11/22/2016, 12.10
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The age-old struggle between al-Azhar and Wahhabis for Sunni supremacy

Already in 1818, the highest Egyptian judicial institution had halted (radical) Saudi hegemonic ambitions. Now there is a renewed struggle, with the Riyadh boycott of al-Azhar. A cold and silent war that has favored the emergence of jihadist groups like al Qaeda and the Islamic State. The Grand Imam Al-Tayeb promotes dialogue and tolerance between religions.


Cairo (AsiaNews) - In less than two years is the bicentenary of the fight, which took place in 1818, between the theological home of the mosque of al-Azhar, supported by Egypt, and Wahhabism, supported by Saudi Arabia, which marked the end of latter’s expansionist politics. An attempt to dominate the Arab Islamic world, that was limited within the borders of the Arabian Peninsula. In what, more precisely, later became the kingdom of today's Saudi Arabia.

Since then, although everything apparently seemed passed, flames have been flickering under the ashes of an unresolved conflict.  Even during the twentieth century, there have been rival positions, and even boycotts by Riyadh of al-Azhar’s activities.

What’s more, the Saudi Embassy in Cairo has funded the studies of Asian Islamic law students (fiqh) at the University of al-Azhar, and through conferences and publications, promoted their conclusion that what they were taught in al-Azhar was schism and deviation from the true religion, which is enclosed in Wahhabism the custodian of the holy places of Islam and where the religion of Mohammed was revealed.

Many of these students of Islamic schools, attracted by the money and invitations to Saudi Arabia, despite having concluded studies at the Egyptian university and returning home with a doctorate in Islamic Sharia released by al-Azhar, then become part of the Wahhabis current.

Thus, since the 1980s of the last century, Asians Wahabbi imams have increased "showered" with gifts and blessings from Saudi Arabia. Particular attention has been bestowed on Malaysia, where last February - thanks to a survey of the Egyptian site Yom Al Sabee - the news emerged of a parallel indoctrination promoted at Madina International University, a local institution created and funded by Riyadh, also based in Cairo.

In order to be able to bestow religious doctorate recognized by al-Azhar, the Malaysian universities in question welcomed professors from the Egyptian institution, thus covering to its real academic program which is in direct contrast to al-Azhar. According to the Egyptian site, the Madina university academic course is a vessel for Wahabi ideas.

In a similar fashion, Saudi Arabia has taken possession of the chairs of Islamic studies at the American University, where tens of thousands of graduates from over 100 different nationalities pass; these students end up supplying "Wahhabi" imams not only to Malaysia, but also many other nations of the African continent. The most affected country is Nigeria, where Salafi groups, inspired by Wahhabism, have increased at a phenomenal rate, as has their growth in Asia.

Riyadh is now paying particular attention to Russia and the Caucasus, especially in Chechnya, where Wahhabism is constantly spreading, although the part of Saudi Arabia proselytizing work is done discreetly, as in America and Europe.

This Cold War, silent and gentle against al-Azhar has spread thanks to the silence of the Egyptian political authorities, so far condescending to the Saudis who poured rivers of money and aid into Cairo's coffers. All this, while keeping a watchful eye on Wahhabi imams who are behind the spread of violent ideologies and politicized religion, and that led to the birth of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS), not to mention Boko Haram and Abu Sufian in Asia.

Grand Imam of al-Azhar, Shaykh Ahmad Al-Tayeb, has recently spoken out against this extremist current in a message of peace to the international community for the World Day for Tolerance on November 16. The Islamic leader said that peace, tolerance, dialogue and respect for others, regardless of religious belief, are elements of all the monotheistic religions. Tolerance, he added, "is also one of the most important messages of Islam and al-Azhar wants to advocate in the world."

Encouraged by the Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, al-Azhar and its vertices are strengthening contacts on the local and international level to bring out a moderate vision of Islam against extremist and violence ideologies that spread death and destruction. In Arab countries, as well as in Europe and the rest of the world. And a clash that is being waged, as mentioned before, against the Wahhabi ideology that the Arabian Peninsula has spread around the world.

According to the Egyptian journalist Hamdi Saaid Al Salem is not just a tussle between two currents or two different Fiḳh schools of Islam. In fact, behind this clash there is bitterness and resentment, if not open revenge "for the defeat that Ibrahim Pasha dealt them " in 1818.

Meanwhile revenge or not, Wahhabism has spread to almost every continent carrying ideologies of Islamic violence and terrorism like Salafi takfiri. According to an Egyptian cleric the strength of the Saudi proselytizing is in the huge sums of money invested. "Al-Azhar does not possess any organ of audio-visual information - says Imam Ahmad Karim - while the Wahhabis spread their proselytizing on the satellite waves of over 15 TV channels entirely dedicated to Islam and financed by Saudi Arabia."

While Egyptian state TV devotes no more than ten minutes to the imam of al-Azhar in its television schedules, Wahhabism comes into every home and talks directly to the poor Egyptians and in Asia and Africa, many of whom are often illiterate in various languages. A massive communication that reaches their hearts but, even more, their minds by giving them hope [vain] for a better life through the martyrdom of the holy war. (PB-LL)

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