Egypt's state-owned news agency says the country's top Muslim cleric has died of a heart attack during a visit to Saudi Arabia. Sheik Mohammed Sayed Tantawi was 81 years old. He was the grand sheik of Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam's pre-eminent theological institute. His moderate views rankled hard-liners. Most recently, he infuriated conservatives late last year by barring women from wearing the full face veil known as the niqab at Al-Azhar University.
That step was part of the intensifying struggle between the moderate Islam championed by the state and a populace that is turning to a stricter version of the faith. The Middle East News Agency said he died today in Saudi Arabia, where he had attended a religious ceremony. *AP