Top Egyptian cleric says protests against Mursi permitted

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Egypt’s top Muslim cleric says that peaceful protests against the president are permitted, sidelining statements by Islamist hard-liners that label those behind protests planned for June 30 as heretics.

Sheik Ahmed al-Tayeb, the grand imam of Al-Azhar, said in a statement issued Wednesday that “peaceful opposition to the legitimate leader is religiously permissible and accepted.”

He noted that the view expressed by hard-liners, that those who rebel against a “legitimate” leader are “kuffar,” or non-believers, and “hypocrites” - and thus punishable by death - is a “deviant” view.

Al-Azhar is the Sunni Muslim world’s foremost seat of learning, and the views of its imam therefore hold weight.

Opponents of Islamist President Mohammed Mursi are planning mass protests on June 30 calling on him to step down.

The planned protest is part of the “Tamarud,” or “Rebel” campaign.

The street protests are expected to be Egypt’s biggest since the second anniversary of the uprising against Hosni Mubarak on Jan. 25, when anti-Mursi unrest turned into days of violence, according to Reuters.

Mursi’s most extreme critics have been urging the army to remove him from power, demanding the type of intervention that led to Mubarak’s downfall at the peak of the 2011 uprising. The army has signaled it intends to stay out of politics, Reuters reported.

(With The Associated Press)