During a two day visit to Egypt, Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair visits the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, the Al-Azhar World Observatory and the head office of WAAG.
Earlier the Grand Imam, Dr Ahmad al-Tayyeb Shaykh al-Azhar, welcomed Tony Blair, the former British Prime Minister and the President of the Tony Blair Foundation for Global Change, for a visit to Al-Azhar in Cairo, Egypt.
The Grand Imam stated that education in Al-Azhar is based on a philosophy of pluralism, respect for opinions and the acceptance of differences. It is this philosophy that made Egypt a model of coexistence between Muslims and Christians for more than fourteen centuries. It is the practice of God that He created human beings with diversity. Some today are forcing Muslims to follow only one rigid code, and this is contrary to the principles of Islam. The Grand Imam stressed that it is global policies and politics that are striving to achieve their agendas at the expense of people’s fears and concerns, and this is the main motive behind extremism and terrorism around the world. The concept of Islamic terrorism is a lie and a fabrication. Terrorism cannot be attributed to Islam in any way. The Grand Imam further highlighted the importance of coordination between Al-Azhar and European countries in combating extremist ideologies. In addition, the Grand Imam warned of the tendency of some countries to transfer their embassies to the occupied city of Jerusalem, something that will fuel the feelings of Muslims around the world.
For his part, Tony Blair expressed his belief that Al-Azhar is the basic reference to which the world must return in order to understand the truth of Islam and its correct teachings, which are contrary to the practices of terrorist organisations. He expressed aspiration for his foundation to cooperate with Al-Azhar in spreading a positive and true message not just in Europe but also in other parts of the world, especially Africa.
Tony Blair visited the Al-Azhar World Observatory which monitors and follows up on extremist organisations and what is published about Islam and Muslims around the world, and issues eFatwa to clarify issues and misconceptions. Young scholars of Al-Azhar make up various departments of the centre and its committees supported by specialists with legal background and proficiency in 12 foreign languages and awareness of cultural norms around the world. Social networks and websites are monitored and ideas of extremism and suspicion are refuted through a concerted effort. During his visit, Tony Blair remarked: “I am pleased to have visited the Observatory because it plays an important role in countering radical ideas and religious extremism. The efforts of the Observatory are not important for Egypt alone, but for the whole world.”
Tony Blair further visited the head office of the World Association for Al-Azhar Graduates (WAAG) where he met with officials and praised cooperation with them in the field of countering terrorism and promoting moderation and balance. [See section Supporting Leaders in Egypt in: http://www.tonyblairfaithfoundationus.org/foundation/news/our-impact-2015]
At the end of his visit, Tony Blair delivered a speech in which he praised the role of Al-Azhar and its institutions in addressing the challenges of today and confronting extremism and terrorism.