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Opening Remarks of His Eminence Grand Imama of Al Azhar Sheikh Ahmad elTayeb

the Muslim Council of Elders Conference titled as: Freedom, Citizenship, Diversity and Integration"

Cairo, 28 February.


In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful, Most Compassionate

As salam alykom wa Rahamatullah wa barakatuh (May the Peace and Blessings of Allah be Upon you"

Dear respected panelists!

August participants!

On behalf of Al Azhar Al Sharief and Muslims Council of Elders, I would like to welcome all of you, and express my pleasure for holding this conference of paramount importance. I also extend my thanks to President Sisi, President of Egypt for taking special interest in holding the Conference.

As the region and the world at large, are experiencing extraordinary circumstances and hard times, the holding of this event becomes timely specially when wars erupted in our Arab and Muslim world in absence of any rational verification that could be accepted by the human being who lives during the 21st century.

It is amazing and ironic to create an image of religion as the flame of those wars, yet Islam had been introduced to the public as the tool of destruction used against the WTC, and explosions of Bataclan Theater and metro stations. In addition, Islam's teachings had been portrayed as means to crush bodies of innocent people in Nice and other cities east and west and other forms of horrendous scenes that are expanding specially with the growing trends of extremism and the shrinking size of sound understanding of monotheistic religions, the essence of divine messages which clash with the misinterpretations. At the end, sacred texts are hijacked by the criminal minority, violators of those texts, who are paid by war brokers, arms dealers and gurus of the neo colonialism philosophies for using those texts as weapons.

It is just enough to reflect upon this group of violators who are raising the banner of Islam, but concurrently engage in mutual accusations of betrayal and Takfeer. If this proves anything, it proves that their cause is not religion driven. But rather using Islam to legitimatize their blood shedding acts.

Another point that allows us to pinpoint falsehood of such bloody calls: the issue was not correcting the collapsed religion, as they claim, but it was shedding rivers of blood, wasting many souls, leave alone the destruction of human achievements anywhere.

Until very recent, this stray small party only had limited impact and threat, that was incapable of distorting the Muslims' image. Nevertheless, it almost succeeded in mobilizing the whole world against Islam. In this context, we are confronted with Islamophobia throughout the western world which had an enormous negative effect on Muslim communities living there. 

We are not intending to examine Islamophobia or terrorism which is harbouring this phenomenon, nor trying to determine whether terrorism is a local industry or had been manufactured globally in collusion with human rights activists, sponsors of global peace, coexistence, freedom and equality and other values that had been incorporated in international conventions.

In my opinion, conferences and events should be held in particular to discuss all of the aforementioned, allowing a space for religious clergy, thinkers, free and wise individuals to come together for the purpose of disclosing the true colours of this modern plague with a view to identify the responsible parties.

Nevertheless, only a fair person who ponders upon the phenomenon of Islamophobia shall never miss the irrational discrimination, or the double standards applied in the global trial held against Islam on one side and Christianity and Judaism on the other,  although all three monotheistic religions share the same plea of accusations and the case of violence and religious terrorism filed against them. In this regard, Christian and Jewish extremism had been easily accepted by the West, whereby, the image of both monotheistic religions had not been desecrated. But their third brother (Islam) had been solely locked into the dock, leave alone the on going accusations and defamation.

Indeed, the ugliest forms of Christian and Jewish violence had passed peacefully reflecting complete separation between religion and terrorism. For example: Rev. Michael Bray explosive attacks against abortion clinics, Timothy McVeigh responsible about the bombing of Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City, David Koresh whose religious discourse resulted into the incidents in Texas, leave alone the religious conflict in North Ireland, the involvement of some religious institutions in genocide and rape against more than two hundred and fifty thousand Bosnian Muslims.

August assembly!

Allah Knows, I didn't intend to poke wounds, or renew conflicts between fellow human beings, as this is not the message of religions, Al Azhar, tolerant East, not even the message of the rational civilised west. I only wanted to say that: unless eastern and western religious institutions come together to address Islamophobia, sooner or later, it shall extend to affect Christianity and Judaism. On that day, nothing could actually help. Atheists, those who proclaim the death of God, or promoters of materialism, followers of Nazi, communism, advocates of legalising drugs, destruction of family, applying the system of collective sex, promoters of abortion, the right to change from male to female and vice versa, those who are calling to replace nationalism with globalisation, elimination of different cultures, hijacking the civilization, religious and historical characteristics of nations which is actually a growing call asking to entrust the EU with such powers. All of the aforementioned calls are like tidal waves that are strongly expected and shall first hit and crush monotheistic religions, as they are perceived by those advocates as the source of wars. For instance, Christianity resulted into Crusades, and Islam is spreading terrorism and shedding blood. Nothing could help except by eliminating religion. The group of advocates turn a deaf ear when it comes to civil wars erupted by atheists and extreme secularists in the beginning and middle of the last century. Religions were completely innocent from those atrocities.

It is very easy for any primary school student to learn about hundreds of murdered people who fell victims of modern social schools of thoughts, to find out that history only identified tenth of one tenth of millions of victims who had been either killed, exiled or tortured for the sake of false messages versus the number of victims of religions.

August scholastic participants!

I believe you agree with me that it is not enough to prove that religions has nothing to do with terrorism specially vis a vis such vicious challenges. But we need to initiate another step which is to apply religious principles and morals on this turbulent reality. In my opinion, this step would require necessary preparations, primarily, eliminating the remaining tensions and concerns from among religious leader, unless peace is achieved among those who call for peace, they can never give it to people. In return, this requires callers to come to know one another, engage in cooperation and integration, which is actually a religious request. Islam, to which I proudly belong, draws our attention in a verse of Quran which is very well known to both Muslims and Christians as it had been frequently repeated in different events: " O humankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Verily, the most honourable of you with Allah is that (believer) who is most pious. Verily, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware." (Quran 49:13)

Another fundamental right is underscored in Islam which is the right to freedom and liberalization from any kind of pressures specially those related to the freedom of religion, and belief: "no compulsion in religion" (Quran 2:256), " And had your Lord willed, those on earth would have believed, all of them together. So, will you (O Muhammad) then compel humankind, until they become believers." (10:99), " You are not a dictator over them." (88:22), " Your duty is to convey (the Message). (Quran 42:48).

The Messenger Salla Allahu a`lyhee wa sallam sent a letter to people of Yemen including a clause: "If  a Jew or a Christian hated Islam, he shall not be converted", in addition to a long list of religious texts that establish the right to freedom and liberalisation.

Al Azhar is calling for diffusing the concept of "citizenship" as an alternative to the term "minority", reflecting a constitutional principle applied by the Prophet of Islam salla Allahu a`lyhee wa sallam on the first Muslim community which is the State of Medina. In this context, he decided to apply equality among Muslim immigrants and Ansar (supporters), all Jewish tribes and sects which meant to consider all of them as citizens who are equal in rights and duties. Thus, Islamic heritage had preserved a relevant detailed document as a constitution that was not known in any system before Islam.


Respected participants!

I took a long time, but I was tempted by your sound attention, in conclusion, I extend my sincere thanks to President Abdul Fattah Assisi, President of Egypt, for his auspicious to this Conference expressing his deep appreciation to your major role in calling to peace, freedom, citizenship, and coexistence. I would like also to thank our respected guests, participants, and all of those who participated in organizing the conference. In addition, I apologise to our foreign guests for any shortcomings.



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