Egypt Azhar university head replaced after ‘apostacy’ remarks

This file photo taken on April 28, 2017 shows Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, delivering a speech during the visit of Pope Francis to the prestigious Sunni institution in Cairo. Sheikh Al-Tayeb replaced Ahmed Hosni Taha, the head of Egypt's Al-Azhar university, after labelling a controversial Muslim reformer an apostate. (AFP / Andreas Solaro)
Updated 06 May 2017
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Egypt Azhar university head replaced after ‘apostacy’ remarks

CAIRO: The head of Egypt’s Al-Azhar university, one of the world’s leading Islamic seats of learning, has been replaced after labelling a controversial Muslim reformer an apostate, the institution said.
The development came as Al-Azhar is pressured by critics who say the venerable Sunni Muslim authority has not done enough to counter Islamist extremism.
Ahmed Hosni Taha, the acting university president, had been forced to apologize on Thursday after saying reformer Islam Al-Behairy was an “apostate” for attacking some of the founding scholars of Islamic law.
His apology was followed by a statement on Friday from Al-Azhar saying that Grand Imam Ahmed Al-Tayeb, who heads the institution that runs the university, had replaced Taha.
Taha had made the remarks about Behairy during a television interview.
“My response...was incorrect and it contradicts the way of Al-Azhar,” Taha said in an apology posted on the university’s website.
Behairy was a talk show host who had infuriated Al-Azhar’s traditional clergy with attacks on canonical religious books and some of Sunni Islam’s most important scholars.
He was sentenced to a year in prison for “insulting religion” and released in late 2016 in a presidential pardon.


Ports deal is chance for Yemen peace talks, says UN envoy

Updated 25 min 29 sec ago
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Ports deal is chance for Yemen peace talks, says UN envoy

  • Forces will initially be withdrawn from the smaller ports of Salif and Ras Issa
  • The second phase a withdrawal of 18 to 30 kilometers, depending on the location and fighters

NEW YORK: The expected pullout of forces from three key ports in Yemen provides an opportunity to move to the major goal of ending the four-year conflict that has created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, the UN envoy for the war-battered country said on Tuesday.

Martin Griffiths told the UN Security Council that Yemen’s government and Houthi militias demonstrated that they are able to deliver on commitments they made in December in Stockholm by agreeing on the first phase of redeployment from the ports.

He said forces will initially be withdrawn from the smaller ports of Salif and Ras Issa, beginning “possibly” on Tuesday or Wednesday. This will be followed by a pullout from the major port of Hodeidah and critical parts of the city that will allow access to the Red Sea Mills, a major UN storage facility holding enough grain to feed 3.7 million people for a month, he said.

Griffiths called on the parties to fully implement the first phase and to agree on details of the second phase of the redeployment of forces, “which we hope will lead to the demilitarization” of Hodeidah, whose port handles about 70 percent of Yemen’s commercial and humanitarian imports.

A UN official said the first phase involves pulling back several kilometers, and the second phase a withdrawal of 18 to 30 kilometers, depending on the location and fighters. In some places in Hodeidah city, the opposing forces are facing each other about 100 meters apart, the official said.

The UN is appealing for more than $4 billion to assist 15 million Yemenis this year and UN Under-Secretary-General and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock implored donors to pledge generously at a conference next week in Geneva.