U.S. media is reporting on a statement from Egypt’s Al-Azhar asserting that its clerics need to be consulted on a law allowing the state to issue Islamic bonds. According to a Reuters report:
Cairo March 7, 2013 REUTERS Egypt’s leading Islamic authority Al-Azhar said on Thursday its clerics must be consulted on a law allowing the state to issue Islamic bonds, setting it at odds with the Muslim Brotherhood which drove the legislation through parliament last week. It marks the first time Al-Azhar, a thousand-year-old seat of Islamic learning, has said its Senior Scholars Authority should be consulted on issues pertaining to Islamic law as set out in Egypt’s new, Islamist-tinged constitution. Al-Azhar’s intervention could set a precedent for clerical oversight of other affairs of state. The Salafi Nour Party has said Al-Azhar must also approve an agreement Egypt is seeking with the International Monetary Fund because it includes a loan upon which Egypt will pay interest. The Islamic bond, or sukuk law, will allow Egypt to issue debt compliant with Islamic principles, allowing the state to tap a new area of finance as President Mohamed Mursi’s administration grapples with an unaffordable budget deficit. The sukuk law has been a source of friction between the Brotherhood, whose Freedom and Justice Party leads the upper house of parliament, and more hardline Islamists who say it should first have been approved by Al-Azhar. At a meeting on Thursday, Al-Azhar’s Islamic Research Institute chaired by Grand Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb said it shared the view that the law should have been referred to the Senior Scholars Authority, in line with the new constitution. ‘The Institute is of the opinion that the draft should have been referred to the Senior Scholars Authority for discussion and so it could give its legal opinion, in line with its duty,’ it said in a statement.
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Al-Azhar is both an important mosque and one of the oldest educational institutions in the Islamic world. Numerous earlier posts have covered the changing nature of Al-Azhar:
- A post from last November 2012 reported on a speech given by Global Muslim Brotherhood leader Youssef Qaradawi before Friday prayers at the Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo, his first speech ever at Al-Azhar and where he called for Arabs and Muslims to unite in confrontation With Israel.
- A post from October 2012 reported that Salah Soltan, a notorious anti-Semite and formerly part of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood,, had been appointed as Secretary General of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (SCIF) attached to the Egyptian Ministry of Waqf. The appointment was made by the Minister Dr. Talaat Mohamed Afify Salem who has been described as a member of the Salafist movement in Egypt and as an “ally” of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Ministry of Waqf (Islamic Endowment) is reported to have influence over Al-Azhar.
- A post from May 2012 reported on what was describef as a “first-of-its-kind” meeting between Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and Al-Azhar leaders.
- A post from November 2011reported that a Muslim Brotherhood rally in Cairo held at the Al Azhar Mosque was a “venomous anti-Israel protest” that featured calls to “kill all the Jews.
- In March 2010, a post reported on the appointment of Sheikh Ahmed Mohammed Ahmed al-Tayeb as head of Al-Azhar, replacing Mohammed Sayed Tantawi who had died recently on a trip to Saudi Arabia.
- In October 2008, posts reported on the election of Qaradawi to the Islamic Research Council of Al-Azhar.
Other posts have reported on the numerous articles examining both the struggle for control of Al-Azhar as well as its role of in the Islamization of Egypt.