Sunni academics who left Afghanistan hope Islam’s message of tolerance will survive the Taliban
CAIRO, September 22 (Reuters) – Clerics at the former Egyptian headquarters of Sunni study Al-Azhar, who have spent years teaching in Afghanistan and planning to open an education center for girls, hope that their tolerant message of Islam will survive the return of the Taliban.
The 1,000-year-old institution opened a mission in Kabul in 2007, promoting what its clerics describe as the peaceful tradition of Islam in a country where guerrillas have used religion as a justification for fighting for decades.
The 23-person mission was repatriated to Egypt after being briefly stranded in Kabul when the Taliban invaded the Afghan capital last month.
“There must be a presence for Al-Azhar in the country of Afghanistan, so that we can communicate with the Afghan people and youth, to spread the message of tolerance of Islam,” said Shawki Abuzeid, the chief. of the 58-year-old mission. in an interview in Cairo.
Al-Azhar has hosted 700 Afghan male students in Kabul, and over the years thousands of them have pursued studies in religion and Arabic at Al-Azhar University in Cairo. The mission also gave lectures and sermons, and contributed commentary to the Afghan media.
He was preparing to open a new education center for girls. Abuzeid expressed hope that the Taliban will keep their promise to let girls and women study.
“The Taliban come from the fabric of the Afghan people, and as I have heard from the media and from our contacts with professors and university directors and some important people, the thinking has changed and they appreciate women, and they said they will educate them but in a way compatible with Islamic law.
Any return from the mission would depend on the approval of the Egyptian leadership. But the scholarship taught by Al-Azhar “does not change with the change of system or ruler,” said Mohamed Wardany, spokesman for the Al-Azhar Islamic Research Academy.
“Al-Azhar’s legacy is a legacy that is passed down from generation to generation, it is not just transitory information but a way of thinking,” he said.
“If there is stability and the Taliban withdraw from their ideas and the state returns to stability by popular will, then Al-Azhar is not opposed to the return of his mission.”
Reporting by Mahmoud Mourad Writing by Nadeen Ebrahim Editing by Aidan Lewis and Peter Graff
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