PASSINGS: Sheik Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, Roger Newman, Andree Peel

Sheik Mohammed Sayed Tantawi was a supporter of women's rights.
(Amr Nabil / Associated Press)

Mohammed Sayed Tantawi

Sheik was top cleric of Egypt

Sheik Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, 81, Egypt’s top cleric who was known for promoting the government agenda against female genital mutilation and the face veil, died of a heart attack Wednesday during a visit to Saudi Arabia, Egypt’s state-owned Middle East News Agency reported. He was 81.


Tantawi was the grand sheik of Cairo’s Al-Azhar, the pre-eminent theological institute of Sunni Islam, the faith’s mainstream sect.

Tantawi left a mixed legacy across the Muslim world, where he was touted as a moderate scholar and supporter of women’s rights but also criticized as an appointed civil servant who merely followed the line of Egypt’s government.

The sheik angered radicals by supporting organ transplants, denouncing female circumcision and ruling that women should be appointed to senior judicial and administrative positions in government. At the same time, he shocked many Muslims in 2004 by siding with France in its steps to ban the hijab head covering from state schools. Late last year he also barred women from wearing the full face veil known as the niqab at Al-Azhar University.

Tantawi received a doctorate in interpretation of the Quran and Sunna, Prophet Muhammad’s teachings, from Al-Azhar University in 1966. He was a religious teacher until 1986, when he was appointed Egypt’s official mufti.

Roger Newman

Soap opera actor and scriptwriter


Roger Newman, 69, an actor and Emmy-winning writer known for his work on the long-running CBS soap opera “The Guiding Light,” died March 4 at his home in New York, said his wife, Frances Myers. He had cancer.

A child actor in his native London, Newman played Ken Norris on “The Guiding Light” from 1970 to 1975. He also wrote scripts for the daytime dramas “One Life to Live,” “ Another World,” “Passions” and “The Guiding Light.” He was among a team of writers who received an Emmy Award in 1993 for their work on “The Guiding Light.”

Newman was praised by critics for his supporting role in a 1972-73 Broadway production of “Butley,” starring Alan Bates, that was also staged at the Schubert Theater in Century City in 1973.

Born Aug. 31, 1940, Newman acted on stage and on radio in London as a child, then moved with his family to Montreal after World War II. He later moved to the United States, served in the U.S. Army and became a naturalized citizen. He attended Columbia University before returning to acting.

While working on “The Guiding Light,” he met his future wife, an actress who played Peggy Scott Fletcher for 15 years and who also turned to writing soap scripts. They married in 1975.

Andree Peel


Resistance heroine

Andree Peel, 105, a member of the World War II Resistance who is credited with saving the lives of more than 100 Allied airmen in Nazi-occupied France, died Friday at a care home in Bristol, southwest England, facility manager Sherry Kitchen said.

Born Andree Virot in France in 1905, Peel was running a beauty salon in the port city of Brest when the Nazis invaded in 1940. She joined the Resistance, initially distributing clandestine newspapers.

Under the code name Agent Rose, she helped dozens of British and American pilots escape from Nazi-occupied territory onto submarines and gunboats, and also guided Allied planes to secret landing strips.

Captured by the Nazis, she was imprisoned at the Ravensbruck and Buchenwald concentration camps.

After the war, Virot met her future husband, British academic John Peel, and moved to England.


Peel was much honored for her wartime bravery. She was thanked personally by Winston Churchill and awarded the French Legion of Honor, the King’s Commendation for Brave Conduct and the Croix de Guerre.

She recorded her remarkable story in an autobiography, “Miracles Do Happen.”

-- times staff and wire reports