The International Union for Muslim Scholars (IUMS) has appointed Habib Salem Saqqaf Al-Jafri as a new chairperson.
Al-Jafri, from Indonesia, replaces Ahmed Raissouni, who resigned last month after triggering controversy over the disputed Western Sahara region.
In a statement, the Doha-based grouping said Al-Jafri was picked up to head the pan-Muslim organization until electing a new chairperson in January.
Al-Jafri, 68, holds a Ph.D. in Islamic Law (Sharia) and worked as a lecturer at the Islamic State University and the Sharif Hidayatullah University in Jakarta. He also served as Minister of Social Affairs in his country.
On August 28, Raissouni resigned after saying in a TV interview that Mauritania also should be part of Morocco, when asked about the Western Sahara issue. His remarks drew fire from several Mauritanian groups amid calls for him to step down.
Western Sahara is an area along Africa’s Atlantic coast that has a population of about 600,000 residents, according to UN estimates. It was colonized by Spain in the 19th century and annexed in 1975 by Morocco.
Rabat insists on its right to the Western Sahara region but has proposed a self-rule system under Moroccan sovereignty. The pro-independence Polisario Front, for its part, demands that a popular referendum be held in Western Sahara to decide the region’s political fate — a proposal backed by Algeria.