Al Azhar makes timely appeal for unity: paper

ABU DHABI, 24th February, 2015 (WAM) — The Grand Imam of the Muslim world’s leading religious institute, Al Azhar, has made a powerful appeal for unity and reconciliation across different sects within Islam, said Gulf News in today’s editorial.

He also called for a renewed spirit of tolerance in the conduct of Islam as he spoke out against extremism and terror. The powerful appeal by one of Islam’s leading clerics needs to be heeded and its recommendations implemented by Muslim leaders around the world. “We need to forget about our differences, which have brought us nothing but weakness and humiliation,” said Sheikh Ahmad Al Tayeb. He said Islamic nations faced what he described as a “neocolonialist” threat posed by international powers, which were trying to divide and rule the Islamic nations, tapping into sectarian tensions within them.

Al Tayeb also made a very important call for a major reform of Islamic religious teachings in order to tackle the spread of extremism. He described the emergence of Islamist groups that denigrate and vilify other Muslims as due to a “historic accumulation of extremist trends”, based on misguided interpretations of the Quran and Hadith, the collected sayings of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH).

“The only hope for the Muslim nation to recover unity is to tackle in our schools and universities this tendency to accuse Muslims of being unbelievers,” he said. Traditionally, Islam has recognised several schools of law that allow a variety of interpretations in the way the religion is practised. This core value of religious tolerance has been grossly shattered by the murder and torture of Muslims by the terrorists of Daesh (ISIL) and Al Tayeb was speaking specifically in the aftermath of the public burning of Jordanian pilot Muath Al Kaseasbeh.

Al Tayeb’s appeal for reform within the structure of Islam summarises the theological argument against the terrorists, which can be combined with the efforts by civil leaders around the Arab world to nurture enlightened thinking, open minds and stable institutions as essential parts for the development of Muslim societies, as well as the fight against terror.