Cairo (AsiaNews) - "The attacks on the Islamic University of al-Azhar endanger the safety of the whole country." This was stated by Shawky Abdel-Karim Allam, grand mufti of Egypt. In an interview with Ahram newspaper the religious leader criticizes the climate of tension between the authorities of the most important university and the government of the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood. "Al-Azhar - he says - is and will always remain independent. It has always served and will continue to serve the whole country, at equal footing from all political factions."
The clash between the institution and political circles began on April 2 after the alleged poisoning of 550 students from spoiled food. The case has sparked protests - within and outside the university - against Osama al Abd, rector of the University, and Ahmed al-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar to force them to resign. Talaat Abdallah, chief prosecutor of Cairo, and a close ally of the Islamists, is leading the investigation against two of the most important figures of moderate Islam. In recent months he was the protagonist in several trials against activists and celebrities accused of offenses against Islam and the President. This week, the University Council held a special meeting to discuss the possibility of an internal election for a new rector. Despite having the right to do so, in this way al-Azhar would also contravene the custom that allows the head of state to appoint the president of the University.
Many leading University figures have taken up the defense of Imam al-Tayeb, Osama al-Abd and the autonomy of al-Azhar. One of them is Sheikh Ahmed Karim, one of the university's religious leaders. In an interview with the Saudi network al-Arabiya he expressed his displeasure at the "humiliation and insults" launched by Islamists and their media against the Islamic institution. " Al-Azhar has never been insulted like it was today, not from the French, the Brits, not from the Turks, not from the Mamaleek." According to Karim, the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies want to gain control of the university: "The escalation of the situation has nothing to do with the poisoning of students' stomachs but the poisoning of students' brains."
Sources have told AsiaNews that the alleged poisoning is only a pretext to tarnish the Imam al-Tayeb and his entourage, who were accused of having hostile positions against the Islamist establishment. "The great Imam - the sources say - has repeatedly stated in recent months what is being trumpeted by the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis is not the real Islam." The sources explained that the attack against religious institutions is just the latest attempt by Islamists to cope with the loss of support among the Egyptians. (SC)