Protecting Al-Azhar stems from protecting the nation
The irrational campaign against Al-Azhar, calling on the sheikh to resign, is not based on a real understanding of the components of Egyptian power. I am not biased toward or affiliated with Al-Azhar as I have criticized it in the past.
For example, I object to parts of its curriculum that involve violence, sectarianism and incitement to hate people from other religions. This goes against logic and the spirit of tolerance that should be the basis of any faith.
But I believe in the importance of state power, so I defend the elements of that power, including Al-Azhar. Only a very limited number of people affiliated with or belonging to Al-Azhar are involved in terrorist operations or incitement.
Blaming it for the rise of terrorist ideology and activity is unfair, but it is partly responsible as it needs to review its curriculum. It believes that criticizing Daesh will lead to catastrophic consequences on society, but Al-Azhar must declare a clear and loud position on the terrorist group.
In the past few years, Al-Tayeb has restored Al-Azhar’s image. During the Brotherhood’s rule, he tried to preserve his enlightening and political role, reminding us of Al-Azhar’s imams who played a national role during various periods in Egypt’s history, including resisting French and English occupation.
Al-Azhar’s grand imam Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb is treasured by Egyptians and is seen as a symbol of enlightenment.
Al-Tayeb launched many initiatives to stabilize the country following the revolution of Jan. 25, 2011. He also hindered the Brotherhood’s project to take down Al-Azhar Mosque. He has protected Egypt for years. The easiest thing for him would have been to step down or be silent, but on July 3, 2013, he declared his support for the popular revolution, and said Islam cannot be hijacked by a political faction or an ideology exploited to achieve other goals.
Al-Tayeb is treasured by Egyptians and is seen as a symbol of enlightenment. I have been one of his strongest advocates since he served as mufti of Al-Diyar Al-Misriyah. Back then, we met in his office in Dar Al-Iftaa, and I saw in him a real Egyptian man, deeply rooted in the country’s culture, history, tolerance and diversity. He is a multifaceted, modest, simple man from a poor but well-educated family. Almost all his ancestors were scholars.
He says he inherited his qualities from his grandfather, a great scholar who died in 1956 at the age of 100. Part of Al-Tayeb’s education was at the Sorbonne University in Paris, so besides having the right Muslim ideological roots, he has experienced Western civilization.
• Abdellatif El-Menawy is a critically acclaimed multimedia journalist, writer and columnist who has covered war zones and conflicts worldwide. He can be reached on Twitter @ALMenawy
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