Egypt's top cleric says peaceful protests against Islamist president are permissible

Egypt's top Muslim cleric says peaceful protests against the president are permitted, dismissing declarations by Islamist hard-liners that those behind protests planned for June 30 are heretics.

Sheik Ahmed el-Tayeb, the grand imam of Al-Azhar, said in a statement Wednesday that "peaceful opposition to the legitimate leader is religiously permissible and accepted."

He said the view expressed by hard-liners that those who rebel against a "legitimate" leader are "kuffar," or non-believers, and "hypocrites" — and thus punishable by death — is a "deviant" view.

Al-Azhar is the Sunni Muslim world's foremost seat of learning and the views of its imam are taken seriously.

Opponents of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi are planning massive protests on June 30 calling on him to step down.