Top Sunni Islam cleric says meeting Pence would 'tear up my identity'

Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayyeb says the US decision on Jerusalem would "feed terrorism in the region."

Story highlights

  • Grand imam of Al Azhar explains why he canceled meeting with US vice president
  • He is one of several officials who refused to host Mike Pence on Mideast trip

Cairo (CNN)President Donald Trump's decision to move the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem was "rash and uncalculated" and represented "aggression toward people, countries, cultures and civilizations," one of Sunni Islam's highest authorities said Thursday.

Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayyeb, the grand imam of Al Azhar, recently canceled a meeting scheduled with Vice President Mike Pence during the latter's upcoming visit to Egypt.
    In an exclusive interview with CNN, Tayyeb said receiving Pence would "tear up my identity" and appear "contradictory in front of people."
    Tayyeb is one of several officials who have refused to host Pence during the vice president's Mideast tour, which is set to start Friday. Tawadros II, the head of Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas also scrapped their meetings with the vice president after Trump's Jerusalem announcement.
    The imam said he welcomed Pence's visit before Trump announced that the United States would move its embassy to Jerusalem and recognize the city as Israel's capital. The move upended seven decades of US foreign policy that has resisted a recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital before the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is resolved.
    Tayyeb said the decision would "feed terrorism in the region" but said the Muslim world was not "in a position for confrontation."
    "Decisions like this one nurture terrorism, create it and propel it forward to act and express itself in methods we all reject," he said.
    "When terrorism rises again, the East and West will drown in seas of blood."
    The sheikh, who is considered a leading figure in some schools of Sunni Islam, is one of many prominent Muslim and Arab leaders who condemned Trump on Jerusalem
    Last month, leaders from the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation recognized East Jerusalem as the "occupied capital" of a Palestinian state in response to Trump's announcement.
    The group rejected Trump's move as "null and void" and said the "dangerous declaration" marked the US withdrawal from the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.