Cairo University President’s stance on renewing religious discourse echoed in France: ambassador

French ambassador to Cairo Stephane Romatet has praised President of Cairo University Mohamed Othman al-Khosht’s stance on renewing religious discourse, saying his comments during a recent debate with Al-Azhar’s Grand Sheikh had been met with positive reactions in France.

Romatet described the discussion between Khosht and Al-Azhar Grand Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb during an Al-Azhar conference on renewing religious discourse last month as “worthy of respect,” and “between two of (Egypt’s) greatest thinkers.”

He also said Khosht’s response to Tayyeb’s comments have been echoed in France.

Romatet said he attended the opening session of Al-Azhar’s International Conference on the Renovation of Islamic Discourse following an invitation from Tayyeb.

During the debate, Khosht said he was working to substitute old ways of thinking with modern ones, stressing that the secret of moving from one era to another is changing the way people think about and interact with their world.

He stressed the need to see religion from the standpoint of modern humanities and social sciences, commenting during the debate that “The current religious discourse was created for an era other than ours and various (modern) challenges.”

Khosht also underlined the importance of reliance on the Quran and “what is true” of the Prophet’s Sunnah, which is defined as the body of social and legal customs of the Islamic community based on the life and deeds of Prophet Muhammad. The Sunnah, alongside the Quran and the Hadith, or recorded sayings of the Prophet, form the basis of Sharia, or Islamic law.

Tayyeb, on the other hand, said during the debate that the same heritage trivialized today had birthed an entire nation and achieved coexistence in that nation, asking: “How was the Islamic world going before the French campaign? It was following the laws of heritage.”

Khosht recently discussed with the French Ambassador the expansion of joint educational programs, which are currently limited to the faculties of law, and economics and political science.

The two officials also agreed on establishing a dual degree with the French Language Department at the Faculty of Arts in simultaneous translation in cooperation with a major French university.

The January conference, which was held amid calls by Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi for the renewal of religious discourse, part of broader efforts to fight extremism, aimed to revive discussions about Islam without sacrificing Islamic values, according to Egypt’s State Information Service.

In related news, Egypt’s High Administrative Court upheld in January Cairo University’s decision to ban its professors from wearing the niqab, a face veil worn by a minority of Muslim women, and thus ended a controversy that began five years ago in Egypt over whether or not banning the niqab in public spaces violates personal freedoms or constitutes religious discrimination.

France, where public displays of religiosity are often a point of controversy, banned the face veil in 2010, citing security concerns. The United Nations Human Rights Committee called the move a violation of Muslim women’s rights and warned that it threatened to confine marginalized minorities to their homes, according to a 2018 report from CNN.

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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