Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Egypt: al-Azhar's Tantawi Promotes Acceptance & Dialogue

This is the latest of news from Islamic leaders in Egypt regarding their apparent tendency towards proclaiming tolerance and religious acceptance of others.

In al-Ahram newspaper article published on 7 November 2006, al-Azhar's Sheikh Muhammad Sai'yd Tantawi was reported to promote his message that "Islam welcomes dialogue with others regardless of their religious affiliation, their civilization or culture." And "that Islamic Shari'ah accepts diversity and differences between humans and urges collaboration with others for the sake of their benefit."

He pointed to the eight principles on which Islamic dialogue is based, namely: "truthfulness, objectivity, and that the goal of those consulting should be to arrive at justice and reason between the parties involved." He stressed the need to "avoid dominating others and that dialogue should be without selfish pride or a sense of superiority," to "avoid wounding others' feelings, and to respect their opinions."

This was said [on 5 November 2006] during the opening session of the tenth "Season of Culture" Congress hosted by the Supreme Assembly for Islamic Affairs, held at the Nour mosque in Abbassi'yah [Cairo]. It was also attended by Dr. Mahmoud Hamdi Zaqzouk, Minister of Religious Endowment and the president of that Assembly.

During the conference, Sheikh al-Azhar Tantawi gave a lecture on "the Islamic understanding of dialogue and that it is considered as one of the principles of Islamic Shari'ah which urges Muslims to collaborate, and [to learn how] to give and take with all humans."

He added that "conflict between people regarding their religious beliefs is an ancient matter and is in human nature." He warned that "even with the worst of conflicts leading to blinded bigotry and prejudiced dialogue, it is important that we give enough room to others when engaged in a dialogue, and to clarify interpretations and phrases used whether from the legislative or the linguistic aspects in order to arrive at justice...because there is so much misunderstanding and incorrect interpretation among people."

These words appear righteous and noble. They promote justice, collaboration, open dialogue, purity of motive, respect for others' beliefs and convictions, tolerance and acceptance. Now it is time to transform these words into action by practicing these pure teachings of Islam when dealing with all people of other beliefs and backgrounds, including the Egyptian Baha'is who have been terribly oppressed by Egypt's fundamentalist religious establishment.


  1. At the risk of appearing like I am trying to draw traffic to my blog, I invite you to read my comment which ended up as an entry there. It's too long to be repeated here. Thank you.


  2. Dear Faisal,

    Very interesting post you wrote on your blog. It gives us much to contemplate.

    For other readers to link to it, please click HERE.

  3. Obviously, the daily life to Bahá'ís in Portugal it's too much easier than to the Egiptians.
    But I would like to talk a little of my experience with priest and catholic friens. Most are tolerant, but a small number are not so much.
    Those which are less tolerant are not necessary those which practice more pious acts.
    But there are a great diference in the priests before Vatican II and those after Vatican II.
    I think you have an idea what is Vatican II.

    Somethig else, if my english is not clear marco will help us. :-)

  4. Also there is a difference between "tolerance" and "acceptance." As you know, tolerance, in the long term, is not enough because it is not from the heart and is passive in nature, and may not last. Acceptance, on the other hand, is more enduring and goes beyond mere tolerance. It implies deeper understanding and true respect for others' beliefs.

  5. Dear Bilo,

    I totally agree with your distinction between "tolerance" and "acceptance", but at this point, I am happy if we can get to stop the religious leaders and politicians from spreading lies so that the Egyptian public can know the truth about the Bahá’ís and the Bahá’í Faith. Only then, they will realize that we are not the monsters that these people are saying we are

    At this time dear Bilo, I will be happy with “tolerance”, and “co-existence”, and hope that “acceptance” will come when people know the truth about the nature of the Bahá’í Faith and the reality of Its Teachings.

    This understanding might help them get over the lies that have been fed to them! It might take a generation to reach this

    I can not help but wonder why people at the time of Abdul-Baha, like Muhammad Abdu and others chose to recognize the unifying and moral power of the Bahá’í Faith, and praise it, while the current clergy insist on fighting against The Bahá’í Faith and Its followers, and scaring people and turning them against It through spreading lies and misconceptions about It

  6. Dear Nesreen,

    Your question regarding the difference in attitude between current and past religious leaders is a very important one. The different reaction is likely related to many factors, and it would take a great degree of analysis to begin to understand these factors. The Baha'i Faith has been growing quite rapidly and is now the second most widespread religion in the world...this happened in a relatively very brief period of time, particularly when compared to previous religions. Religious leaders have been shaken by this and they perceive it as a threat to their power structure. This is only one factor, but I think is an important one. The teachings of the Baha'i Faith are so timely and suitable for today's society, and the revelation is so vast and comprehensive; this in itself cannot be resisted or stopped by these religious leaders so, with no options left, they resort to these frivolous allegations and false misrepresentations in order to advance their cause. Fortunately, we know that things speak for themselves and no matter what is being said or alleged, the truth always prevails.


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