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Political motives for Al Azhar's break with Vatican?

January 21, 2011

Egyptian politics and personal rivalries may have contributed to the decision by Al Azhar University to break off talks with the Vatican, according to one leading analyst.

Father Bernardo Cervellera, the director of the AsiaNews service, suggests that Al Azhar, and influential institution in Cairo, may have fallen into step with the political strategy of President Hosni Mubarak:

In an attempt to determine the next presidential election in his favour, Mubarak is trying not to upset the Muslim world. Critics of the Vatican have this aim: lay the blame on the Christian and Western Pope, thus stroking the frustrations of the Muslims towards the (so called) Christian West. Al-Azhar has simply latched on to this trend.

However, Father Cervellera also detects another factor in the Egyptian institution’s decision. Since early in January, he says, Al Azhar had been complaining about the Vatican’s decision to include a Jordanian priest, Msgr. Khaled Akasheh, in the delegation for bilateral talks. The reason for Al Azhar’s opposition is obscure, but the Muslim scholars may have objected to the inclusion of a native Arab with a thorough knowledge of the Qu’ran.


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