Al-Azhar's Council of Senior Scholars defended its teachings on Tuesday amid rising criticism in Egypt that its curriculums foster extremism and sectarianism.Al Azhar has been fairly outspoken against anti-Christian terror, it does not extend that courtesy to Jews. In fact, Al Azhar clerics have praised suicide bombings against Jews.
In an official statement released following a meeting presided over by the grand imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed El-Tayyeb, to discuss several issues, the council described itself as "the only ones mandated to teach righteous Islamic dogma that spreads peace and stability between Muslims themselves and between Muslims and others."
"The proof of this is the millions who have graduated from Al-Azhar whether in Egypt or worldwide and who call for peace; and it is a falsification of people's awareness and a defamation of its teachings to accuse it of nurturing terrorists," the statement read.
The council added that anyone who "tampered" with the religious body would be considered to be meddling with Egypt and its history, as well as being unfaithful to the integrity of the people and the whole nation.
Egypt was rocked by twin bombings of churches last week, which killed at least 47 people. The attacks in Tanta and Alexandria were claimed by local IS-affiliated militants.
Criticism of Al-Azhar has increased since the attacks, with some public figures accusing the venerable Islamic institution, which has branches all over Egypt and several abroad, of spreading extremism through its teachings and syllabuses and by its public decision not to formally declare IS militants apostates.
The statement also said that the council stands side-by-side with the Coptic Orthodox Church against the latest attacks, stressing that the Egyptian people will be able to fight off terrorism and extremism.
The Council of Senior Islamic Scholars is an advisory board comprised of prominent Azhar clerics; appointees are selected by the grand imam.
President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi has called on Al-Azhar in several speeches to rethink religious discourse and "purge it of flaws" that negatively affect Islam.
It is interesting that the Egyptian public has been so anti-fundametalist, and that Al Azhar is frightened of this development.
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