And you may tell yourself: That’s really not saying much.
All Pope Benedict XVI did was to call for the protection of Christians in Muslim lands, which is something we’re routinely assured Muslims are doing anyway. No one is ever supposed to question that. In this case, however, “protection” would also come without the protection racket of dhimmitude. In other words, “protection” sans the nudge, minus the wink.
The fact that this was too much for al-Azhar, and that they’re still in a pious huff about it, speaks volumes. And yet the imam is right about this much: the demand for an apology in response to non-Muslim criticism is all too “normal.” An update on this story. “Egypt, Al-Azhar reaffirms opposition to dialogue with Vatican,” from Asia News, April 14:
Cairo (AsiaNews) – Al-Azhar will only resume talks with the Holy See after an apology from the Pope, who was accused of criticizing Islam following an attack against the Coptic Cathedral in Alexandria last January 3. As much was revealed in an informal meeting between Ahmed El-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, and Michael Fitzgerald, Vatican ambassador to Cairo. In the meeting, which took place yesterday in Cairo, the Muslim leader said that relations between the two religions are normal, but demands an official apology from the Pope, as a condition to restarting any dialogue between Al-Azhar and the Vatican.
This is the same cleric who complained in January of a “Zionist plot” to defame Islam and divide the Arab world.
“It’s not fair to ask the Pope for an apology – says a source, anonymous for safety reasons – because he never insulted Islam, he just asked for the protection of Christians wherever they are, as is his duty.” The source points out the dual position held by the authorities of Al-Azhar, which on one hand demand an apology from the Pope, but still want to be seen as the moderate face of Islam. “The Vatican — continues the source – must be firm on its positions and ask the imam of Al-Azhar the reasons for an apology and where the error of the Holy Father lies. Al-Azhar should instead explain why there continues to be violence against Christians in Egypt before it demands excuses”.
According to the source, the relationship, viewed as courteous in the past, were in fact ambiguous. “Islamic leaders – he says- have always imposed a dialogue of superficial courtesy with the Church, in this way avoiding discussing or addressing contentious issues and problems encountered between Christianity and Islam. Now the Vatican is aware of the situation and is not afraid to adopt a more firm and rigid stance. “
The Jasmine Revolution and the fall of Mubarak has highlighted the confusion and instability within Egyptian Muslim society, teetering between secular and democratic movements, radical Islam and the risk of a new military regime. According to the source this would in part explain the contradictory attitude of Al-Azhar.
Surely, there are varying schools of thought within al-Azhar, but the situation described above is nothing new, though political upheaval may help bring matters to the surface.
“The Egyptian Muslim world – he says – is currently very divided. At Al-Azhar, there are contrasts between the positions of Ahmed El-Tayeb and other imams with scholars of the university. In turn, Al-Azhar is at odds with members of the Muslim Brotherhood, internally divided between the hard line of the older members and the young reformers. The contrast also exists between the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist movement, who clash on many topics. ” The source says that these divisions could clarify the positions and currents within Islam, the result of contradictions within the Koran and the absence of final authority in the Muslim world….