27. The religious education battle heats up between the Azhar and the Muslim Brotherhood

Article summary: 
Extremists’ campaigns are growing over a project to develop religious education and modify theological textbooks inside schools in a bid to render religious curricula more tolerant and accepting of the others, through the emphasis on common values.
Read More: 
Press review based on al-Dustūr (p. 1); Rose al-Yūsuf newspaper (p. 1); al-Wafd (p. 3); ‘Aqīdatī (p. 1); al-Misrī al-Yawm (p. 4); al-Yawm al-Sābi‘ (p. 2); al-Jumhūrīya (p. 13); al-Ahrām (p. 11); al-Ahrār (p. 1); Rose al-Yūsuf magazine (pp. 80-81)

A fresh battle has erupted between the Azhar and the Muslim Brotherhood group’s members of parliament as they objected to agreements between the Ministry of Education and the Ifta House to modify Islamic religion curricula in the early stages of education.

The argument coincided with another that Grand Sheikh of the Azhar Ahmed al-Tayīb had to face inside the Academy of Islamic Research, regarding the development of Azhar curricula every three years instead of five.
The cooperation between the Ministry and the religious establishment in Egypt renewed arguments over the motives behind the modification of the religious curricula and whether it was driven by foreign pressures, namely American.
Muftī of the Republic, Sheikh ‘Alī Jum‘ah denied that the religious institution has come under pressure. “Our scholars are very qualified to preserve Islamic principles,” he added.
Muslim Brotherhood deputy ‘Alī Laban submitted an urgent question at parliament to the prime minister and minister of education, adding that the latter’s request to the Muftī to modify the textbooks of Islamic education in schools is “legally invalid.”
“The request just represents a flagrant assault on the Azhar’s Academy of Islamic Research and the Azhar Law 103 that grants the Academy the right to give opinions on problems that have do with the faith,” Laban indicated.
In a column in the daily newspaper al-Ahrām on May 2nd, Hāzim ‘Abd al-Rahman wrote that there must be a stop to material within (Islamic) religious textbooks that attack the Christian or Jewish faiths. “We have to better select the Quranic verses and focus more on those that stress the values of coexistence, interdependence and cooperation,” he wrote.
In an article in al-Wafd, ‘Abd al-Wahab Sha‘bān said that sectarianism has snuck its way from society into schools, adding that the development of religious education would not be enough to defuse sectarianism.
Coptic thinker Rafīq Habīb said the movement emerged after several international organizations spoke openly about the importance of the religious discourse in Egypt renewal, along with the development of religious education.
“The religious education curricula in schools do not form the Muslim or Christian minds. Rather, they take their religious teachings from family, alongside the mosques and churches. This should implode the theory that religious syllabi are inciting violence and extremism,” said Habīb.
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