Top Egyptian cleric declares peaceful protests 'religiously permissible'

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Almost every Friday opposition groups protest against President Mohamed Morsi. Here an Egyptian protester waves his national flag in Cairo on March 1, 2013.

Credit:

Gianluigi Guerica

Egypt's top Islamic leader on Wednesday issued a statement in defense of peaceful protests, calling "deviant" those who consider such activity heretical, according to Saudi Arabia's Al Arabiya

Sheik Ahmed el-Tayeb declared that "peaceful opposition to the legitimate leader is religiously permissible and accepted," according to the Associated Press

He also criticized those who think rebelling against a "legitimate" leader are non-believers ("kuffar") or "hypocrites," (an offense that can carry the death penalty), calling that an unacceptable view, said the AP

The sheik is the grand imam of the Al-Azhar mosque in Cairo, considered the forefront of Sunni learning.

His statement came ahead of the opposition's planned anti-government rally on June 30, said the AP

Activists with the "rebel" campaign plan to use the demonstration to call for the Muslim Brotherhood-backed President Mohamed Morsi to step down after a year in power, said Al Arabiya

Morsi was elected after longtime leader Hosni Mubarak was overthrown by popular protest in 2011, causing a sea change in Egyptian politics and society. 

The sheik's statement was published on Al-Azhar's official website, said the AP