Cairo: Egypt’s liberals and Islamists have condemned a fatwa (religious edict) issued by a cleric legalising the killing of demonstrators in a mass protest called against the Muslim Brotherhood and President Mohammad Mursi later this month.

Hashem Islam, a preacher from the prestigious Muslim institution Al Azhar said this week that the demonstrators in the August 24 protest are heretics and their murder is legal.

A video, quoting him as accusing the protesters of high treason, went viral on the internet and prompted Al Azhar to disassociate itself from the fatwa, saying it is a personal view.

“We have heard with anger and worry about the fatwa legalising the killing of anyone taking part in a protest against the president,” said Al Azhar’s influential arm, the Islamic Research Centre. It added that Islam is not a member of Al Azhar’s committee responsible for issuing religious edicts. “He has been referred to questioning for acts violating his duty as a preacher in the [Delta province of ] Dakhalia,” the centre said in a statement on Thursday.

Egypt’s prominent reformist and Nobel Laureate Mohammad Al Baradei called for bringing the cleric to justice. “If he is not put on trial immediately, we will fall into the trap of a Fascist rule wearing the cloak of religion,” he added in a tweet.

Liberals have called for mass protests on August 24 to show discontent with Mursi’s policy and his group. Planners of the rallies accuse Mursi of being controlled by the Brotherhood who allegedly seeks to control state institutions.

The Brotherhood itself has criticised Islam’s fatwa. “We categorically reject such fatwas and do not accept any call for bloodshed,” said Mahmoud Hussain, a senior Brotherhood official.

Mursi is Egypt’s first elected civilian and Islamist president. His spokesman Yasser Ali has repudiated the fatwa. “The presidency has not any relation to the calls legalising the killing of demonstrators,” Ali said. He quoted Mursi as saying that the right to demonstrate has been established in Egypt after a popular revolt forced Hosni Mubarak out of power more than a year ago.