As President Obama nears his much-awaited address to the Muslim world, some Muslims are outraged that security precautions in Cairo, Egypt, have blocked off a historic mosque.
Obama is scheduled to visit the 14th-century Sultan Hassan mosque with Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, head of al-Azhar University, an Islamic school that is co-hosting Obama's visit.
"This [restricting the faithful from praying at the mosque] is impermissible in Shariah," Muslim Brotherhood member Muhsen Radi told al-Arabiya. "Egypt's security service has cordoned the whole area around the mosque and has told businesses nearby to close on Wednesday and Thursday."
The Muslim Brotherhood, a banned group represented by independents in Egpyt's parliament, has criticized Obama's visit heavily and complained about the mosque restrictions in parliament as well as to Tantawi, al-Arabiya reported.
The head of the mosque told al-Arabiya that the mosque would not be closed to prayer. But the security cordon would make the landmark inaccessible to most, just as many usually choked Cairo streets will be cleared and blocked off in the massive security operation.
Al-Arabiya also reported Tuesday that 10 members of the brotherhood's parliamentary bloc have been invited to attend Obama's Thursday speech after the U.S. pressed Egypt on the matter.
Bloc leader Saad Al Katatni told IslamOnline, “The American press has warned the U.S. administration that if Obama met only with the symbols of the regime and ignored the opposition forces, this would send a message that Washington supports authoritarian regimes, and ignores forces that are alive and well in society, among them the Brotherhood.”
In other news preceding Obama's visit, the grand mufti of Egpyt, Ali Gomaa, issued an unprecedented fatwa Sunday against the use of nuclear or biological weapons, decreeing that "it is not permissible for Muslim countries to use weapons of mass destruction … but they can possess them only as a deterrent against possible attacks."
But al-Qaeda No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri issued an audio message Tuesday decrying the Obama visit and plans to reach out to the world's 1.5 billion Muslims.
"His bloody messages were received and are still being received by Muslims, and they will not be concealed by public relations campaigns or by farcical visits or elegant words," al-Zawahri said, calling the president's Egyptian hosts "slaves."
Choosing Cairo as the location for the speech, al-Zawahiri said, "is a clear message that America does not stand with reform and change and other lying American propaganda, but it stands with the continuation of the existing tyrannical, rotten regimes."