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Egypt’s Grand Mufti cancels trip to SA

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It’s been reported that the Grand Mufti of Egypt has cancelled his trip to South Africa, after he was advised that he is not welcome here. Grand Mufti Shawqee Alaam and his delegation were expected to arrive in the country this week as part of a peace initiative launched by Al Azhar University. South African lawyers have been calling for the arrest of Alaam for his role in allegedly supporting the Egyptian regime. To halt his impending visit, the Muslim Lawyers Association (MLA) last week opened the ‘Egyptian Death Penalty Docket’.

Various ulema, including the MJC, decided not to endorse his visit as the mufti has been said to be responsible for the fatwas which endorsed the death penalties for many Muslim brotherhood members, including former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi. MLA attorney Yousha Tayob says they are happy with the news.

“Its good news but it’s not the end of the docket. It was an accumulated effort by the media, religious organisations and hopefully the docket also played a part,” he said.

The docket calls for the implementation of various pieces of legislation, both domestic and international, which places obligations on the Republic of South Africa to take action against proponents of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Tayob said it was “not the end of the matter” and they would refer the case to the International Criminal Court or the African Union for the Grand Mufti to be investigated for war crimes.

“At least it sends out a signal to the most that they cannot travel with impunity to South Africa. Once we identify that, we will do everything we can to have them arrested and prosecuted as well.”

Last week, the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) said it had sent a letter to the Egyptian embassy that it would no longer host the Grand Mufti and his delegation. MJC deputy secretary Isgaak Taliep said the ulema body’s policy has always been one of open engagement with any ulema or individual, even if they differed on certain political issues.

“We need to have the necessary maturity to discuss any issues. And the issues surrounding the Mufti, is what we wanted to address frankly,” he said.

“But then we had a mashura [discussion] with ulema in South Africa and in Cape Town. Taking in the collective wisdom of these ulema, we felt it was not the right time for us to meet with the delegation.”

“We cannot condone this behaviour,” added Taliep, referring to the Grand Mufti’s support of Sisi regime.

The mufti of Tanzania, Palestine and other countries were meant to be part of the delegation and have reportedly also pulled out of the trip.

Human rights group Media Review Network said the docket was “a reflection of conscience and responsibility to the ideals of due process, freedom of association and international law”.

“Mufti Shawqee Alaam has sought to taint this blessed land with blood-soaked hands which have been utilised to hand down death sentences en masse for trumped up and vexatious charges,” said Zaakir Ahmed Mayet, chairman of the MRN.

“The role of the Grand Mufti in enabling the Sisi regime to utilise the death penalty against the democratically elected Egyptian government of Mohamed Morsi and supporters of democracy, has not been obscure or opaque.”

The Egyptian Embassy could not be reached for comment.  VOC

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