A Prominent Muslim Cleric Joined the Pope in Embracing Religious Tolerance. His Arabic Statements Suggest Something Else

Feb. 13 2019

During his historic visit to Abu Dhabi earlier this month, Pope Francis signed a joint statement with Sheikh Ahmad al-Tayyeb, who, by dint of his position as the grand imam of Egypt’s al-Azhar University, is widely considered Sunni Islam’s leading religious authority. The document strongly condemns religious coercion and religiously motivated violence, while praising freedom of conscience and tolerance. Yet Tayyeb, much like Mahmoud Abbas and Yasir Arafat before him, seems to espouse very different views when speaking in Arabic, as Raymond Ibrahim writes:

Tayeb . . . is on record as saying that apostates—that is, anyone born to a Muslim father who wishes to leave Islam—should be punished. As to the penalty they deserve, in July 2016, during one of his televised programs, Tayeb reaffirmed that “those learned in Islamic law [al-fuqaha] and the imams of the four schools of jurisprudence consider apostasy a crime and agree that the apostate must either renounce his apostasy or else be killed.” . . .

[Moreover, the] document Tayeb cosigned with Pope Francis . . . says “we resolutely declare that religions must never incite war, hateful attitudes, hostility, and extremism, nor must they incite violence or the shedding of blood.” [But] political commentators in Egypt have noted that, despite al-Azhar’s harsh attitude concerning “infidels” and “apostates,” when asked to denounce Islamic State as “un-Islamic,” al-Tayeb refused. . . .

Tayeb’s response to [his Egyptian] critics has been to accuse Israel. During a March 2018 interview on Egyptian television, he said, “All those mouthpieces that croak—out of ignorance or because they were told to—that the al-Azhar curricula are the cause of terrorism never talk about Israel, about Israel’s prisons, about the genocides perpetrated by the Zionist entity state . . . If not for the abuse of the region by means of the Zionist entity, there would never have been any problem.” . . .

It is difficult, therefore, to see this document as anything more than a superficial show, presumably for the West.

Welcome to Mosaic

Register now to get two more stories free

Register Now

Already a subscriber? Sign in now

Read more at Gatestone

More about: Egypt, Islam, Moderate Islam, Muslim-Christian relations, Pope Francis, Religion & Holidays


The Evidence of BDS Anti-Semitism Speaks for Itself

Oct. 18 2019

Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs recently released a lengthy report titled Behind the Mask, documenting the varieties of naked anti-Semitic rhetoric and imagery employed by the movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction the Jewish state (BDS). Drawn largely but not exclusively from Internet sources, its examples range from a tweet by a member of Students for Justice in Palestine (the “world would be soooo much better without jews man”), to an enormous inflated pig bearing a star of David and floating behind the stage as the rock musician Roger Waters performs, to accusations by an influential anti-Israel blogger that Israel is poisoning Palestinian wells. Cary Nelson sums up the report’s conclusions and their implications, all of which give the lie to the disingenuous claim that critics of BDS are trying to brand “legitimate criticism of Israel” as anti-Semitic.

Sign up to read more

You've read all your free articles for this month


Sign up now for unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Fathom

More about: Anti-Semitism, BDS, Roger Waters, Social media