Head of Al-Azhar University replaced after “apostasy” remarks against reformer

Al Azhar University

The head of Egypt’s prestigious Al-Azhar University has been replaced after calling a controversial Muslim reformer an apostate.

The decision came after Al-Azhar was pressured by critics who said the prominent Sunni Muslim institution has not done enough to counter “Islamist extremism”.

Ahmed Hosni Taha, the acting university president, was forced to apologise on Thursday after labelling reformer Islam Al-Behairy an “apostate” for attacking some of the founding scholars of Shariah law.

His apology was followed by an official statement issued on Friday from Al-Azhar stating that Grand Imam Ahmed Al-Tayeb, who heads the institution that runs the university, had replaced Taha.

Taha had made the comments about Behairy during a television interview.

Taha stated in an apology posted on the university’s website that, “My response was incorrect and it contradicts the way of Al-Azhar”.

Behairy was a talk show host who had angered Al-Azhar’s traditional scholarship with attacks on religious books and some of the most revered scholars within Sunni Islam.

He was sentenced to a year in prison for “insulting religion” and released late last year in a presidential pardon.

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