Egypt’s Islamist-dominated Parliament on Sunday demanded the resignation of Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa over his controversial visit to Jerusalem last week.
Despite Gomaa’s statements that the visit was unofficial and that it took place under the supervision of the Jordanian authorities, the visit angered those opposed to normalizing relations with Israel.
Parliament Speaker Saad al-Katatny read out a recommendation within a statement issued by the People’s Assembly’s Religious Affairs and Endowments Committee that demanded an apology from Gomaa, and his resignation.
The recommendation received the approval of a majority of Parliament.
It demanded Gomaa’s “repentance to God,” “an apology to the Arab and Islamic peoples” and his resignation."
Katatny requested the removal of the line concerning his "repentance" and the committee agreed.
The majority of Egyptians continue to avoid dealing with Israel, despite the passage of 33 years since the signing of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty. The international community did not recognize the occupation and annexation of East Jerusalem after the 1967 war.
The majority of Egyptians say they will not normalize relations with Israel until it agrees on the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital. Gomaa had visited East Jerusalem, where he prayed at the Al-Aqsa mosque.
During a discussion that preceded the Religious Affairs and Endowments committee’s recommendation, the chairman of the Freedom and Justice Party's parliamentary bloc, Hussein Ibrahim, said, "Dr. Ali Gomaa condemned himself when he said the visit was personal."
"Sheikh Ali Gomaa does not respect our minds,” he added. “Didn’t he see the Jerusalemites as they were being driven out of Jerusalem … didn’t he see those who prevent them from praying at the Al-Aqsa Mosque?"
Salafi MP Mamdouh Ismail said the visit was a "poisoned dagger that stabbed the (Palestinian) case."
Chairman of the Wafd Party's parliamentary bloc Mahmoud al-Sakka said, "if he was sincere in his visit, he would have returned with Jerusalem in his right hand."
“He will be held accountable by God and by the people because he made a huge mistake,” he added.
MP Margaret Azer said the visit would have no negative impact on Egyptian Christians’ decision to avoid visiting Jerusalem "until after its liberation."
For decades, the Coptic Church in Egypt has prohibited Copts from visiting Israeli-occupied Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, a number of MPs said the visit should not be considered normalization with Israel as he did not meet with any Israeli officials.
MP Atef al-Maghawry for instance said, "visiting a prisoner is not considered normalization with the prison warden … the Mufti did not meet with any of the leaders of the Zionist entity.”
He added that the Palestinians consider visits by Arabs and Muslims to Jerusalem as support for their cause. However, a number of MPs said that allowing such visits could open the door to other visits not intended as support for the Palestinians.
According to the committee’s statement, "This brutal enemy [Israel] controls its entrances and exits, and its mosques and churches … [Gomaa’s] visit gives legitimacy to the occupation … and it also represents normalization with the Zionist entity that is conclusively refused by the people.”