Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Row as ancient Arab university honours Charles

Row as ancient Arab university honours CharlesFrom Caroline Davies in Cairo(Filed: 21/03/2006)
The Prince of Wales flew to Egypt and into controversy yesterday as Cairo's ancient and celebrated Al-Azhar mosque and university, one of the Arab world's most venerated Islamic institutions, prepared to honour him for his promotion of inter-faith tolerance.
As the prince, accompanied by the Duchess of Cornwall was due to receive an honorary doctorate today, some directors of the 1,000-year-old university have questioned whether the award from such a famed seat of Sunni Islam is appropriate.
The honour is to mark the prince's conciliatory messages about Islam, especially after September 11 and the world-wide demonstrations caused by the cartoon depiction of the Prophet Mohammed in a Danish newspaper.
But, behind the scenes, some of those associated with the university believe despite his efforts they do not justify the bestowing on him of one of the highest tributes the Islamic world can offer.
"All that Prince Charles did is to say that Islam is the most widespread religion in the world and that's a reality, not a discovery made by the prince," said Abdel Azim al-Mataanni, an Al-Azhar lecturer in Arab literature.
However, Abdel Sabur Shahin, another university director, said the prince had adopted "positions close to Islam and Muslims, something no one else of his importance has done".
The honorary doctorate was supposed to "encourage him to befriend Muslims in Great Britain and to support Islam against the obstacles it faces in Europe", he added.
Al-Azhar, the world's oldest university for both religious and secular studies, attracts more than 40,000 students of Islam annually from around the world. It has long promoted inter-faith dialogue, even with crusaders during the Crusades.
The prince's visit to the mosque is one of the highlights of his five-day visit to Egypt, which began yesterday at Cairo's Al-Azhar Park, which has been transformed from a rubbish dump into gardens by the Aga Khan, the leader of the world's Ismaili Muslims.
In an interview with Egyptian television, the prince said he would use his speech at Al-Azhar University to relay his personal experience of terrorism.
"I know so well from having experienced the horror of terrorism myself, in losing my beloved great-uncle, Lord Mountbatten, back in 1979 when he was blown up in a terrorist bomb," he told Nile TV.
He added: "It is tolerance, it is understanding of what other people hold sacred, which I think is so vital - the old wisdom that is contained within the scriptures of 'do unto others as you would have them do to you'."
Security is extremely tight as the Foreign Office general advice warns of a high risk of terrorism in Egypt and in Saudi Arabia which the Royal couple will also visit.

From: News.Telgraph

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Christians, Jews, Muslims must seek dialogue: Pope

Christians, Jews, Muslims must seek dialogue: Pope
Staff and agencies
17 March, 2006

Thu Mar 16, 11:00 AM ET

VATICAN CITY - Christians, Jews and Muslims must work together to promote peace and teach respect for religions and their symbols, Pope Benedict said on Thursday.

In reference to a wave of violence over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad, but also to attacks in recent months on churches, mosques and synagogues in several countries, the Pope said religious leaders had a responsibility to "work for reconciliation through genuine dialogue."

"Judaism, Christianity and Islam believe in the one God ... It follows, therefore, that all three monotheistic religions are called to cooperate with one another for the common good of humanity, serving the case of justice and peace in the world," he told a visiting delegation of the American Jewish Committee.

"This is especially important today when particular attention must be given to teaching respect for God, for religions and their symbols, and for holy sites and places of worship," he said.

The Pope has condemned the cartoons, whose publication first in a Danish newspaper and later in other European papers sparked worldwide protests by Muslims who believe it is blasphemous to depict the Prophet.

But he also said violent protests against the perceived offence were wrong.

In the wake of the unrest, Roman Catholic and Jewish leaders agreed earlier this month to widen their two-way dialogue to involve Muslims.

David Rosen, director for inter-religious affairs at the American Jewish Committee and a member of the delegation that met the Pope, said reaching out to Islam was "the challenge of our time.

"We believe it‘s very difficult not only because it‘s hard to find moderate voices (in the Muslim world) but also because those voices, if they come forward, could be endangered by extremists," he said.