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Al-Azhar Grand Imam to speak at World Cup opening ceremony | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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File photo of Egyptian Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed Al-Tayeb (AP Photo)

File photo of Egyptian Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed Al-Tayeb (AP Photo)

File photo of Egyptian Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed Al-Tayeb (AP Photo)

London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has invited Al-Azhar Grand Imam Ahmed Al-Tayeb to give a speech during the opening ceremony of the FIFA World Cup, scheduled to begin on June 13 in São Paulo, according to Egypt’s State Information Service (SIS).

Tayeb officially received the invitation on Tuesday in Cairo to give a speech “on peace and the importance of curtailing extremism and violence” during a meeting with Brazil’s ambassador to Egypt, Marco Antonio Diniz Brandão, who acknowledged the “national and international role” played by Al-Azhar—the world’s foremost Sunni Islamic authority and one of the oldest higher learning institutions in the world—“in promoting peace and stability across the world,” according to the SIS.

Brandão told Egyptian daily El-Shorouk the invitation was extended to Tayeb in “recognition of the significant role Al-Azhar plays in establishing the principals of moderate Islam” amid an increasingly tense and violent climate around the globe.

According to the SIS, Tayeb said after the meeting that “Al-Azhar is a learning institution concerned with delineating the truths of the Islamic religion that call for holding fast to religious values, such as the virtues of tolerance and the acceptance of the ‘other.’”

He also called on the Muslim community in Brazil to “integrate with their society while retaining their Islamic values, in order to become positive additions to Brazilian society.”

Brandão said there were numerous mosques and Islamic organizations in Brazil, and that the country’s Muslims were highly integrated into Brazilian society.

This invitation comes a month after FIFA President Sepp Blatter said there would be no speeches at the opening ceremony this year, which usually sees the FIFA president, along with the head of state of the host country and its football federation head, give speeches marking the occasion.

Blatter cited Brazilian President Rousseff’s being booed during a speech she gave opening last summer’s FIFA Confederations Cup held in Brazil—which is usually seen as a dress rehearsal for the World Cup a year later—as a reason for the decision.

The FIFA World Cup, soccer’s premier international competition, will host 32 countries from around the world. Only two countries from the Middle East—Algeria and Iran—will be participating at this year’s competition.