Al-Azhar sheikh defends membership in NDP politburo

At an international Al-Azhar alumni meeting held in Cairo on Thursday, recently-appointed Al-Azhar Grand Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb welcomed Iranian students that want to study at Al-Azhar’s university and institutes for higher learning.

"We don’t differentiate between Sunnis and Shias, as long as both acknowledge God and the prophet," he said. "We seek rapprochement between all doctrines so as to arrive at a united Islamic nation that is able to confront the challenges facing it."

On whether his membership in the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP)’s politburo contradicted his position as grand sheikh, el-Tayeb said he was waiting for President Hosni Mubarak to return from Germany–where the president received medical treatment earlier this month–to decide on the matter.

Asked about religious discourse, the grand sheikh said, "This must concentrate on the essence of religion, not the facade." He went on to heap praise on Al-Azhar’s international alumni association for preaching "moderate Islamic thought" all over the world.

The association boasts branches in Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Bangladesh, Lebanon and Kurdistan. It is also expected to soon open a branch in the US.

Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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