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Al-Azhar and Qom Clerics Clash over Sectarian Expansion - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- Religious scholars rejected comments made by Ayatollah Hashem Boushahri, the Imam of Friday Prayers in the city of Qom and a member of the Iranian Assembly of Experts, in which he accused Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar Dr. Ahmed al-Tayeb of creating an atmosphere of tension following his statements rejecting the exportation of the Shiite sect in Sunni societies, and the exportation of the Sunni sect in Shiite societies.

Sheikh Mahmoud Ashour, former assistant dean of Al-Azhar and Chairman of the of the Committee on Dialogue among Islamic Schools of Thought said that Dr. al-Tayeb’s recent statement to the media about his rejection of Shiite expansion in Sunni societies, as well as his rejection of Sunni expansion in Shiite societies, represents the cornerstone of rapprochement between the Sunnis and Shiites.

Sheikh Ashour added “Our motto at the Committee on Dialogue among Islamic Schools of Thought is to reject calls for the Shiification of Sunnis or the Sunnification of the Shiites or the merging of religious schools of thought into one school of thought. Instead, there are common denominators which we operate under, particularly as we all believe that ‘there is no God but Allah’ and every school of thought has its own doctrine.”

Sheikh Ashour also warned of the presence of hidden figures that want to tamper with Muslim unity and establish sectarian and factional clashes across the Islamic world.

For his part, Shiite Sheikh Abdullah al-Qimi, secretary of the Cairo-based Dar al-Taqreeb [Centre for the Rapprochement of Islamic Sects] said that Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar Dr. Ahmed al-Tayeb is well known for his strong positions that support rapprochement between Islamic schools of though, and has noting to do with his welcome of Shiite students to study at Al-Azhar University.

Al Qimi added that al-Tayeb’s statements rejecting the exportation of the Shiite sect in Sunni societies and vice versa is natural, and does not hinder rapprochement between sects but rather supports and encourages this. He said “we in the Dar al-Taqreeb support the proposal of the Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar which calls for rationality and which also distance Islamic societies from falling into the trap of temptation and sectarian differences.”

As for Dr. Mohamed al-Desouki, a member of the Cairo based Dar al-Taqreeb and a member of the Egyptian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs criticized the statements made by Ayatollah Hashem Boushahri in which he accused the Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar of creating a tense atmosphere. Dr. al-Desouki said that Boushahri had failed to understand al-Tayeb’s words, and that the Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar had publicly confirmed that Al-Azhar is ready to receive Shiite students to study juristic studies at the Al-Azhar University, but it does not allow them to promote and export the Shiite sect in Sunni societies, and this is in support of Islamic unity.

Dr. al-Desouki said that the Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar’s statement on this issue was clear and not a source of dissension, and that this is opposite to the calls of those who support the exportation of the Shiite sect in Sunni societies, which is something that represents an obstacle to rapprochement between Islamic sects. He also said that this is not an issue of exporting sects, as all [Islamic] sects have the same origin, and the problem is between scholars rather than the public, because the public follow the scholars as they do not possess the capability of judging between religious sects themselves.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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