Political Factors in Al-Azhar’s Foreign Relations
In the process of modernization in the Middle East countries, Islam has a profound impact on the reform of the nations’ political systems. Egypt, as the most populous country in the Middle East, has been struggling to restore regional dominance. When all Egyptian regimes were actively involved in re...
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|In the process of modernization in the Middle East countries, Islam has a profound impact on the reform of the nations’ political systems. Egypt, as the most populous country in the Middle East, has been struggling to restore regional dominance. When all Egyptian regimes were actively involved in regional and international affairs, al-Azhar, as a long-established Islamic Sunni authority, has also been an influential voice on behalf of Egypt. Since the time of Muhammad Ali in the 19th century, Egyptian leaders have always viewed al-Azhar as a powerful tool for shaping and promoting the domestic and foreign policies of the government with which Egyptian leaders could gradually expand their control over the nation. It was not until the constitutional change in 2012 that al-Azhar was freed from state control and regained some degree of independence. However, as it has provided legitimacy for the government’s controversial policies for a long time, al-Azhar has come under increasing criticism and questioning. The "religious reform" proposed by President Sisi in 2015, attempting to change the right of religious discourse, has undoubtedly worsened al-Azhar. However, al-Azhar and Sisi are not completely opposites. The two sides have profound common interests in counterterrorism and social welfare. It is also with Sisi’s acquiescence and support that al-Azhar has frequently appeared on the international stage to export the Islamic values of peace and tolerance.
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