The Grand Imam of Egypt’s al-Azhar Mosque, the country’s highest Islamic authority, has canceled a meeting with US Vice President Mike Pence in the wake of an announcement by US President Donald Trump that Washington will recognize Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s capital.
Al-Azhar said in a statement on Friday that Ahmed al-Tayeb had changed his previous decision to meet with Pence, who would travel to Egypt and Israel in late December.
The grand imam announced “his categorical rejection of a formal request from US Vice President Mike Pence to meet with him on December 20,” the al-Azhar statement said.
According to the statement, Tayeb had agreed to meet the American official after receiving an official request from the US embassy a week ago, “but after the unjust and unfair American decision on Jerusalem [al-Quds], Al-Azhar’s grand imam announces his strong and decisive rejection of this meeting.”
“Al-Azhar cannot sit with those who falsify history and steal the rights of people,” the statement added.
“How can I sit with those who gave what they do not own to those who are undeserving?” the statement quoted Tayeb as saying.
Al-Azhar also said Trump “must immediately reverse this decision.”
On Wednesday, Trump announced a decision to recognize Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s capital. His move has ignited protests across the world and sparked Palestinian demonstrations and a call for a new Palestinian intifada, or uprising, against the Israeli regime.
At least one Palestinian was killed and about 380 others sustained injuries when clashes broke out between Israeli forces and Palestinian protesters on Friday.
“Let your third intifada be on the level of your belief in your cause and your love for your country. We are with you and will not let you down,” al-Azhar quoted Tayeb as saying in “an urgent call” he directed to the people of Jerusalem al-Quds after Friday prayers.
The statement further said Tayeb held Trump and his administration “fully responsible for igniting the flame of hatred in the hearts of Muslims… and the consequences of spreading hatred.”
Meanwhile, Jibril Rajoub, a senior Palestinian official in President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party, said Pence was “not welcome in Palestine” during his upcoming visit, adding that Abbas would not meet him.