This is the type of movement and expression that needs to happen to counter those who wish to perpetuate a bastardized version of Islam. While I welcome the words and tone from Sheik Ahmed al-Tayeb I am not at all impressed with the words from Saudi Arabia’s King Salman. It is after all Saudi rulers who have cozied up with Wahhabism which has produced such dreadful outcomes for not only Islam but the political dynamics of much of the Middle East. Stop sponsoring the anti-intellectual madrassas form of education and then we can start to listen without gagging over what Saudi rulers have to say.
The head of Sunni Islam’s most esteemed center of learning made one of the most sweeping calls yet for educational reform in the Muslim world to combat the escalation of extremist violence.
Sheik Ahmed al-Tayeb, grand imam of Al-Azhar in Cairo, blamed “corrupt interpretations” of the Quran and the life of the Prophet Muhammad for the rise of Middle East-based terrorism. He issued his appeal in Mecca, Saudi Arabia—Islam’s holiest city—at a gathering of some 700 moderate Muslim clerics from various countries.
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman also expressed concern that extremists posed a threat to Muslims everywhere because their actions had tarnished the image of Islam among non-Muslims.
In a speech read to the conference by the governor of Mecca, the king said Muslims are now seen as “culprits and as a source of fear and concern,” resulting in strained ties between Muslim countries and the rest of the world.
Mr. al-Tayeb deplored what he described as the stigmatizing of moderate Muslims by their more radical brethren in schools and universities.
The only way for more mainstream Muslims to reassert their control was to “tackle this tendency [of extremists] to accuse [other] Muslims of being unbelievers,” he told the gathering convened by Saudi-financed Muslim World League.
The rise of terrorism stemmed from “historical accumulations of tendencies of extremism in our heritage, which originated from corrupt interpretations of some of the texts of the Quran and the Sunnah,” he said, referring to the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad.
Earlier this month, Mr. al-Tayeb said Islamic State fighters who burned a Jordanian air force pilot to death deserved the Quranic punishments of death or crucifixion for being enemies of God and the prophet.
Mr. al-Tayeb didn’t mention the Sunni radical group Islamic State by name but clearly alluded to the group by criticizing “extremist violent groups” that spread fear and panic through “beheadings and burning innocents alive.”