The Sant’Egidio Community, organiser and coordinator of the International Convention on “East & West – A Civilisations’ Dialogue”; invited Al Azhar Grand Imam Sheikh Ahmad A’Tayyeb to participate. According to the founder of the Community, Andrea Riccardi, “A’Tayyeb, being the Maximum Religious Authority over the Muslim Sunni World; is the only credible authority to take part in the event and with whom a confrontation would be fruitful”.
Despite the tight schedules on the convention’s agenda, having involved, in a short lap of time, various seminars, presentations, workshops and round tables; A’Tayyeb conceded 10 minutes to European Media reporters.. Here is the outcome.
Q. Today, Islam is being shaken by an extremely hard Intestinal War. There is a group, that by its own name – Islamic State – sustains its interpreting the truest essence of your religion. How would you respond?
A. I don’t approve the definition of Islamic State; those are a group outcast from Islam.. They represent a challenge to all the Islamic Thought. We are a Scientific Institution aiming to arm the young ones not with guns but with the correct reading of Islam.
Q. In the Muslim World, the overlapping between Religion and Politics is a factor of major contribution in this confusion. Do you think it would be possible separating them?
A. They are already two different methodologies. In politics, often interests condition the decisions; whereby for the Religion Ethic is inalienable. If we’d refer to High Politics, the one that establish Justice and Protect the Weak; then YES, religion invades the Politics’ arena to intervene in support of such Supreme Values.
Q. Turkey is a case of superimposition, or overlapping, combining Religion and State Politics; what do you think of the latest election’s outcome?
A. I don’t make politics, then I can’t give an answer. But certainly what is seen today must be observed in its overall situation by which appears a kind of ‘Tense Encounter’ between Eastern and Western Civilisations.
Q. How are the relations with Pope Francis’ Church?
A. Pope Francis is a person whose heart cherishes respect for other Faiths and the problems of the poor. There is a convergence toeing the objectives of Al Azhar and those of the Church’s new course.
I don’t know what you’d make of that or how would you describe A’Tayyeb’s statements; but I believe that he roamed around the most important issue aroused by the first question.. The issue that discomfort major part of the Western Public Opinion, as well as the entire Western Intellectual Community; concerning whether or not the self-proclaimed Islamic State do interpret the true essence of Islam! He simply discarded the matter by the cliché “a group outcast from Islam”.
Even though he affirmed that “they represent a challenge to all the Islamic Thought”; I hoped that he would’ve elaborated more.. Like saying that Al Azhar is, or will, invite Muslim scholars and intellectuals, from every Islamic Sect to an International Islamic Reconciliation Council, to be held in Cairo; aiming to review that challenge. And that all united would work together to refine, or update, the Islamic Thoughts; clearing them from the sharp edges of rust glued on them, over centuries of uncontrolled interpretations and infiltrations.
Obviously his professional formation and conservative culture forced him to remain vague.. Or maybe he refrained from deepening the subject, leaving that to the closed doors debates of the conference.
On another occasion, knowing that he always claimed that Al Azhar is an Independent Institution, he wasn’t convincing at all in trying to address the Religion Politics Overlapping issue. Naturally, he couldn’t admit the complete dependency of Al Azhar on the State; being a waged subordinate to its Executive Authority.Pass On The Word.