Egypt’s military police on Sunday prevented a rally organized by mosque imams calling for the independence of Al-Azhar as well as investigations into charges of corruption leveled against the Ministry of Endowments, an eyewitness said.
The same eyewitness said that members of the military police prevented the imams from reaching the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and assaulted them with fists and electric batons. Clashes resulted between the two sides.
Nearly 1000 imams and preachers organized a rally on Sunday, which began outside the Nour Mosque in Abbassiya and marched towards SCAF. The imams had gathered at the mosque in the morning, and a delegation of ten imams headed to SCAF. They were told, however, that the issue would be discussed at a later date. The imams then consulted with each other and decided to head to SCAF once more, stressing that this was the second time in which the SCAF failed to fulfill promises of addressing their demands.
The imams demanded that the law concerning the position of Al-Azhar Grand Sheikh be changed to require elections and for the Endowments Ministry to be annexed to Al-Azhar to enable the latter to become self sufficient. Former Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser had decided in 1961 to change Al-Azhar’s laws so that its Grand Sheikh would be appointed by the president rather than elected. Nasser had also put Al-Azhar’s budget under state control.