Al-Azhar chief backs preacher's call to replace US aid with donations

Ahram Online, Thursday 16 Feb 2012

Ahmed El-Tayib declares support for initiative - tabled earlier by Salafist preacher Mohamed Hassan - aimed at replacing US military aid with donations from wealthy friends of Egypt

Sheikh Ahmed El Tayib of Al Azhar
Sheikh Ahmed El Tayib of Al Azhar (Photo:Reuters)

Al-Azhar Grand Imam Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayib announced his support on Thursday for an initiative tabled earlier this week by influential Salafist preacher Mohamed Hassan to replace the $1.3 billion in annual US military aid to Egypt with voluntary donations.

At a meeting with Hassan at Al-Azhar's Cairo headquarters, El-Tayib, along with representatives of several Egyptian Sufi orders and religious movements, announced the launch of the initiative.

“The initiative reflects the Egyptian people's reaction to American attempts since [last year's] January 25 Revolution to use US assistance to force Egypt's new administration to maintain the US role and influence in the country,” El-Tayib said on Thursday.

According to Hassan, El-Tayib has expressed support for the initiative. The preacher also said that upcoming days would see meetings with Prime Minister Kamel El-Ganzouri and International Cooperation Minister Faiza Aboul-Naga about the initiative.

At the meeting, El-Tayib announced that Al-Azhar would establish a special fund – dubbed "The Dignity Fund" – dedicated to the initiative.

Hassan and El-Tayib have called on allied countries and Egyptians abroad to give to the fund, which, they say, would aim to achieve national security and stability and raise the standard of living for the average Egyptian. The fund is expected to be officially launched next month.

Earlier this week, would-be presidential candidates Abdel Moneim Aboul-Fotouh and Mohamed Selim El-Awa also both expressed their support for the initiative.

Tensions have risen recently between the US administration and the Egyptian government following the latter's crackdown on foreign-funded NGOs, with 43 civil society workers – including a number of US nationals – being referred to criminal courts earlier this month. Tensions escalated further following fresh calls by the US Congress to cut annual US military aid to Egypt.

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