Uptade Egypt, Germany foreign ministers discuss Gaza crisis

CAIRO: The grand imam of Al-Azhar Al-Sharif has commended the head of the United Nations for his support for the Palestinian cause and promoting justice and human rights in Gaza.

Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb, who is also chair of the Muslim Council of Elders, received UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Sunday.

Philippe Lazzarini, the commissioner-general of UNRWA — the UN agency that supports Palestine refugees — and Elena Panova, the UN’s resident coordinator in Egypt, were also present at the meeting.

Al-Azhar Al-Sharif, which has its headquarters in Cairo, is Sunni Islam’s oldest and foremost seat of learning.

The sheikh praised Guterres for issuing a warning to the world about the dangers of Israel’s aggression in Gaza and for the work of UNRWA in providing aid to Palestinians forced to flee their homes.

“We have closely followed your brave actions and fair statements in various international gatherings, as well as the pressures and difficult situations you have encountered while advocating for justice and the Palestinian cause,” he said.

“I want to assure you that we at Al-Azhar Al-Sharif, including scholars, professors, students and affiliates, support your stances and will not waver in our support. We understand that you feel the pain and sorrow that we feel and our only recourse is to rely on God Almighty.

“Through your actions and those of leaders and wise individuals like you, you serve as a beacon of hope for protecting the weak and oppressed in Gaza.”

Al-Tayeb said the world was heading in the wrong direction without humanitarian principles or moral guidelines, and if the current situation persisted, “we will witness an unprecedented spread of crime, hatred, destruction, wars and violence.”

“This contagion will extend from conflict zones to all countries worldwide, reaching even the West and the US,” he said.

“Therefore, all of us must unite and stand in solidarity to halt the torrents of innocent blood being shed every hour.”

Recent events in Gaza threatened to undermine efforts of communication and rapprochement between East and West that had been initiated years ago, the sheikh said.

He also expressed his frustration and disappointment at the response of the international community to the aggression in Gaza, and particularly the UN Security Council.

In contrast, many ordinary people in the US and other Western societies, including members of the Jewish community, had called for an end to the fighting in Gaza, he said.

Guterres said: “I would like to convey our appreciation to Al-Azhar Al-Sharif as a strong voice defending and supporting the Palestinian people. We are determined to exert pressure on the international community to respect the rights of Palestinians and alleviate their suffering.”

In places like Sudan, Gaza, Ukraine and some parts of Africa, the world was witnessing unprecedented levels of hatred and violence, he said, while Islamophobia had become one of the most widespread forms of discrimination.

“I do not recall a more dangerous period than what we are experiencing now,” he said, as he promised to continue to strive for justice in Gaza.

The grand imam presented Guterres with a shield from the Muslim Council of Elders as a token of appreciation from Al-Azhar for his courageous stance on the conflict in Gaza and efforts to combat Islamophobia.


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