Egyptian President Hosni Moubarak has named Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayeb (pictured) as the new leader of the prestigious al-Azhar, one of the foremost institutions of Sunni Islam learning in the Muslim world.
REUTERS - Egypt’s president has appointed Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayeb as the head of al-Azhar, the nation’s most prestigious seat of Islamic learning, state television said on Friday, nine days after his predecessor died in Saudi Arabia.
The appointment was made by President Hosni Mubarak, who is in Germany following gall bladder surgery two weeks ago, and has handed presidential power to Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif.
However, Mubarak, 81, was shown on state television on Friday making phone calls in what may be the first signs of his resuming political activity after the operation.
El-Tayeb, 64, has headed al-Azhar university since 2003 and was state-appointed as Grand Mufti, Egypt’s highest religious legal authority, from 2002 till 2003.
He will now head the overall body, which has schools, universities and other educational institutions across Egypt, and sends scholars to teach in countries across the Muslim world. It receives most of its funding from the Egyptian state.
Al-Azhar is one of the most prominent seats of Sunni Islamic learning in the Muslim world. El-Tayeb received a PhD in religion and philosophy from al-Azhar university in 1977.
Some religious scholars say the government usually chooses a moderate sheikh to head al-Azhar. Given that this is a presidential appointment, no radical swerves in policy or teaching are expected.
Al-Azhar officials were not immediately available for comment.
The former head of al-Azhar Sheikh Mohamed Sayed Tantawi, who died of a heart attack on March 10, was viewed as having relatively liberal views on issues such as women’s rights but had been criticised by some for toeing the government’s line.
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