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Thursday, September 22, 2005

Muslim scholars slam Egyptian Imam for allowing relations with Israel

This article from Egypt is interesting from a couple of angles.

It shows how Israel's existence is still not accepted, and never will be accepted, by religious leaders of Israel's "peace partner."

It also shows how the famous Al Azhar university, possibly the most influential Muslim institution in the world, will change its religious rulings to be in sync with the Egyptian government. (Read the entire article for more examples of that; this is just the beginning.)
Last week's Israeli withdrawal from Gaza appears to have received the approval of the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Mohamed Sayed Tantawi, who was quick to rule that normalisation with Israel was religiously acceptable.

"Islam does not prohibit normalisation with other countries, especially Israel, as long as this normalisation is in non- religious domains and serves some worldly interests," Tantawi told a gathering at a festival held to mark the national day of Al-Sharqiya governorate.

Tantawi's statement immediately provoked heated debate inside and outside the Sunni world's most prestigious seat of Islamic learning.

Prominent Palestinian Islamic scholar Sheikh Hamed Al-Beitawi, who is also head of the Palestinian Scholars League (PSL), was quick to denounce the fatwa on the grounds that it "greatly serves the Israeli occupation, which is unacceptable in Islam," and urged the Grand Imam to retract it.

"It is obvious that the fatwa was issued following increased American and Israeli pressure on Arab leaders who already have relations with the Zionist state," El-Beitawi said in a PSL statement. He condemned the fatwa as contradictory to Islamic tenets "because it is the religious duty of all Muslims to help their brothers in driving the enemy out of their lands."

Tantawi's ruling seems to have created rifts within Al-Azhar where many scholars criticised the edict, saying it only reflected the personal opinion of the Grand Imam and not Al-Azhar as an institution.

Sayed Khodeir, former head of the research and translation section at the Islamic Research Academy (IRA), said Tantawi's ruling "was political rather than religious. "It is religiously correct to normalise relations with a country you have peace with but not when this country is usurping Muslim lands and killing Muslim brothers and children," Khodeir explained, saying it would perhaps be in the interest of Egypt to have peace and economic ties with Israel but from a religious viewpoint. "Those who don't care about the affairs of their Muslim brothers do not actually belong to them," Khodeir said.

"As Muslims we consider ourselves in a state of conflict with Israel so long as it insists on occupying Muslim lands, desecrating Al-Aqsa Mosque and Islamic shrines and massacring Muslims," Khodeir said. "Egypt cannot be regarded as separate from what is going on in neighbouring Palestinian lands."

Prominent Al-Azhar scholar Abdel-Azim El-Mataani added that normalising relations with Israel "is not religiously -- or even logically -- acceptable at this particular time when it is using all sorts of aggression and tyranny against Muslims and posing a threat to Arab national security."

El-Mataani said the IRA had formerly issued an edict condemning normalisation with Israel. Former IRA member Sheikh Ali Abul-Hassan had previously issued a fatwa forbidding an Israeli judo team from playing in Egypt or any other Arab and Muslim country. He described such an invitation as an acceptance of what Israel has done and is still doing to Muslims, including usurping land, money and honour.

"This IRA fatwa sounds more logical because we should never accept the Israeli humiliation of Arab and Muslim nations," El-Mataani said.

It doesn't take much reading between the lines to see that Israel's very existence, no matter how much land is given to Arabs, is a major affront to Islam as interpreted by most "scholars."