Thursday, April 15, 2010

My First Piece in e-Magazine Religion Dispatches: " New Egyptian Appointee Vows to Prevent Sunnis from Falling into ‘Shi‘i Trap’"

I'm excited to write today that my first piece for the e-magazine Religion Dispatches was published yesterday: "New Egyptian Appointee Vows to Prevent Sunnis from Falling into ‘Shi‘i Trap’." I would like to thank Associate Editor Hussein Rashid for inviting me to contribute to the magazine.

My piece is on comments made by Ahmad al-Tayyib, the newly-appointed head of Al-Azhar Seminary in Cairo, Egypt, once the preeminent institution of Sunni religious and juridical education, about Shi'i Muslims. In an interview with the Saudi-owned Arabic satellite TV station Al-Arabiya, al-Tayyib said that he would not allow Sunni Muslim students to "fall into the Shi'i trap." The Shaykh al-Azhar and other Sunni leaders have an irrational fear, I argue, of mass conversions of Sunni Muslims to Shi'i Islam. The evidence does not validate their fears. What they really fear is not so much Twelver Shi'ism in the theological sense per se, but an aggressive political Shi'ism represented by Iran. Al-Tayyib is a stalwart of the autocratic Egyptian regime of the ailing president, Hosni Mubarak.

New Egyptian Appointee Vows to Prevent Sunnis from Falling into ‘Shi‘i Trap’

The ailing Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s longtime autocratic president, has named Ahmad al-Tayyib (al-Tayeb), 64, the new head (shaykh al-Azhar) of Al-Azhar Seminary and Mosque, the prestigious institution of Sunni religious education in Cairo.

Despite noting that many “Sunni and Shi‘i” jurists have reached a “consensus” that there should be no attempts at conversion by either side in countries where one sect dominates, al-Tayeb has come out of the gate vowing to prevent the “spread of the Shi‘i school of thought in any Islamic country” and to work to prevent “Sunni students” from falling into the “Shi‘i trap.”

Ironically, the Sunni al-Tayeb’s chair was built by the Isma‘ili Shi‘i Fatimid dynasty in the tenth century when they built their capital city, what is now Cairo, on the banks of the Nile River....

Read the rest at Religion Dispatches...

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