Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Sheikh of Al-Azhar : Jihad initiated for self-defense and not for threat or attack

Sheikh of Al-Azhar : Jihad initiated for self-defense and not for threat or attack

Cairo, Egypt, September 5, 2006

The Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar Seminary in Cairo, Dr. Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, endeavored to correct many of the concepts of religious beliefs of Islam in the West, and especially the idea of jihad. He pointed out that Al-Jihad began in self-defense, and not to threaten others or commit aggression on innocent people. The Sheikh of Al-Azhar at the end of the Muslim-Christian dialogue between Al Azhar and the Episcopal Church in Britain, yesterday evening stressed the importance of Islamic-Christian dialogue, and the discussion of religious concepts inherent in Islam and other religions. Participating in the meeting which was held at the headquarters of the Episcopal Church in Egypt were the most venerated Al-Azhar, the Mufti of the Republic, Dr Nasr Farid Wasel, in addition to a large number of bishops and heads of the Christian communities in Egypt and Britain. The Al-Azhar Grand Sheikh, denying a conflict between religions or civilizations, stressed that religions cooperate together and that difference of religion does not preclude that. He stressed the Islamic principle which states that there shall be no compulsion in religion and that freedom of belief is guaranteed, and any practices that violate that principle constitute a departure from true Islam. He renewed his support for freedom of expression, calling that freedom conditional on not manipulating the religious sanctities of any creed. For his part, the Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, the representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury and a member of the British House of Lords, Islam and Christianity have common areas of high human values that enable followers to embrace cooperation and coexistence and transcend ideological differences. At the conclusion of the Muslim-Christian dialogue, its participants released a statement expressing regret for the events of the crisis in the Palestinian territories. They called on the international community to work to help the Palestinian people. The clerics condemned the Israeli aggression on Lebanon and the mass destruction it has suffered, and urged clerics to use their influence to bring about reconciliation and peace.