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Egyptian preacher detracts statement on killing opposition members

Published: Updated:

The Egyptian preacher, who issued a ‘fatwa’ to murder opposition figures, blamed the media for distorting his statements and said he didn’t issue such decrees in an interview aired on Al Arabiya Monday.

In a January interview, Mohammad Shaaban, professor of rhetoric at Al-Azhar University, said “the National Salvation Front and its leadership are obviously seeking to reach power, and according to Sharia’s ruling, they must be killed.”

He cited a hadith of Prophet Mohammed which says, “If a man takes an oath of allegiance to a leader, and puts his hand on his hand and does it with the sincerity of his heart, he should obey him as much as possible. If another man comes and contests him, then behead the other one.”

However, in his interview with Al Arabiya, Shaaban blamed the media for being biased and for choosing one statement over another.

“I will tell you what I said completely: that the application of the ruling, I said three times, depends on whether high-ranking Al-Azhar clerics decide on whether to approve it on groups like the National Salvation Front?” he said.

Shaaban also said he didn’t issue a fatwa but highlighted a ruling that was set as a precedence by Prophet Mohammad.

“I said, we ask high-ranking Al-Azhar sheikhs if the ruling will be appropriate against such groups, and the matter should be left to the judicial and the ruler to decide, there are no place for people like me to decide.”

He claimed he didn’t describe the regime’s opponents as “infidels,” nor did he call for their death.

His fatwa or ruling fuels fear that Egypt will turn into Tunisia just as the leftist secular opposition figure, Chokri Belaid, was assassinated last week.

Belaid’s assassination sent Tunisia into political turmoil that forced Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali to dissolve the Islamist-led government and call for the formation of a technocratic government.

Before Belaid’s murder, Tunisian salafists called for the killing of secular opposition in the country.

Asked if Egypt will witness a bloody chaotic scene similar to Tunisia’s, Shaaban said “revolution” is what is common between the two countries, other than that, the practice of Islam is different.

“Tunisian learnt religion from Egypt through satellite television channels,” he said, adding “Tunisia is very much secular and those who prayed at dawn used to be arrested.”

Misinterpretation

Rebuffing Shaaban’s interpretation of Islam, Abdullah al-Najjar, member of the Islamic Research Academy, said the problem originated from the misinterpretation of the prophet’s word.

Najjar said bloodshed is totally forbidden not only in Islam but in all religions, he added that the “proof” mentioned in Shaaban’s statement were not accurately read or understood, therefore, it was not properly applied.

He said like in any other religions, killing a human being is forbidden and it is a crime, and Shaaban’s ruling cannot be applied to the National Salvation Front, it can only be applied when a stable country or society is threatened by a militant group.