CAIRO: Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif’s proposal to separate the general interest schools and religious schools in Al-Azhar University is proving controversial.
The move would be a step towards making Al-Azhar a “non-religious institution, Sheikh Mahmoud Hamdy Megahed, an Azhar Sheikh and member of the People’s Assembly’s (PA) religious affairs committee, told Daily News Egypt.
This, according to Megahed, will have serious repercussions on the institution’s academic and religious status worldwide.
“If the general interest education was separated from the religious education in Al-Azhar University, then I do not see a reason for the continuation of Al-Azhar University, Megahed said. “We should not have even established Al-Azhar University in the first place and could have settled with Cairo University.
He explained that separating both schools will discourage international students who seek education in Islamic studies as well as science and arts from studying at Al-Azhar University because “it will not be offering what it had been exclusively offering in the past – a combination of general interest and religious education under one roof, he said.
Al-Azhar held a conference last week discussing the Prime Minister’s proposal. The conference was headed by Mohamed Hussein Awaidah, president of the Teachers’ Administration Club in Al-Azhar University, Mohamed Abdel Fadil Al-Koussy, vice president for Al-Azahr University’s Education and Student Affairs and Sheikh Nasr Farid Wasel, former Grand Mufti of Egypt.
“It is very important for Al-Azhar to stay they way it is, Wasel said at the conference, adding that Egypt will “cease to exist if anything bad happened to the institution.
Amnah Nosseir, professor of Islamic Principles and Philosophy in Al-Azhar University, said that this separation “contradicts with the general theme of Al-Azhar that was created to unite the Islamic world.
On the other hand, Osama Al-Ghoneim, dean of Al-Azhar’s faculty of medicine, supported Nazif’s proposal.
“We have to give up on the idea of having a Muslim doctor or a Muslim engineer and admit that there are big problems in Al-Azhar University’s academic performance, he said.
Megahed pointed out that Nazif’s controversial proposal is at the top of the PA’s agenda for the upcoming parliamentary session.
Two weeks ago, MP Aly Laban sent an urgent inquiry to Nazif regarding the government’s new law on Al-Azhar’s renovations, which he described as “a plan to break down Al-Azhar.
In the Muslim Brotherhood official statement sent to Daily News Egypt, Laban said the new project, which is already being implemented, is riddled with problems.
According to Laban, the new law will separate Al-Azhar, the religious institution, from Al-Azhar University which, according to Laban will lead to internal havoc and “have a negative effect on the leadership of Al-Azhar.
According to the new law, Laban said, the president of Al-Azhar University will be assigned as Minister for Al-Azhar Affairs, a post that overlaps with Al-Azhar’s Grand Sheikh’s, which, he said, “horribly undermines the authority of Sheikh Al-Azhar.
Established in the 10th century, Al-Azhar is considered the world’s oldest religious university. The university currently offers 62 faculties, 43 for men and 19 for women, with different majors and boasts a number of research and scientific centers.