07/19/2005, 00.00
SYRIA
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Commitment to the Qu'ran without fundamentalism, says grand mufti

by Jihad Issa
In an interview with AsiaNews, Ahmed el-Hassoun stresses the importance of inter-religious dialogue "which can spread justice, a value upheld by all religions".

Damascus (AsiaNews) – Sheikh Ahmed Badr el-Dein el-Hassoun, Syria's new grand mufti, supports a "dialogue that is clear, constructive and mutual" and is convinced of the need for inter-religious dialogue "that is open to all" with "the total willingness to engage all to promote human dignity".

El-Hassoun was appointed by Syrian President Bashir al-Assad to replace Sheikh Ahmed Kaftaro who died a year ago. He was born near in Aleppo (Halab) in 1949 and graduated in Arabic literature and specialised in Sharia studies at al-Azhar in Egypt. He was appointed mufti of Aleppo in 2002.

El- Hassoun is a member of Syria's parliament and of the Higher Religious Council of the Syrian Arab Republic.

A scholar and internationally-renown preacher, he is married with five children.

Government leaders consider him a cultivated and religious man who is involved in social and political affairs.

On July 18, the grand mufti was received by President al-Assad.

After his first official meeting in his capacity as grand mufti, he spoke to AsiaNews about the importance of dialogue with believers of other faiths, a dialogue that "can spread justice, a value upheld by all religions"; that can promote equality among all groups of society and defend; and that can defend tolerance as a primary and necessary condition.

For el-Hassoun, a new proposal is needed, one that "shapes a new dependable generation that can announce the immortal values preached by the prophets;" a generation that is "ready to defend the right values and capable of serving their country and all those who dwell on its territory."

He also has a message for Syria's neighbours "in which the flame of human freedom must remain alive, helping people build a society based on healthy religious principles".

In his view, President el-Assad intends "to promote human dignity through teachings that rekindled religious thirst".

At the end of the official meeting, Sheikh al-Hassoun thanked al-Assad for appointing him and assured him of his total commitment to the teachings of the Qu'ran, "whilst respecting the rights of all, without discrimination, proselytising and fundamentalism".

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