Azhar revolution and military promises

Amani Maged, Monday 28 Feb 2011

A coalition of Al-Azhar scholars, preachers and youth took their demands for an institute freed of its bonds to the government and focused on its role as a centre of intellectual rigour rather than state stooge

(Photo by Shreif Sounbol)

Following a demonstration today by Al-Azhar scholars and preachers, the Supreme Military Council has agreed to meet with a ten man delegation from the institution to discuss their grievance.

Red turbans and white flags filled the air Sunday amid a scene of demands. More than a thousand Azhar scholars and preachers met inside Azhar University from the early morning and agreed on a number of demands which they would take before the military council on a peaceful march following afternoon prayers. They headed to the council's headquarters.

Facebook was the beginning of the Azhar Revolution, and so through a coalition, preachers, the International Federation of Free Azhar Scholars and young members of the religious institution are seeking to participate in the renaissance of Al-Azhar. Most of their demands relare to changing the nature of their relationship with the country's state. They are calling for an end of the institution's dependency on the government and the consolidation of all elements of official Islamic evangelism, Religious Endowments and the House of Islamic Jurisprudence to the Azhar.

They are also demanding that Sheikh of Al-Azhar, his deputy, and all other leaders be elected for limited terms, that the Institute of scholars for Ijtihad be reinstated, and that al-Azhar revise all of its curiccula.

They ask for financial and administrative independence for Al-Azhar, so that it becomes an institution of the nation and not of the government.

Rabie Marzouk, a member of the coalition Doaa al-Azhar, said that these demands do not take away from the esteem of the current Sheikh of Al-Azhar, Ahmed Al-Tayyeb, but rather aim to revive the institution. He pointed out that reforming Al-Azhar is to the benefit of Egypt and the Islamic world. 

Upon arrival at the military council, the council nominated representatives for negotiation. The meeting took place in Gamal Abdel Nasser mosque and lasted around two hours.

The council said the group’s demands would be studied after the constitution was amended and a new parliament was elected. The group rejected this, prompting a member of the council to call for a committee to be formed for negotiation over their demands.

Al-Azhar’s administration seems to be in agreement with these demands; Mohamed Wasel, dean of Al-Azhar, said he agreed with them but that the timing was not good.

Nevertheless, the pressure exerted by the institutions rank and file has forced the military council to hear them out.

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