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Cablegate: Grand Shaykh of Al Azhar On Extremism and Iraq

VZCZCXRO9933
RR RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHKUK RUEHROV
DE RUEHEG #2733 2491443
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 061443Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6806
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS CAIRO 002733

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL KISL PTER IZ EG
SUBJECT: GRAND SHAYKH OF AL AZHAR ON EXTREMISM AND IRAQ

Sensitive but unclassified. Not for internet distribution.

1. (SBU) In a September 5 meeting, the Shaykh of Al Azhar,
Mohamed Sayed Tantawi, stressed to the Ambassador his focus
on the need for tolerance, cooperation, and understanding
between religions. Asserting that "all humans are brothers,"
the Shaykh decried violence in the name of religion, and
highlighted that as soon as he learned of the attacks in the
U.S. on September 11, 2001, he issued a statement from Al
Azhar on the same day, condemning the perpetrators as
"criminals, who have perverted religion and humanity."
Queried repeatedly by the Ambassador as to the compatibility
between the principles of Islam and democracy, Tantawi did
not directly respond, noting instead that religion leads
people to see the "negativity of oppression." The Shaykh was
appreciative of Embassy coordination regarding the travel of
Egyptian imams to the U.S. during Ramadan. The Ambassador
discussed President Bush's June 27 speech at the Islamic
Center of Washington, to which Tantawi replied that he has
great personal respect for President Bush, "although not his
policies," terming the President a "religious man."

2. (SBU) Tantawi said that he has issued statements calling
on Iraqis to unite "at least 13 or 14 times." Opining that
"the problem in Iraq is not just one of Sunni versus Shi'a,
but of deep hatreds, resentments and greediness," the Shaykh
said that, "you and I can only encourage the Iraqis towards
reconciliation, but they must do the uniting themselves ... I
always tell them, whenever there is an Iraqi delegation to Al
Azhar, you are children of the same country, you must come
together and stop this killing." Calling developments in
Iraq "a black night," Tantawi said that "we can only hope
that things will get better day by day, God willing."

3. (SBU) The Shaykh, after being introduced to our new
Library of Congress (LOC) representative, Dr. Fawzi Tadros,
mentioned that he had previously visited the LOC while
serving as Mufti of the Republic ("it is the greatest library
in the world"), and that he hopes to visit the U.S. and the
LOC again soon, and submit his personal writings to the LOC.


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