Egyptian seminary renews its claim as arbiter of Islam’s true meaning


The interior courtyard of the Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo, Egypt. Image by Jon Ramlan/Pixabay/Creative Commons

Source: Religion News Service

BY Jacob Wirtschafter and Amr El-Tohamy

CAIRO (RNS) — Long before the ascendance of the World Wide Web, Cairo’s Al-Azhar University served as the hub of global Islamic learning, its grand imam considered an authority on religious and public life for Sunni Muslims far beyond the borders of Egypt.

But over the years, the university’s hold over the interpretation of key Islamic concepts, including jihad, competed with extremist groups such as Islamic State — organizations with proven capabilities for deploying digital tools just as effectively as they do explosive devices.

In response, this 1,044-year-old institution decided to up its game.

“(Terrorists) say killing people is great because this is what Allah wants but we say that living in the name of Allah and letting others live is much greater,” said Tarek Shaban Mohammad, supervisor of the Al-Azhar Observatory, a department of the university created to use online channels to moderate and modernize Islam.

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