No sectarian strife in Egypt: Al-Azhar Grand Imam

Ahram Online, Wednesday 6 Mar 2013

Key Sunni figure says that conflicts result from political and social factors, not religion

Egypt's Grand Imam Ahmed El-Tayyeb (Photo: Reuters)

One of Egypt's most senior Islamic authorities has played down concerns about sectarian division in the country.

The Grand Imam of Al-Azhar University Ahmed El-Tayyeb rejected suggestions that there was any sectarian strife in Egypt, describing recent "skirmishes" as caused by political and social factors which had been mistaken for religious issues.

“Islam and Christianity are both religions of love, peace and forgiveness that don’t result in the making of extremists,” said El-Tayyeb on Wednesday during a speech given at Al-Azhar's 'Family's House,' a project launched to bring together Muslim and Christian scholars aimed at reducing divisions between the communities.

In a session on Wednesday dubbed 'Together for Egypt' attended by Christian representatives and Al-Azhar, El-Tayyeb was asked about the fanaticism expressed by a number of Salafists against Christians in Egypt.

“There are such elements in all societies, and the Salafists in their last meeting with Al-Azhar confirmed their commitment to avoid any causes of strife,” added El-Tayyeb, urging religious preachers of both religions to deal "wisely and flexibly" with extremists.

Following the January 25 revolution, several sectarian incidents occurred in which Salafists besieged churches in cases related to conversion.

Earlier this week, a Coptic Orthodox Church in Kom Ombo in Aswan was attacked by youths amid rumours that a local Muslim woman had been kidnapped by Christians and forced to convert.

El-Tayyeb for his part promised that the sessions promoting tolerance among Egyptians will continue through preparing religious figures to challenge any sectarian strife. 

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