Al Azhar mosque - Reuters
CAIRO – 3 January 2018: The year 2017 was unfortunately filled with horrendous terrorist attacks, from attacks on churches to the catastrophe at North Sinai’s Rawda Mosque – Egypt’s deadliest terror attack in modern history. However, the year also witnessed various organizations, including Al-Azhar and the World Association for Al-Azhar Graduates (WAAG) under the leadership of Al-Ahzhar Grand Imam Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, promote the true image of Islam and fight back against the extremist thought that fuels such abhorrent acts.
In a recent publication, WAAG outlined some of the initiatives taken over the past year to refute the extremist ideology and “establish peace, cultural dialogue and the jurisprudence of citizenship; protect youth; and reinforce the scientific methodology of Al-Azhar that has been passed from generation to generation.”
WAAG’s 13 branches spread throughout Egypt’s governorates have focused their energies on promoting Islam’s tolerant teachings, along with cutting off the ability of extremists to manipulate the religion and brainwash citizens. WAAG encouraged citizens, especially the youth, to stand by the state and the country’s armed forces in patriotism against extremism.
WAAG also stated in the publication that it was working to “demonstrate the role of women in creating peace and educating the youth about the values of religion, humanity and civilization.”
While two conferences were held in 2017 regarding the situations in Burma and Jerusalem, WAAG also held two courses for youth, titled “Faith Leaders” and “The Science of Fiqh (Jurisprudence)”, which are scheduled to be spread throughout the country.
Other courses, including one titled “Moderation is the methodology of life”, were also held in the country’s border areas, including in North Sinai, to “expose the misleading thoughts of extremists and clarify the importance of national security”; 10,000 youth were reported to have attended.
WAAG stated that it utilizes Al-Azhar’s scientific methodology to prove that extremism contradicts “Islamic Sharia (law) and all heavenly religions.” The organization also spread Islam’s teachings of human development through its “Ar-Ruwaq” publication to counter extremist thought. The publication is issued in six different languages, and dozens of students are trained in journalism at the Ruwaq Center for Journalism Training.
Meanwhile, WAAG’s 15 international branches – in Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Palestine, Libya, Sudan, Britain and elsewhere – “concentrated on exposing the dangers of takfiri thought and the necessity of uniting the efforts of the global community to comprehensively face terrorism,” which “has no religion and no homeland.”
WAAG confirmed its support for the unity of Libya, having held several events and courses to promote unity and refute extremism, as well as having sent videos to Libyans to warn of misleading preachers.
While WAAG worked to counter to extremist preachers, it embraced international preachers who call to the true religion of Islam. Various courses and conferences were held for senior scholars “to correct misleading concepts”, as well as clarify the proper tools for issuing “fatwas” (religious edicts) and interpreting the Quran and Sunnah, and to “revive coexistence and peace.”
The organization also continued its efforts to offer complete support for international students at Al-Azhar University, with thousands of students from more than 35 countries being trained in Arabic and the Islamic sciences.
Technology was also utilized, with social media and online distance learning programs reaching all over the world to spread the teachings of Islam and counter extremism. Additionally, the organization worked towards helping Al-Azhar graduates obtain jobs in various fields, including engineering and medicine.
Fatwas by senior Al-Azhar scholars have also been broadcasted online to refute misleading opinions and “protect youth from the extremist groups that commit crimes in the name of Islam,” while the organization’s website also continued to follow current issues and challenges related to Islam.
In an attempt to reach young children and protect them from extremist ideas, the children’s magazine Nour has completed a cartoon adventure series titled “Nour and the Gate of History” to educate children about Arab and Muslim scholars who affected human civilization. The series is expected to air next Ramadan.