Update: President’s office condemns fatwa urging murder of NSF leaders

The president’s office on Wednesday condemned the fatwa issued by Al-Azhar scholar Mahmoud Shabaan calling for the murder of National Salvation Front members.

Presidential spokesperson Yasser Ali wrote on Facebook that dialogue is the only way to achieve the aims of the revolution, and rejected discourse that causes it to deviate from its peaceful path.

“This is terrorism,” he added.

Prosecutor General Talaat Abdallah has ordered investigations into Shabaan.

Lawyer Alaa Eddin Bazzaz filed a complaint accusing the scholar of inciting violence through statements he made during  a program broadcast on the Al-Hafiz religious channel on 6 January.

According to Bazzaz, ONTV and Dream channel rebroadcast the statement, in which Shaaban ordered the murder of NSF leaders Mohamed ElBaradei and Hamdeen Sabbahi. Bazazz contends that Shaaban's fatwa misinterprets an Islamic Hadith.

On Thursday the Interior Ministry assigned security to ElBaradei's home as a precaution.The Council of Ministers is also considering legal action against anyone who seeks to incite violence.

The comments were widely condemned by liberal political factions. Al-Azhar's Islamic Research Academy also denounced the fatwa and warned that such statements drive sedition and bloodshed.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Hesham Qandil said extremist fatwas fly in the face of tolerance preached by Islam.

Qandil added that Egyptians took to the streets in January 2011 to establish a democratic society that promotes dialogue, not murder. Change can only come through free elections and cooperation, he said.

The prime minister expressed his confidence that Egyptians understand why fatwas like these are so dangerous and called on political leaders to renounce violence for the sake of the nation, which is in need of unity and stability.

But not everyone agrees. Osama Qassem, a Jihadi leader, said he supports the fatwa issued by Shaaban.

Qassem said the NSF is behind weeks of unrest following the 25 January revolution's second anniversary, and should be subject to serious punishments under certain Sharia regulations called Had al-Haraba. The term refers to offenses punishable by death, crucifixion or severing of hands or feet.

"They [the NSF] incite violence in the country," Qassem said, adding that the front is endangering the country by refusing to support the president, and could cause a civil war in Egypt.

Qassem tempered his statements by adding that he supports a peaceful opposition. However, anyone caught violating laws, attacking public property or vandalizing state works must be severely punished, he added.

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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