After 60 years, Al-Azhar gains independence from politicians
The Egyptian cabinet approves the new dispensation. Faculty members will elect Al-Azhar’s imam in a secret ballot. Since the 1950s, the Egyptian president had picked the candidate. The spokesman for the Egyptian Catholic Church stresses the commitment of the Sunni university against Islamist movements.
Cairo (AsiaNews) – The imam of al-Azhar will no longer by appointed by the Egyptian president. Instead, members of the institution will elect him in a secret ballot. Kamal El-Ganzouri’s caretaker government adopted a bill that frees the main Sunni institution of higher learning from political controls. The law now has to be passed by the first post-Mubarak parliament next Monday.

For Fr Rafic Greiche, spokesman for the Egyptian Catholic Church, “the new law is a great step forward for the university and moderate Islam. Starting in the 1950s, its chief was an appointee of politicians who want to impose their will on religious authorities.”

For the clergyman, Al-Azhar wants to become a point of reference for moderate Sunni Islam against extremist Muslim movements like the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists.

“Faculty members are well educated,” Fr Greiche stressed. “Many have studied abroad. They have a different interpretation of the Qur‘an and are opposed to Islamists who are against culture, art, freedom of thought and religion.”

On 11 January, Al-Azhar issued a charter on fundamental freedoms to guide the new society born out of the ‘Arab spring’.

It was presented at a conference organised by Ahmed El-Tayyeb, grand imam of z Azhar, an event that attended by the country’s main religious and civilian authorities, including Shenuda III, Coptic Orthodox patriarch and Mohamed Badie, leader of the Muslim Brotherhood.

In his address, Imam El-Tayyeb said that the ‘Charter of Fundamental Freedoms’ was created “to uphold the spirit of the Jasmine Revolution and its demands.” The latter have not yet been met by the military government set up after the fall of the old regime.

Yesterday, El-Tayyeb had urged the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to give up power by 25 January, anniversary of the Jasmine Revolution. The imam added that the trials of the police officers who shot at demonstrators should be speeded up. (S.C.)