The Free Egyptians Party declared in a statement on Monday it would support Al-Azhar Defence Front “in the face on the onslaught against the centrist and ancient institution, considered a beacon of tolerant Islam, respect for others and a symbol of the Egyptian unity and their struggle against the repressive power of ideological extremism.”
The party called on all political groups, civil movements, intellectuals and organisations to support the front in its fight against what is perceived as an increasing radicalisation of the ancient institution.
The front was established on Saturday in a declaration made at the Press Syndicate. Gamal Fahmy, the syndicate director, said the creation of such a front is a stark indicator of the danger the country is facing. “The declaration,” Fahmy said addressing the syndicate “is not only for the defence of Al-Azhar but also for the defence of our homeland and our mosques and churches against anyone who tries to distort the spirit of Egypt and its civilisation.”
Al-Azhar is regarded as the most important authority regarding matters of Islamic faith in the world, and has a large influence on mainstream Islam.
Amir Boshra, a member of the Free Egyptians Party and the Maspero Youth Coalition, said the front was established to counter the growing influence of certain sheikhs who claim to know more about Islam than Al-Azhar sheikhs. These sheikhs, he said, are attempting to tarnish Al-Azhar’s image and challenge its influence on the Islamic world.
The sheikhs in question are known as the committee of the Scholars of Islam, and Boshra lists the Muslim Brotherhood’s Khairat El-Shater as an example of such a sheikh.
“Al-Azhar has always been a moderate institution that provided balance in our society,” Boshra said, adding it has also served as an umbrella for both Muslims and Christians. “Even I as a Copt know in my heart this is true but what we are seeing now is a process of Ikhwanisation and an attempt to spread the Wahhabi agenda.”
Boshra pointed at previous religious celebrations, where Al-Azhar sheikhs could frequently be seen attending Christian feasts or wishing them well. He said such gestures of goodwill are considered forbidden by the committee.
“Maspero also supports the front, because every Egyptian, Christian or Muslim, should support the front,” Boshra concluded.