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Aug 15, 2010

G-zero Mosque - 'Zionist Plot'

August 11, 2010
Special Dispatch No.3158
Al-Azhar Sheikh: The West Isn't Really Working For Peace in the Middle East, Interfaith Dialogue Is Futile; Al-Azhar Clerics Oppose Ground Zero Mosque; Al-Aqsa Research Academy Member Dr. Abd Al-Mu'ti Bayumi: Mosque Is a 'Zionist Plot' That Could Link Islam to 9/11

In an extensive interview with Egyptian Journalists' Syndicate chairman Makram Muhammad Ahmad, Al-Azhar Sheikh Dr. Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, who has been in office since March 2010, gave his views on an array of important topics, including the role of Al-Azhar as an institution and the extent of its dependence on the Egyptian regime, Islam's relations with Judaism and Christianity, and the Palestinian issue.

Al-Tayyeb acknowledged in the interview that Al-Azhar's status had declined with the rise of extremist factions, and explained that the decline had begun during the socialist era when the Egyptian regime had repressed religion, allowing Wahhabism to fill the resulting void. He added that Al-Azhar intended to produce television programs aimed at young people in which its clerics would respond to various common extremist ideas.

He noted that although the operation of every country's religious establishment was subject to regime policy, Al-Azhar enjoyed relative freedom and was not obligated to condone everything the government did. He also said he would not be opposed to choosing Al-Azhar sheikhs via internal elections instead of by the current method of presidential appointment.

Al-Tayyeb said that he rejected depictions of Islam as a religion of the sword, pointing out that Muslims were only allowed to take up the sword in self defense. He criticized the interfaith dialogue talks, claiming that they could not change how a person viewed another's religion, or how decision-makers approached the Palestinian issue, or the West's support of Israel. Accusing the West of insincerity in its efforts to resolve the Palestinian issue, he said that it persistently created centers of tension in order to increase demand for the weapons it manufactures.

Also in the interview, the sheikh emphasized the importance of a unified Arab stance in resolving the Palestinian issue, saying that expecting the Jews to give the Palestinians and Arabs their rights on a silver platter was a dream and that the Palestinians must actualize their legitimate right to resist occupation. In contrast to his predecessor Dr. Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, Al-Tayyeb said that he would not meet with rabbis or shake the hand of the Israeli president, because he opposed normalization with Israel until it gave the Palestinians their rights.

Al-Tayyeb also said that Al-Azhar had a religious duty to maintain national unity with the Coptic community, noting that he did not object to music in their churches and that the Copts were entitled to handle their own marriage and family matters and to build their own houses of worship. However, he maintained that only Muslims should be eligible to be president, since the country has a Muslim majority. Al-Tayyeb also stated that the difference between Sunnis and Shi'ites came down to the importance each attributed to the various caliphs, but that this was not an essential difference.

In an interesting sidebar, some clerics from Al-Azhar recently spoke out in opposition to the construction of the Cordoba House mosque near New York's Ground Zero, where the World Trade Center once stood. Dr. Abd Al-Mu'ti Bayumi, a member of Al-Azhar's Islamic Research Academy, said that the mosque's construction could link Islam to 9/11, even though Islam is innocent of the deed. He also called the plan a "Zionist plot."[1]

Abd Al-Mu'ti Bayumi gave an interview to Abu Dhabi TV in April 2005, in which he discussed jihad; to view the full clip of the interview on MEMRI TV, visit

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