Top Cleric Criticizes Egyptians For Rejoicing At Israeli Forest Fires

A picture taken on November 24, 2016 shows a fire raging in the northern Israeli port city of Haifa. Hundreds of Israelis fled their homes on the outskirts of the country's third city Haifa with others trapped inside as firefighters struggled to control raging bushfires, officials said.

JAFFA, Israel – A top Egyptian cleric has called on his followers not to rejoice at the widespread forest fires that have plagued Israel for the past week.

Mazher Shahin, a faculty member at the prestigious Al Azhar Seminary in Cairo, said in a television interview that gloating at someone else’s misfortune, in this case Israel, contravenes Sharia law.

“The sages ruled that gloating at the enemy’s misfortune is prohibited,” he said. “Israel isn’t the biggest enemy of Egypt and the Muslims, at least it hasn’t been since the peace treaty was signed. Egypt’s main enemy today is Qatar, who libeled the Egyptian army [a reference to a documentary film broadcast last week on the Qatari network Al Jazeera], Turkey that undermined our tourism industry, and the groups that attack our troops in Sinai.”

“Erdogan deserves our hostility more than Israel,” he added. “If only these fires started in Turkey and Qatar.”

Shahin’s comments sparked such a backlash that Al Jazeera organized a panel made up of critics of the Egyptian government to respond to them.

Ayman Noor, a member of the Egyptian opposition, called on Shahin “to be defrocked and put on another robe that’s more in keeping with his opinions.”

Egyptian author and journalist Waiel Qandil, one of the leaders of the 2011 uprising against former President Hosni Mubarak, said he regretted having once considered Shahin a friend of the revolution.

“Allah please forgive my sins, especially my biggest sin which led me to defend Sheikh Shahin and invite him to speak at Tahrir Square,” he said.

Bassam Jaara, a Syrian opposition activist, tweeted: “[President Abdel Fatah] Sisi’s pig wears a cleric’s frock and dares to wish that the fire would start in Qatar and Turkey and not in Israel, claiming that they are the real enemies! He should replace his hat with a skullcap.”

“The criminal Mazher Shahin wishes that the fire would break out in Turkey and Qatar instead of Israel,” Ahmad Zidan, a pro-Islamic reporter for Al Jazeera, tweeted. “Allah needs to shame him.”

Qatari commenter Said Alzahrani tweeted: “Look at those lying Zionist sheikhs. Allah, give them a taste of your painful wrath, and gather them [in hell] with their Jewish masters.”

The Egyptian Costaali wrote: “You idiot son of a b*tch. I can’t think of anything to tell you except that you’re one big motherf**ker.”

Many commented on the debate that the Israeli fires sparked on Arab social media, including prominent Al Jazeera anchor Faysal Alkasim, who wrote: “Many Arabs still claim that the fires in Israel are an expression of Allah’s wrath. I recommend to us Arabs not to talk about Allah’s wrath, because what’s befallen us is far worse.”


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