Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Al Azhar calls for secular state and wants to become independent

Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb
Cairo's Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam's top centre of religious learning, called on Monday for a "modern, democratic" and secular state in Egypt.
The Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed al-Tayyeb, in a news conference broadcast live, revealed a document formulated by Al-Azhar and Egyptian intellectuals that aims to define "the relationship between Islam and the state in this difficult phase."
The document supports "the establishment of a modern, democratic, constitutional state" based upon the separation of powers and guaranteeing equal rights to all citizens.However, Al-Tayyeb said that the principles of sharia, or Islamic law, should remain "the essential source of legislation" and that Christians and Jews should have their own tribunals to which they can have recourse.
The document urges "the protection of places of worship for the followers of the three monotheistic religions" and considers "incitement of confessional discord and racist speech as crimes against the nation."
The move came amid widespread debate about the future of institutions after the ouster of president Hosni Mubarak. Secular Egyptians and the Coptic Christian community fear marginalisation if Islamists take power in September's planned parliamentary elections, after which a new constitution will be drafted.
Remakable was that sheikh Al-Tayyeb also called for "the independence of Al-Azhar." The grand imam of Al-Azhar should no longer be appointed by the president. he said, but elected by a college of Azhar scholars.

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