Egypt's Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa made an extremely unusual appearance in Jerusalem today in a trip seen as "very strange" by the country's powerful Muslim Brotherhood, reported the Associated Press.
The Jordan-backed visit breaks with tradition in Egypt, where leading religious officials have for years observed an unofficial travel ban on areas under Israeli control, said Reuters.
Cairo and Jerusalem signed a peace treaty in 1979 but Egypt tends to view Israel with suspicion, said AP, making Gomaa's appearance in an Israeli-controlled area cause for stir.
Gomaa explained on Twitter that it was an "unofficial visit" made out of sympathy for Palestinian claim to east Jerusalem after it was captured by Israel during the 1967 war, said Reuters.
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Jordan, the only other Arab nation to have diplomatic relations with Israel, said the trip came out of a command from the Prophet Mohamed to make a pilgrimage to three mosques: Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa and the mosques in Mecca and Medina, Saudi Arabia, according to The Daily News Egypt.
The Egyptian cleric, who was traveling alongside Jordanian Prince Ghazi, prayed in the Al-Aqsa mosque during the two-hour visit, said The Daily News Egypt. A spokesman for Gomaa said the mufti, who entered the city from the West Bank by way of Jordan, dedicated a new Islamic research center there as well.
Mubarak appointed Gumaa Egypt's top religious law authority in 2003, leading the influential Dar al-Ifta, an advisory body that hands down decisions on numerous religiously-laced issues, such as marriage disputes and business contracts, according to AP.
The leader of Egypt's more extreme Al-Gamaa al-Islamiyya, Abdel-Akher Hamad, called for Gomaa's removal for violating the unwritten rule, telling AP "we should call for his dismissal" after the country's upcoming May presidential elections.
Israeli officials have not commented on the visit.