Al-Azhar Grand Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb is in contact with military leader Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi to prevent the appointment of a Salafi scholar as endowments minister, the London-based newspaper Asharq al-Awsat said.
The paper quoted sources close to Tayyeb as saying that the grand sheikh’s office had been concerned over news about the nomination of Mohamed Yousry Ibrahim, adding that Al-Azhar’s grand sheikh usually selects the minister from personalities he believes are capable of helping maintain Al-Azhar’s moderate Islamic message.
The appointment of any religious leaders should come with Tayyeb’s consent, the Al-Azhar sources stressed.
They said Ibrahim’s nomination infringed upon Tayyeb’s status and foreshadowed his possible diminished role and eventual removal, especially because he faces opposition from Al-Azhar scholars who support the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Al-Azhar sources said there seems to be an inclination to appoint Muslim Brotherhood leader Abdel Rahman al-Ber as Egypt’s grand mufti — one step toward moving him to the post of Al-Azhar grand sheikh.
Ibrahim said on his Facebook account Saturday that he accepted the position after consulting with fellow scholars, denying that he was being supported by senior Brotherhood leader Khairat al-Shater.
News about Ibrahim’s nomination stirred controversy among commentators, many of whom viewed it as a change from the usual selection of moderate figures for religious posts to the more conservative Salafism, which Ibrahim is thought to represent.
Ibrahim is the general secretary of the Legal Authority for Rights and Reform, a Salafi board that includes Muslim Brotherhood leader Khairat al-Shater and other Brotherhood members.
The Brotherhood supported Ibrahim in the parliamentary elections against former MP Mostafa al-Naggar.
But he denied Saturday that Shater was behind his nomination.
Prime Minister Hesham Qandil said Saturday that the new members of the Cabinet would be announced next Thursday.