Al-Azhar, the Church & Egypt’s Political Crisis

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Al-Azhar and the Church must not let themselves get dragged in to Egypt’s political crisis. People who publicly represent their religion, regardless of whether they are Christians or Muslims, must stay aloof from the political battleground. It is a major strategic mistake for al-Azhar or the Church to try to play a role in the current political crisis. It could rend open the fabric of Egyptian society. 

The political involvement of religious leaders outside of a proper democratic framework is unwise and indiscreet. This is what will tear Egypt apart. It is not in anyone’s interest, especially not the Church in the present climate, to make itself the target of politically motivated opposition or to exacerbate sectarian pressures and animosities. 

I stress the need for serious and open dialogue on a national level, This must take place without the imposition of any conditions or dictated terms. It is not dialogue when the topic of discussion is severely restricted and where I am threatened that I must participate in it within twenty four hours or face death. Dialogue cannot be conducted under the shade of a sword. 

I must also stress the need for national reconciliation. Both sides of the conflict need to make concessions in order for everyone to get past the crisis. We need to take a lesson from Nelson Mandela. He earned his international reputation for two qualities. The first was determination. He spend twenty seven years in prison, eighteen of which he spent on Robben Island in extremely harsh conditions with a sentence of hard labor. He was not allowed any visits from his family or even his wife. 

The second quality was forgiveness. He did not become a man of vengeance. He was able to turn the people away from vengeance because of the fact that he had suffered along with them and was an example they looked up to. The reconciliation that took place in South Africa is an amazing story. They were even able to harness sports to help bring it about and establish it in the people’s hearts. 

It is counter-productive how the media is constantly stressing that the Ikhwan has ties with America. This point cannot be used by any party to trump any other. America is an extremely influential and powerful state. It has ties of various strengths, whether open or hidden, with everyone. This is especially true since America is the chief player in Egypt’s affairs. Didn’t Egypt’s defence minister say in an interview with one of America’s newspapers that he is in daily contact with America’s minister of defence? Indeed, he requested America’s involvement. 

At the same time, though the policy stances taken by America and Europe are important, they do not have all the cards nor can they apply decisive pressure to bring about any specific results. Even America’s monetary aid is not decisive in this matter, since there are other sources of monetary support available to Egypt. The Egyptian people are, and must be, the main determining factor in deciding their own future.

Sheikh Salman al-Oadah

Source: (Aug. 21, 2013)