Prominent Egyptian Cleric Calls for Reform but Blames Islamic Radicalism on ‘Zionist’ Plot

AP Photo/Amr Nabil
AP Photo/Amr Nabil

The Grand Imam of Cairo’s al-Azhar University, who is perhaps the most prominent cleric in Egypt, has called for reform in the teaching of Islam to the country’s people.

Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb said at a Mecca-hosted counter-terrorism conference titled “Islam and the Fight Against Terrorism” that Islam needs to be taught in a way that encourages its followers not to follow the path towards radicalism. He said that the narrative of the Koran has been hijacked by extremists, which has led to a radical interpretation of its texts, the BBC reports.

“The only hope for the Muslim nation to recover unity is to tackle in our schools and universities this tendency to accuse Muslims of being unbelievers,” said al-Tayeb.

 However, the cleric also blamed “Zionists” for a conspiracy to “divide and conquer” Muslims, the Associated Press reported.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, who hosted the conference, added that terrorism is a “threat to our Muslim nation and the entire world,” the BBC reports. “Terrorism is a scourge which is the product of extremist ideology,” added the Saudi King. 

Separately, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has called for a pan-Arab fighting force to help stem the tide of extremist movements. The need for such a force is “growing and becoming more pressing every day,” al-Sisi told Egyptian state television. “We will be able to overcome such challenges when we unite together,” he added.

Al-Sisi revealed that Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE have all offered to help Egypt in its operations against Islamic militants in Libya. Egypt’s campaign in the country initiated hours after the Islamic State’s Libya branch released a video that showed the brutal beheading of twenty-one Egyptian Christians.