01/01/2023 Egypt (International Christian Concern) – Al-Azhar is a Sunni religious institute based in Egypt who has significant influence across the Middle East, particularly the Gulf. They are heavily involved in creating educational curriculums for youth which are based in a strict interpretation of Sunni Islam, and Al-Azhar has repeatedly been accused by multiple human rights watchdogs of encouraging extremism as well as several human rights violations. Given that Egypt is officially an Islamic state and Al-Azhar is the highest religious authority, their influence across both the government and society is substantial.
Per their custom, Al-Azhar again extended both Christmas and New Year’s greetings to the Christian community. However, a fatwa was also issued which stated that as long it does contradict Islamic beliefs, such greetings and acknowledgement are acceptable. For comparison, Easter is not recognized as compatible and thus is not treated in a similar way by Egyptian religious authorities. Al-Azhar also acknowledged that they received a significant amount of social pushback for issuing forth their Christmas greetings, as people in the wider community argued that Christmas was incompatible with Islam. But no authentic steps have been taken by Al-Azhar to show in their educational curriculums and other materials produced year round why such greetings are acceptable. Indeed many Egyptian Christians point to Al-Azhar as a key driver of persecution, as many within society are familiar with Al-Azhar’s day to day publications which contradict the expressions of harmony and religious coexistence which they claim to possess on Christmas day.
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