» 01/21/2011, 00.00
ISLAM - VATICAN
Al-Azhar against the Vatican: politics and pettiness
Behind the decision to freeze dialogue with the Holy See, the rejection of the presence in the Vatican delegation of an expert in Islam of Jordanian nationality, a member of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. But also political expediency. Al-Azahr condemned the suicide of the Tunisian that sparked the popular revolt and fall of Ben Ali.
Rome (AsiaNews) - The decision to freeze dialogue with the Vatican by the Islamic University of Al-Azhar, seems to many a bolt from the blue, which threatens to cause a clash between Christians and Muslims worldwide. The dialogue – heretofore always friendly - between the Holy See and the world’s highest institution of Sunni Islam, dates back to the '90s. Its positive progress was undoubtedly thanks to the personality of the imam of the time, Muhammad Sayyed Tantawi, who died last March 10, 2010. As of March 19 of the same year, his successor became Imam Mohamed Ahmed al-Tayyeb (see photo). He, January 1st last, criticized Benedict XVI for expressing solidarity with Coptic Christians, accusing him of "interference" in the internal affairs of Egypt.
In fact, the tension with Al-Azhar dates to January 1. In the run up to a meeting that should have taken place in the coming weeks, the Islamic University had requested that the Vatican remove one person in particular from its delegation: Fr. Khaled Akasheh, from Jordan, an expert on Islam, a member of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, who to date had been in charge of relations with the Islamic University.
Msgr. Akasheh is among the most qualified people in dialogue with Islam. He was in the Catholic-Muslim Forum in 2008, following the famous letter of 138 Muslim scholars to the Pope, and engaged in dialogue with Tehran’s Organizations of Islamic Culture.
The Vatican pointed out that in prior arrangements for dialogue, it is written that each delegation has the right freely to choose its members. But Al-Azhar had insisted that if his name is not removed, it would interrupt dialogue.
However, this friction - and threats to freeze dialogue - have far deeper roots. Al-Azhar’s reasons for not wanting Fr. Akasheh are unclear. It is probable that they do not want someone who understands Arabic, who is an Arab, who understands Islam (Mgr Akasheh knows the Koran in depth), in order to feel free, not to be judged (or held to account).
The criticism of the pope, his expression of solidarity for the Coptic community judged as "interference in internal affairs" of Egypt, are thus only instrumental, a way to ostensibly cover up, the most petty of reasons.
But there is another element to consider: the link between Al-Azhar and its traditional support for the Egyptian political power. Hosni Mubarak, is a moderate Islamic leader, eager to advance the country towards secularism – also a demand of Coptic Christians, continually discriminated against in terms of legislation and social development. To this end, Mubarak is pushing ahead in his attempt to exclude fundamentalists from the political framework, especially the Muslim Brotherhood. In an attempt to determine the next presidential election in his favour, Mubarak is trying not to upset the Muslim world. Critics of the Vatican have this aim: lay the blame on the Christian and Western Pope, thus stroking the frustrations of the Muslims towards the (so called) Christian West. Al-Azhar has simply latched on to this trend.
How much weight will this decision carry? Will the rest of the Muslim world follow the line of the "splendid" Sunni university? In our opinion it is not likely. Al Azhar, which is funded almost entirely by Saudi Arabia, is representative of a very traditional Islam and is seen by many Islamic institutions as "too dusty and outdated”. While Tunisia and the Arab world grapple with the struggle and suffering for the future of Middle Eastern society, tackling the problems of human rights, democracy, despotism, poverty and the economy, Al-Azhar has limited itself to merely stating that Islam is against suicide, in some way condemning all those unfortunates who have set themselves on fire out of a despair caused by poverty and injustice. And yet, the sacrifice of these people has fuelled the revolt that led to the fall of Ben Ali and is shaking the Middle East.
03/11/2008 VATICAN - ISLAM
Christians and Muslims: resuming dialogue, thanks to the pope
For two days, from November 4-6, Islamic and Catholic experts are meeting at the Vatican, after years of chilly relations due to the growth of fundamentalism. Everything has now resumed, thanks to the address of Benedict XVI in Regensburg, where he affirmed that religion embraces reason and excludes violence. The most urgent theme: religious freedom, so that every community may be guaranteed the right to proclaim and spread its faith.
Malaysian Prime Minister's visit to the Pope launches diplomatic relations
Together with Prime Minister Razak, his wife, Muslim representatives and the Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur. Importance of intercultural and interreligious dialogue stressed. In Muslim majority Malaysia, there are injustices against the Indian and Chinese ethnic groups and toward Christians and Hindus. The controversy on the use of the word Allah. The issue of human rights and "clean" elections after the demonstration on Bersih 2, in which the government arrested 1600 people.
13/04/2011 EGYPT - VATICAN
Egypt, Al-Azhar reaffirms opposition to dialogue with Vatican
In a meeting with the papal nuncio, the Grand Imam El-Tayeb reiterates the accusations against the Vatican after the Pope's appeals for the safety of Christians. AsiaNews sources underline the contradictions of the Muslim world and the dual position of the Egyptian authorities of Al-Azhar, intransigent towards the Vatican, but claiming to be the moderate face of Islam.
25/01/2011 VATICAN-ISLAM - EGYPT
Al Azhar also expected in Assisi
Suspension of dialogue with the Vatican concerns Egyptian Church. For days, Patriarch Naguib, spokesman for the bishops and Catholic communities has submitted to the Egyptian government and the imam of Al Azhar, the Arabic translation of the Pope's speech that led to the apparent freeze. Accusations against Al Jazeera, of intentionally misrepresenting the papal message. In both east and west growing need for real religious freedom against terrorism and secularism.
06/11/2008 VATICAN - ISLAM
Catholic-Muslim joint declaration
The document that concludes the first forum organized by the pontifical council for interreligious dialogue and by representatives of 138 Muslim scholars, authors of the letter entitled 'A Common Word.'
"Adopt a Christian from Mosul": A Christmas gift to survive winter
As Iraqi troops advance in the Nineveh Plain and Mosul, a new wave of refugees could overshadow the fate of other refugees who found hospitality in Kurdistan. People need kerosene, winter clothes, aid for children, and money for rent. The campaign AsiaNews launched two years ago is more urgent than ever. Give up a superfluous gift to offer refugees an essential gift for life.
Pastor of Amadiya: Mosul’s Christian refugees, torn between emergency aid and the longing to return home
P. Samir Youssef
In a letter Fr. Samir Youssef describes the situation of refugees, exiled from their home for more than two years. They are closely following the offensive to retake Mosul, although their homes and churches "are for the most part" burned or destroyed. With the arrival of winter there is a serve lack of heating oil, clothes, food and money to pay for their children’s school bus. An appeal to continue to support the AsiaNews campaign.
AsiaNews IS ALSO A MONTHLY!
AsiaNews monthly magazine (in Italian) is free.