US media is reporting that Egypt has imposed what are described as sweeping new rules to prevent violent protest at Al-Azhar University, long a stronghold of Muslim Brotherhood activity in the country. According to a Voice of America report:
September 18, 2014 CAIRO— Egypt has moved to close down one of the last bastions of Muslim Brotherhood dissent with sweeping new rules to curtail violent protest at Al-Azhar University, among the world’s most venerable centers of Islamic learning.
Egypt has banned the Muslim Brotherhood and jailed thousands of its supporters since July 2013, when then-army chief Abdel Fattah el-Sissi overthrew Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected president and a senior member of the group.
As the noose tightened around the Brotherhood, Al-Azhar emerged as a hotspot in its battle against Egypt’s new rulers.
The grand mufti, Egypt’s top religious authority, and the grand imam of Al-Azhar, have long lent their prestige to those in power and issued Fatwas (religious edicts) to back government policy.
But the Brotherhood enjoys strong support within the student body as well as among faculty members, many of whom oppose Sissi and his crackdown on Egypt’s oldest Islamist movement.
Read the rest here.
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 December 2013 reported that Youssef Qaradawi had resigned his position from the governing council of Al-Azhar accusing the institution of supporting Egypt’s military-installed government.
- A post from October 2013, following the deposition of former Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi, reported that senior Al-Azhar scholars had called for prosecuting the Qaradair what they called “high treason.”
- 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 2011 reported 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.
- A post fromn March 2010 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.
- Posts from October 2008 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.