The Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed Al-Tayeb announced on Saturday the formation of a new committee which is assigned to prepare a new law to confront hatred and violence in the name of religion, according to a statement from the institution.
Al-Tayeb assigned his legislative counsellor Mohammed Abdel-Salam to preside over the committee. Abdel-Salam hopes that “the effects of the legislation, where there will be no hatred and violence, on the long run.”
He said that the committee is to hold several meetings to prepare the draft law to be sent to the parliament so that it would be discussed during the next legislative round. He added that the proposed law bans inciting hatred and violent practices in the name of religion and will help with spreading the “enlightened rhetoric.”
The proposed law comes following a controversy over a prominent Islamic cleric and former deputy minister in the Minister of Religious Endowments. Salem Abdel Galil faces accusations of contempt of religion after he claimed last Thursday that Christians and Jews follow corrupt religions and are non-believers.
Members of the Egyptian parliament (MPs) announced that they have filed a lawsuit against Abdel Galil following his remarks.
The spokesperson of Al-Azhar University, Ahmed Zarae, told Daily News Egypt that he does not expect that the draft law will deal with the scholarly curriculum at Al-Azhar University.
Zarae refused accusations of Al-Azhar contributing to inciting hatred and said that “scholarly curriculums at Al-Azhar incite peace, brotherhood, and coexistence, and those who accuse Al-Azhar of inciting hatred and terrorism didn’t read Al-Azhar’s curriculums or they have other motives.”
Al-Azhar faced a storm of criticism following the attack on two churches during Palm Sunday celebrations earlier last month, which claimed the lives of 45 people and injured dozens.
Criticism against Al-Azhar by public figures and media outlets has increased after President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s speech, which asserted the need to renew religious rhetoric and form a new body to fight terrorism. Al-Tayeb described the criticism as “an organised campaign by some media outlets against Al-Azhar.”
The secretary of the parliament’s religion committee, Omar Hamroush, praised this step by Al-Azhar, and he expects that it will help in confronting violence and extremism. He added that Al-Azhar has a very important role in “boosting moderate rhetoric and facing terrorism.”
Hamroush said that the new draft law comes after the uttering of several shocking opinions from many Muslim clerics, which might be the reason for the law.
MP Mohammed Abu Hamed announced that he has finished a new draft law which confronts hatred with several measures, including punishments for both persons and institutions, and he will file it when the general secretary of the parliament returns back from Italy.
Abu Hamed told Daily News Egypt that the draft law introduces a clear and certain definition of hatred and its forms. Also, the draft law proposes several punishments starting from hard labour imprisonment, to life sentences, up to the death penalty, depending on the form of hatred and its severity in each case, Abu Hamed added.
Penalties include fines between EGP 20,000 and EGP 250,000 for persons, and between EGP 500,000 and EGP 5m for entities that permit or sponsor hatred, he explained.
He explained that the new draft law is a separate one and not related to the draft law which he had pitched before regarding regulating Al-Azhar affairs.
Recently, Abu Hamed announced that he insists on filing a new proposed law for Al-Azhar, despite a hail of criticism against the proposal. The proposed law has aroused strong opposition from members of the parliament’s legislation and religion committees, who rejected it on various grounds, while parliament speaker Ali Abdul Aal said in the general session that the proposed law was eliminated due to “being constitutionally flawed” and that “discussions about this topic should be closed.”