Grand Imam of Al-Azhar discusses perceptions of Islam with France's Hollande

Ahram Online , Tuesday 24 May 2016

Hollande, El-Tayeb
File Photo Left French President Francois Holland, Right Egypt's Al-Azhar grand Imam Ahmed El-Tayeb (Photo: Ahram Online)

Egyptian Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Al-Tayeb said on Tuesday that Al-Azhar would support French president Francois Hollande in correcting the perception of Islam after recent terrorist attacks in France and Belgium.

Al-Tayeb, who met with the French president on Tuesday, added in a media statement that he agreed with President Hollande on an official exchange between Islamic institutions in France and Al-Azhar in order to educate a new generation of Islamic scholars and leaders about the religion in true and objective way.

In the meeting with the French President, Al-Tayeb explained how Al-Azhar supported international peace in communities worldwide, giving special attention to France.

The Grand Imam then denounced recent terrorist attacks that took place in France and Belgium.  

The French presidency welcomed El-Tayeb’s visit to France in a Tuesday statement by the Elysee palace.

According to the statement, Hollande and El-Tayeb discussed French priorities in fighting radicalism as well as the situation in the country following the Paris attacks.

President Hollande praised the efforts of Islamic leaders in fighting radicalism. 

Al-Tayeb's meeting with President Hollande was also attended by French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault and minister of interior Bernard Cazeneuve.

Immediately after his arrival in Paris Tuesday, the Grand Imam attended the second forum of eastern and western elders where he addressed Europeans and all Muslims around the world, stressing the importance of dialogue and building trust between religions and cultures.

During his speech at the forum, Al-Tayeb stressed the importance of how people of every nation should adopt ideas of coexistence - which will in the future lead to maintaining the identity of any religion - rather than thinking to preserve minorities' rights.

"I call on all Muslim citizens in Europe that they must know they are native citizens in their communities, and that full citizenship will never contradict the idea of coexistence," said El-Tayeb.

This week's events are considered to be the forum's second meeting, following a meeting which took place in the Italian city of Florence in June 2015.

Al-Tayeb arrived in the French capital following a historic meeting with Pope Francis in the Vatican on Monday. The unprecedented meeting of the two religious leaders signaled the renewal of relations between Al-Azhar and the Vatican following five-years of suspended relations.

France is home to 4-5 million Muslims out of a population of 66 million.

In March, El-Tayeb visited Berlin where he met with top clerics in Germany's Catholic church and addressed the Bundestag, urging religious tolerance.

Last November, the Al-Azhar grand imam denounced the deadly terror attacks carried out by Islamist militants in Paris, describing them as "hideous" and "hateful" and urging the international community to work towards combating terrorism.

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