Islamic bloc’s chief resigns after cracking a random joke about Egypt’s president

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 November, 2016, 2:48pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 November, 2016, 9:53pm

The world’s largest pan-Islamic body, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, said its Saudi chief had resigned, days after infuriating Egypt’s government with an off-the-cuff joke President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

OIC Secretary-General Iyad Madani “has resigned for health reasons,” the Jeddah-based organisation said in a statement on Monday, two days after Cairo condemned the joke.

“The OIC General Secretariat takes this chance to express its utmost appreciation and respect to all member states,” the 57-member bloc said.

The former Saudi minister last week mixed up Sisi’s name with that of Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi at a conference.

“Mr President Beji Caid al-Sisi. Essebsi sorry. This is a big mistake. I’m sure your fridge has more than water, your excellency,” he told the Tunisian leader.

He was referring to widely derided comments made by Sisi earlier last week in which he claimed to live so frugally that his refrigerator had only had water in it for a decade.

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry has said Madani’s remark was “a serious encroachment against a founding member state of the organisation and its political leadership”.

“Such remarks do not conform with the responsibilities and the duties of the organisation’s secretary general position, and fundamentally affect his ability to carry out his duties,” he added in a statement in English.

Madani, who had headed the bloc since 2014, apologised, saying in a statement he meant no “insult to the Egyptian leadership”.

Saudi Arabia has nominated its former minister of social affairs, Youssef al-Utaymeen, to replace Madani, the OIC statement said.

Egypt’s foreign ministry said it supported the nominee, “appreciating the important role Saudi is doing in the support of the activities and goals of OIC”.

“Egypt looks forward to continuing its strong cooperation with the general secretary of OIC and its secretariat,” it added.