Al-Azhar spokesman Abbas Shuman said that the al-Rawda mosque attackers had “exposed themselves” of having no religion by carrying out the attack and that no one, including Al-Azhar, should therefore not need to accuse them of being non-Muslim infidels.
In a phone call to the television show “Hadrat Al Mowaten” (Your Excellency the Citizen), Shuman accused the terrorists of being “hired to destroy Egypt”.
Responding to a question as to why al-Azhar has not declared the attackers as infidels, Shuman said, “it is not within the power of Al-Azhar to declare the attackers of Al-Rawda as infidels. Al-Azhar does not judge people, because this opens doors we cannot close.”
The statement prompted a forceful response from prominent television presenter Amr Adib, who issued a vicious attack against Al-Azhar, saying, “why aren’t you declaring them as infidels? Don’t you realize these people have millions of followers who they convince of their ideas using the Quran and Sunna [sayings of the prophet]?”
Others have also criticized Al-Azhar for its stance. On Saturday, a series of Al-Azhar scholars together with a host of political and social movements, urged the religious institution to issue a declaration against the attackers to brand them as infidels.
“The crimes of these terrorist groups have crossed a red line. Destroying houses of God is a major crime. Al-Azhar has to issue a strong response to these people by declaring them as infidels,” a statement by a variety of societal currents read.
Meanwhile, religious groups, including Sufi orders, have announced the launch of a religious campaign, demanding the Islamic State to be declared as infidels.
Sheikh Alaa Abu Al-Azaem, head of World Union for Sufi Orders, stressed that the members of the Islamic State are not Muslims because of their anti-Islamic views , which he described as “destructive”.
In response to the critics, Al- Azhar called for an urgent meeting with the country’s prominent Islamic leaders to discuss whether or not to issue a “fatwa” declaring Daesh as infidels.
A number of Al-Azhar scholars have supported the initiative, despite Al-Azhar’s official stance.
Abdel Rehim Mohamed, member of Al-Azhar said, “there is evidence from the Quran and Sunna that confirms the infidelity of terrorist organizations. Prophet Muhammed (PbuH) spoke about them saying, ‘There will come in the end of time, a people who are young and stupid who determine who is better by reading the Quran… if you see them, fight them, if you kill them, God rewards you on judgment day.'”
Friday’s attack, seen as the deadliest in Egypt’s recent history, killed 308 people and wounded another 128, according to the latest updates from the Ministry of Health.