Ahmad Al Thayyeb is on visit to the most populous Muslim country in the world. Indonesian President asks him to defend the moderate vision of Islam, against the radical threat. Muslim Scholars: "Al Thayyeb is a great authority, his visit is meant to strengthen cultural ties with Jakarta and prevent a Shiite-Sunni conflict occurring in Indonesia." Catholic professor: "The Church is ready to support a moderate reform of Islam."
Jakarta (AsiaNews) - "Terrorism is not part of Islam". This is what Syekh Ahmad Muhammad Ahmad Al Thayyeb, the Great Imam and rector of Al-Azhar University in Cairo, said in an interview to Indonesian press in course of his visit to Indonesia.
Welcoming the highest Sunni authority in the Islamic world, the Indonesian president Joko Widodo asked Al Tayyeb to defend the moderate face of Islam. "The president - says Alwi Shihab, former foreign minister - asked the Grand Imam to spread his vision and his enlightened thought among Muslim organizations and communities in Indonesia".
The rector of Al-Azhar arrived in the Southeast Asian nation on February 21 last year and still remain for a few days. Yesterday, he visited the Islamic State University of Jakarta (UIM) and will also travel to that of Malang (East Java) to accept an honorary degree. AsiaNews spoke to some Islamic and Catholic figures, who pointed out the deep reasons of this important visit.
Al-Azhar, explains Ali Mushanif, professor of social policies at the Syarief Hidayatullah Islamic University, "is the central icon of Islamic studies in the world. It is not the first time that the Great Imam of this prestigious university has visited Indonesia: Muhammad Tantawi was here in 2006 ". "The main reason for this trip - continues the professor - from Al-Azhar's point of view is to improve the education cooperation with Indonesia, which already has 3,500 students studying there." Al Tayyeb announced that the number of annual scholarships reserved for Indonesian students will increase to 50.
In addition, says Ali Mushanif, "Al Tayyeb is the main reference of other Muslim nations in internal disputes within Islam, such as the dispute between Sunnis and Shiites." Historically, the scholar continues, "Al-Azhar has always had a moderate view of the conflict with the Shiites, and has never termed them outlaws. But I think the visit is also a way to reaffirm the dominance of the Sunnis. With more than 200 million Muslims, Indonesia has become a strategic country to maintain the unity of Islam, where you can prevent the symptoms of rivalry between Sunnis and Shiites [in Indonesia are less than 1%, ed] . The Great Imam excels in maintaining the right balance between the parties ".
M. Qasim Mathar, of the Islamic University of Makassar (South Sulawesi), says Al Tayyeb’s visit is important "not only because Indonesia is the most populous moderate Muslim nation in the world, but also because it is battling fundamentalism and Islamic radicalism, which are not in accordance with the schools of thought spread by Al-Azhar ". "As an Indonesian - concludes the professor - I hope that this visit will strengthen the bonds between Indonesian Muslims and Egyptians, who are often affected by the violent attacks of the radicals."
Wijoyo, a Catholic scholar of Islam has expressed his hope for a reform that promotes a moderate Islam. Al Tayyeb’s visit, he explains, "does not directly concern the Catholic Church, but if there is some attempt to reform, then the Indonesian Church will support it."