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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Sheikh Muhammad Tantawi of al-Azhar dies of heart attack

Sheikh Muhammad Tantawi, who had been the Sheikh of Cairo's al-Azhar University since 1995, died of a heart attack on Wednesday while on a visit to Saudi Arabia. He was 81 years old. There's a fairly balanced obituary for Tantawi here.
Perhaps most public was his battle with al-Qaradawy, Islamists, nationalists, and many on the left over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In 1996, Tantawi became the first major Sunni figure to oppose suicide bombings in reaction to a particularly bloody attack on Israeli civilians that year. But within weeks, he backtracked in the face of a press campaign against him and called the bomber a "martyr." He battled the Mufti at the time, Sheikh Nasr Farid Wassel, over whether suicide bombings were acceptable. His meetings with Israeli figures, such as Israel's head rabbi [Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau in 1997. CiJ] or Shimon Peres, made many indignant, particularly after the Oslo process collapsed. It made it worse that he constantly waffled on the issue, pretending not to have recognized Peres. In the context of the war in Gaza and Egypt's shift of policy towards the Palestinians, as well as Peres' bloody past, this was seen as outrageous. The irony is that there has long been a rumor that Tantawi's doctoral thesis, titled "The Children of Israel in the Quran and Sunna", is believed to have been removed from al-Azhar's library because of its un-PC views of Jews.
I had the impression, for which this post provides some support, that Tantawi wanted to tone down - if not reconcile - the disputes between Sunni Muslims and Jews. Unfortunately, the askanim (a concept with which many Orthodox Jews - certainly in Israel - are familiar) would not let him do so.


At 11:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's with the ridiculous apologetics, Carl?

Here's what Tantawi YS"V wrote in the 70's, in a treatise titled "Jews in the Qur’an and the Traditions" - no "askanim" required:

"[The] Qur’an describes the Jews with their own particular degenerate characteristics, i.e. killing the prophets of Allah, corrupting His words by putting them in the wrong places, consuming the people’s wealth frivolously, refusal to distance themselves from the evil they do, and other ugly characteristics caused by their deep-rooted lasciviousness … only a minority of the Jews keep their word. … [A]ll Jews are not the same. The good ones become Muslims, the bad ones do not."


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