Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa met with United States Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labour Michael Posner on Tuesday to discuss the current political situation in Egypt and the transition to democracy.
During their meeting Gomaa emphasised “that Egypt now faces many important challenges”, according to a statement released by Al-Azhar on Wednesday. He called for unity “to pass this critical stage in the history of the nation”.
Gomaa added that for democracy to be applied in Egypt the country must first “clarify the concepts of democracy” and that people must be trained on the workings of a democracy. He also “rejected the use of violence in all its forms and manifestations”.
The Grand Mufti also stressed the importance of establishing a dialogue with the youth in Egypt. He pointed out that “this requires a degree of courage and creativity in communicating with a new generation”.
According to the Al-Azhar statement, Posner expressed his appreciation for the Grand Mufti’s “role in the enrichment of human civilisation, his vision and his global influence on spreading the culture of dialogue, rapprochement and tolerance among world religions”. The statement added that Posner would share his views with the US administration.
Inter-religious dialogue has been an important role for Al-Azhar, both in Egypt and abroad. Relations between the Islamic authority and the Vatican soured in 2006 when Pope Benedict XVI described the Prophet Muhammad as a warmonger spreading evil lessons using a sword, according to AFP.
Many in Al-Azhar have viewed the recent resignation of Pope Benedict XVI as an opportunity to improve relations between the Church and Al-Azhar, reported AFP.
Posner left Cairo on Tuesday after a visit lasting four days. In addition to meeting Gomaa, Posner also met with a number of high-level government officials, members of civil society, activists, journalists, lawyers, religious figures, and political groups.
In a press conference on Tuesday Posner said: “Sustainable democracy is more than just elections. There needs to be rule of law, official accountability and transparency, rights of women, freedom of the press, and many other things.”
Additional reporting by Basil El-Dabh