A delegation of Jews met with Salafi leader Dr. Jiah a-Shimi in the Egyptian town of Fayoum last month in a meeting which caused uproar amongst the Egyptian Salafi movement.
Dr. Omar Salem, an Egyptian-American religious scholar invited three Jewish scholars to Egypt as part of efforts to hold interfaith dialogue. The three were Rabbi Ya'akov Nagen from Otniel, orthodox peace activist Rivka Abramson, and Jewish religious scholar Professor Yosef Ringel.
Dr. Jiah a-Shimi is also a high ranking official in the Egyptian Salafist a-Noor political party and a former parliamentarian.
Egyptian media called the meeting "a meeting with Jewish rabbis," and the pictures which Egyptian media obtained of the event caused protests against the party. The party is now conducting an internal investigation regarding the event.
"This attests to the double meaning in regards to relations with countries which threaten Egyptian and Arab national security," said Ahmed al-Bari from the el-Wafad party who strongly condemned the meeting and accused the Islamist party of hypocrisy.
There were also those within the Salafist movement who attacked al-Noor for holding the meeting. Salafi Preacher Mohammad al-Abasiri said that "this act isn't unusual for someone who shakes hands stained with the blood of Arabs and Muslims with untouchable Zionists. They even work together under orders in Syria and other Arab and Muslim countries."
The a-Noor party was quick to release a statement clarifying that their stance on the matter is that "the Zionist Entity which is plundering the Lands of the Palestinians and the Arabs, and which attacks the holy places of Islam."
According to them, "(the party) is against any form of normalization with this entity, and is against meeting with any person who represents or is connected to it."
At the same time, they noted that the meeting between the Salafi official and the Jewish delegation was academic, and not party affiliated, and that the Salafi official didn't know the identity of the Jewish rabbi before the meeting, and once he found out that the rabbi was Israeli, he immediately notified the relevant security authorities.
Fayoum University, to which the a-Shimi official is affiliated, also opened up an investigation into the issue.
Another high ranking official in the a-Noor party, Mohamad a-Taifi, was quoted in a Kuwaiti newspaper as saying "A-Shimi's individual behavior doesn't represent the Party. He will be investigated by a-Noor because he hurt the party, and because he caused the party great embarrassment."
A-Shimi for his part defended himself in an interview to a Kuwaiti newspaper, saying that the party requested his resignation and that he refused. He explained that the Jewish delegation received permission from the security services to enter the university while being escorted by one of the religious scholars, and if he had known their identities beforehand, he wouldn't have agreed to meet with them.
"I agreed to meet with them once I understood that they live in the US and that they have no connection to Israel. The goal of the meeting was to show the tolerance of the Islamic religion," a-Shimi said.
The A-Noor party rose to prominence after the Egyptian revolution. It held the second most seats in parliament after the elections which brought the Muslim Brotherhood into power following the fall of Hosni Mubarak. However, during the most recent elections under A-Sisi, they only retained 10 seats