The Azhar’s decision to freeze religious dialogue with the Vatican has aroused controversy in Christian, legal, and intellectual circles in Egypt, according to al-Dustūr.
Last week the Sunnī Islamic institution made the decision to indefinitely suspend its bi-annual interfaith dialogue sessions with the Vatican after a dispute over Pope Benedict’s recent call for improved protection of Christians by the Egyptian government.
Some have described the step as natural, given the state of diplomatic relations between Cairo and the Vatican, while others say it represented an unjustified escalation.
The Vatican’s recent positions have not been positive, according to Coptic intellectual Rafīq Habīb, who claims that much of Rome’s recent behavior has proved to be provocative to Muslims in the region.
Kamāl Zākhir, a leading secular Coptic intellectual, tells al-Dustūr that there is simply a misunderstanding over the pope’s statements. Zākhir added that the Azhar’s actions are normal, predicting that bilateral relations would return to normal in the future.
However Husām Bahjat, Chairman of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, criticized the Azhar’s action, saying it was unjustified and likely linked to the presence of the Egyptian Foreign Ministry inside the institution of the Azhar.