President appoints director of prestigious Muslim educational institution
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Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has appointed Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayeb (pictured) as the new head of the prestigious al-Azhar, one of the main institutions for learning Sunni Islam in the Muslim world.
REUTERS – Egyptian President appointed Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayeb as head of al-Azhar, the country’s most prestigious seat of Islamic education, state television said on Friday, nine days after the death of his predecessor in Saudi Arabia.
The appointment was made by President Hosni Mubarak, who is in Germany after gallbladder surgery two weeks ago, and has handed over presidential power to Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif.
However, Mubarak, 81, was shown on state television on Friday making phone calls, which could be the first signs of his resumption of political activity after the operation.
El-Tayeb, 64, has headed al-Azhar University since 2003 and was appointed by the state Grand Mufti, Egypt’s highest religious legal authority, from 2002 to 2003.
He will now lead the entire organization, which includes schools, universities and other educational institutions across Egypt, and send academics to teach in countries of the Muslim world. It receives most of its funding from the Egyptian state.
Al-Azhar is one of the most important sites of Sunni Islamic learning in the Muslim world. El-Tayeb received a doctorate in religion and philosophy from al-Azhar University in 1977.
Some religious scholars say the government usually chooses a moderate sheikh to lead al-Azhar. Given that this is a presidential nomination, no radical deviations from politics or education are expected.
Al-Azhar officials were not immediately available for comment.
Former al-Azhar leader Sheikh Mohamed Sayed Tantawi, who died of a heart attack on March 10, was considered to have relatively liberal views on issues such as women’s rights, but had been criticized by some for having followed the government line.