Tantawi urged to resign over handshake
Source: Press TV, 09-12-2008
Top Egyptian cleric Sheikh Mohammad Sayyed Tantawi may be forced to resign for shaking hands with "Israeli" President Shimon Peres.
Sheikh Mohammad Sayyed Tantawi who is the Head of Egypt's al-Azhar University, came under fire after recent reports showed him greeting the "Israeli" President in a UN interfaith conference in November.
The move sparked widespread Muslim fury, prompting Egyptian politicians and media outlets to call for the cleric's immediate resignation.
"The hand that shook Peres' hand is tainted with the blood of Palestinians and reeks of the smell of their corpses and remains," exclaimed the al-Dustour independent newspaper, adding that the Tantawi 'should richly purify his hands'.
Egyptian opposition lawmaker Mustafa Bakri, meanwhile, demanded Tantawi's instant dismissal, saying his actions delivered 'a blow to al-Azhar's functioning and sanctity in the Arab world.'
"This meeting was like al-Azhar's clear normalization with the Zionist enemy ... In the past, the sheikh has insisted on meeting with rabbis, with Rabbi Lau at the top of the list, but his meeting with the Zionist president is demeaning to all Muslims," Bakri added.
Another opposition lawmaker Dr. Hamdi Hassan also condemned the 'unacceptable handshake', urging Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif to order Tantawi to apologize to the entire Muslim world.
Tantawi insists that he did not recognize Peres during their 'brief encounter' in the Saudi-sponsored UN interfaith conference. "And suppose I knew him? So what... Isn't he from a country that we recognize?" he said.
The controversy reached a new height after a Saudi official who spoke on condition of anonymity revealed that Riyadh paid for the expenses of a high-level "Israeli" delegation to attend a two-day UN conference in New York.
According to the official, the Saudi monarch and Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal devised a new peace plan between Arab states and Tel Aviv in secret meetings with "Israeli" President Shimon Peres and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.
According to the plan, which is expected to announce when US president-elect Barack Obama takes office, the two sides agreed that Palestinians should not call for two key issues of al-Quds as future Palestinian capital" and "the right of return to thousands of Palestinian refugees."
Al-Quds is one of the holiest cities in Islam.
The move is seen as a major U turn for the Saudi monarchy in defending Muslims' rights.