Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb asserted the strong relationship between Al-Azhar and the state, in a visit to the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar on Monday.
Mehleb also expressed his support for the vital role Al-Azhar plays in fighting extremist thought.
The Prime Minister’s visit comes two days after the withdrawal of Mohamed Mehana, Al-Azhar’s advisor, from attending the opening ceremony of the National Theatre. The withdrawal came after Minister of Culture Gaber Asfour accused Al-Azhar scholars for being “ultra-conservative” because of their opposition to the idea of the embodiment of the messengers and the prophets in artworks.
“My withdrawal from the ceremony was not in objection to anything. We also teach the arts in Al-Azhar and we encourage creativity; however we object to the labelling of Azhari scholars as being ‘ultra-conservative’ just because they provide their expert opinion on certain matters,” explained Mehana.
Mehleb’s visit to support the role of Al-Azhar comes in the midst of a recent “uproar” by some media outlets against the institution, as Mehana explained in a phone interview on Al-Hayah Al-Youm programme.
“His visit reaffirms the independence of the institution of Al-Azhar and its crucial role as a beacon for moderate Islamic discourse,” Mehanna said.
“This is considered intellectual terrorism that is aimed at forcing Al-Azhar to follow certain policies or ideologies. Al-Azhar will not be biased towards any ideology and will remain moderate,” Mehana said regarding the recent media criticism of the institution.
“The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the proposed plan for the restoration of Al-Azhar Mosque and addressing the needs of the faculties and institutes associated with Al-Azhar,” explained Cabinet Spokesman Hossam El-Kawish, in another phone interview with Al-Hayah Al-Youm programme on Monday.
During the visit, Grand Imam Ahmed El-Tayeb commended Mehleb for his efforts “to realise the hopes of the citizens and alleviate their suffering on all levels,” according to an Al-Azhar statement.
The Minister of Endowments, Mohamed Gomaa, also visited Al-Azhar yesterday and expressed his respect for and admiration for El-Tayeb, describing him as “a symbol of tolerance and moderation”.
Further media criticism has been directed against Al-Azhar for the presence of certain individuals who allegedly expressed support for the Muslim Brotherhood within the institution. Among those individuals are Abbas Shuman, Al-Azhar’s Deputy, and Mohamed Abd El Salam, Legal Advisor to the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, according to state-owned MENA.