During his visit to Egypt last week, “Pope Francis visited al-Azhar University, a globally respected institution for Sunni Islamic learning,” and “met with Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the imam of the government-run Al-Azhar mosque and an Islamic philosophy professor.”
This has been reported by several media, often with much fanfare.
Unfortunately, however, Sheikh Tayeb, once voted “world’s most influential Muslim,” and Al Azhar, the important madrassa he heads, are part of the problem, not the solution. Tayeb is a renowned master of exhibiting one face to fellow Muslims in Egypt—one that supports the death penalty for “apostates,” calls for the totality of Sharia-rule, refuses to denounce ISIS of being un-Islamic, denounces all art as immoral, and rejects the very concept of reforming Islam—and another face to non-Muslims.
Consider, for instance, the words of Islam al-Behery—a popular Egyptian Muslim reformer who frequently runs afoul of Islamists in Egypt who accuse him of blasphemy and apostasy from Islam. The day after last month’s suicide bombings of two Coptic Christian churches in Egypt, the Muslim scholar was interviewed by phone on a popular Egyptian television program (Amr Adib’s kul youm, or “Every Day”). He spent most of his time on the air blasting Al Azhar and Ahmed al-Tayeb—at one point going so far as to say that “70-80 percent of all terror in the last five years is a product of Al Azhar.”
The reformer knows what he speaks of; in 2015, al- Behery’s televised calls to reform Islam so irked Al Azhar that the venerable Islamic institution accused him of “blaspheming” against Islam, which led to his imprisonment.
Now Behery says that, ever since President Sisi implored Al Azhar to make reforms to how Islam is being taught in Egypt three years ago, the authoritative madrassa “has not reformed a single thing,” only offered words. “If they were sincere about one thing, they would have protected hundreds, indeed thousands of lives from being killed in just Egypt alone,” said al-Behery…
- Egypt: Pope Francis and Grand Imam Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb meet in Cairo