do no such thing.
“We must all stand by Qatar and it's Emir and the father Emir, Qatar stands by what's rightful and defends the causes of the Arab world, God be with Qatar.”
Al-Qaradawi is wanted by Egypt's authorities and faces being tried in absentia.
Qatar had close ties with Egypt during Mursi's turbulent single year in power, but relations nose-dived after his overthrow.
The gas-rich Gulf state has given refuge to a number of Brotherhood leaders who fled the bloody crackdown that followed Morsi's ouster.
Egypt has called on Qatar to respect a 1998 Arab counter-terrorism treaty and hand over Qaradawi and other wanted Islamists.
The Brotherhood, which says it is committed to peaceful
[With AFP and Reuters]