Meeting Of Pope, Top Sunni Cleric Sparks Online Debate In Arab World

pope francis

JAFFA, Israel – A UAE prince who expressed his support for a meeting between Pope Francis and the head of the world’s leading Sunni Muslim institution came under a barrage of online criticism as well as sympathy.

Hazaa bin Zayed, the deputy governor of Abu Dhabi, was commenting on Monday’s meeting between the Pope and Sheik Ahmed el-Tayyib (pictured), the head of Al Azhar Academy, which was described in the Arab press as “historic.”

“Our world today needs tolerance just like it needs water and air,” the deputy governor tweeted. “What a beautiful moment, and what a great meeting.”

During the meeting, the two religious leaders hugged and stressed the importance of Muslim-Christian dialogue. According to the Arab press, the two men discussed world peace in a meeting that came after years of tension following Francis’ predecessor, Benedict XVI, who linked Islam and violence.

“The meeting is the message,” Francis told el-Tayyib, explaining the meeting was significant.

Bin Zayed’s supportive tweet sparked thousands of responses and clashes between supporters and detractors of the meeting.

One commenter condemned the meeting by saying that the Quran ordered Muslims “not to be ruled by Jews or Christians.”

Hamad replied: “You are strange. You chose this verse, but not the one saying, ‘They have their religion and we have ours,’ and that it’s wrong to be hostile to either.”

Khalifa also denounced the evocation of the verse, writing: “Showing tolerance doesn’t mean accepting their rule. The Prophet, peace be upon him, had Jewish neighbors. Unlike other religions, Islam is tolerant.”

“Goodness gracious me, look what they’re doing in Islamic countries, they are the enemies of Islam. Wake up!” wrote another.

Elshahin asked one detractor: “What about your car, and your mobile phone, and your television, and your clothes – doesn’t that count as being ruled by them?”

“The [UN] Security Council is composed of 90 percent Christians who pass resolutions that serve only them, while the Muslims have no say,” wrote another.

“Hazaa, you’re the last man on earth who has the right to talk about religion,” Abdulaziz wrote. “These are the final days that you depraved pimps could say anything about religion.”

“Tolerance doesn’t mean drinking coffee together, it means that the Russian Christians stop hurting Muslims,” another wrote. “It means not supporting the murderers in Syria.”

“Tolerance and peace isn’t just meetings and photo-ops,” Azooz tweeted. “It has to be implemented on the ground, starting in Syria, and spread from there to the rest of the Arab world.”