During his visit to France, Shaykh al-Azhar holds meeting with President Hollande, visits the Bataclan theatre, addresses a forum of Eastern and Western thinkers, meets with head of Christian Democratic Party and signs MoU between Al-Azhar University and the Catholic University of Paris.
Meeting with French President, Francois Hollande
The Grand Imam, Dr Ahmad al-Tayyeb Shaykh al-Azhar, was hosted by the President of France, Francois Hollande, at the Élysée Palace in Paris on Tuesday 24 May 2016. President Hollande and Shaykh Ahmad al-Tayyeb discussed French priorities in fighting radicalism as well as the situation in the country following the Paris attacks, with President Hollande praising the efforts of Islamic leaders such as the Grand Imam in fighting radicalism. He welcomed the Grand Imam and expressed his appreciation and that of his government of the efforts made by Al-Azhar in combating terrorism and spreading moderation, tolerance and peace. He further said, “We are fully aware of the prestigious status of Al-Azhar. We also appreciate the strong will this institution has with regard to spreading the authentic faith.”
From his part, Shaykh Ahmad al-Tayyeb stated that Al-Azhar would support French President Francois Hollande in correcting the perception of Islam after recent terrorist attacks. The Grand Imam told the President that Al-Azhar supported international peace in communities worldwide, giving special attention to France, and that Al-Azhar denounced recent terrorist attacks that took place in France and Belgium. The Grand Imam said that Islam offers sanctity to the lives of all people, whether Muslims or non-Muslims, stressing that combating terrorism is everyone’s duty and that Al-Azhar is willing to assist France as much as possible in fighting terrorism. The Grand Imam also pointed out that combating extremist ideology requires a comprehensive outlook that involves everyone, while giving more attention to the youth and making more efforts to make them aware of the dangers of extremism and terrorism.
The Grand Imam further stated that Al-Azhar is keen on constant communication with all cultures and civilizations for the purpose of spreading moderation, peace and coexistence and rejecting violence and terrorism, pointing out that Al-Azhar has a French Cultural Centre at the Al-Azhar Mosque that teaches the French language, out of Al-Azhar’s keenness on achieving openness to the French culture and other cultures.
The Grand Imam added in a media statement that he agreed with President Hollande on an official exchange between Islamic institutions in France and Al-Azhar in order to educate a new generation of Islamic scholars and leaders about the religion in a true, fair and objective way.
Earlier during the day, the Grand Imam had visited the Bataclan concert hall to pay tribute to the victims of the attacks carried out by extremists that left 130 dead on November 13.
Shaykh al-Azhar addresses Forum of Eastern and Western Intellectuals
Upon his arrival in Paris, the Grand Imam, Dr Ahmad al-Tayyeb Shaykh al-Azhar, attended the second forum of eastern and western intellectuals where he addressed European nationals as well as the rest of the Muslim world, stressing the importance of dialogue and building trust between religions and cultures.
During his speech at the forum, the Grand Imam emphasized the importance of how people of every nation should adopt ideas of coexistence – which will in the future lead to maintaining the identity of religion – rather than thinking to preserve minorities’ rights. “I call on all Muslim citizens in Europe that they must know they are native citizens in their communities, and that full citizenship will never contradict the idea of coexistence,” said the Grand Imam.
The Grand Imam meets with the head of the French Christian Democratic Party
The Grand Imam, Dr Ahmed al-Tayyeb Shaykh al-Azhar, met with Jean-Frédéric Poisson, who chairs an action group on combating ISIS (Daesh) and is head of the Christian Democratic Party. During the meeting, the Grand Imam stressed that Al-Azhar is adopting various approaches to combat deviant thoughts, pointing out that Al-Azhar has actually established an Observer in eight languages to answer the misconceptions of Daesh and to correct the deviant ideas and thoughts in the minds of youths. The Grand Imam additionally stated, “To further this cause, Al-Azhar has plans to add other languages to the Observer in the future.”
The Grand Imam further stressed to the head of the Christian Democratic Party, “We have also many means to use in combating such deviant thoughts like conferences, symposia and books. We have also the Da‘wah convoys and Peace emissaries which visit the world’s different countries to affirm the tolerance of Islam and calling towards peace and co-existence.”
In addition, the Grand Imam affirmed that Al-Azhar is ready to train the Imams of France according to the middle and tolerant course of Islam, pointing out the necessity of drawing up one particular guideline to which all Mosques must adhere in such a way that achieves the freedom of Mosques and the independence of society.
Al-Azhar University and the Catholic University sign a protocol of cooperation
The Grand Imam, Dr Ahmad al-Tayyeb Shaykh al-Azhar, and the Chancellor of Al-Azhar University, Prof Dr Ibrahim al-Hudhud, signed a protocol between Al-Azhar University and the Catholic University of Paris on cooperation in culture, translation, literature and interfaith dialogue.
In his speech, Dr Ibrahim al-Huhud affirmed that Al-Azhar, since its inception, has had a vision that is open to all the other cultures, pointing out that Al-Azhar University puts great significance in cooperation with all educational institutes worldwide. Al-Azhar sends its students abroad to learn from the various branches of knowledge, and Al-Azhar receives foreign students from over 100 countries worldwide. He further stated that Al-Azhar promotes the message of Islam that teaches us to have contact with others who belong to different religions and cultures.
Prof Usama Nabil, Head of the French Dept. at the Faculty of Languages and Translation at Al-Azhar University, and Coordinator of the protocol, stressed the importance of cooperation between Al-Azhar University and the Catholic University due to shared objectives with Al-Azhar University. He also stated that studying literature, as a gateway to intercultural and interfaith dialogue, is a new mechanism for clearing up the misconceptions that the youth may have.
On his part, Phil Borden, Rector of the Catholic University, expressed his support for the cooperation with Al-Azhar University that spreads the culture of dialogue and coexistence between peoples and communities, and that the Catholic University was looking forward to strengthening ties with the great tradition of Al-Azhar University.