ALEXANDRIA, Egypt-- Senior Egyptian clerics elected a new top Islamist jurist Monday in the first such ballot in six decades.
Shawky Ibrahim Abdel Karim, a professor of Islamic jurisprudence at Tanta University, was chosen as grand mufti to succeed moderate Islamist Ali Gomaa, according to state media. President Mohamed Morsi must ratify the nomination.
News of Abdel Karim's appointment stunned many Egyptian activists, who assumed such a position would be won by a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. Many believed Abdel Rahman Bar, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood Guidance Bureau, was the leading candidate for the post.
Morsi was a leader of the group until his election as president last June, and the Brotherhood has been moving to consolidate its power over public and religious institutions. But clerics at Al Azhar mosque and university, one of Sunni Islam’s most revered institutions, decided to select a man with no firm political affiliations.
"The Brotherhood is not usually timid to show their grip on power, but this is a post that they might have chosen to lose," said Nada Azmy, a 22-year-old university student. "The president already works closely with the mufti and the mufti's position is known to lean towards moderate Sunni practices, which works out well for the Brotherhood's vision."