On October 30, 2022, the Al-Azhar Observatory for Combating Extremism held its second "Listening and Speaking" conference. According to the observatory's director-general, Reham Salamah, the conference dealt with ways to persuade young people to endorse the wasatiyya (middle-road) approach of Al-Azahar, and reject various extremist notions to which they are exposed. It focused on four major issues: the notion of freedom; dialogue and its impact on the struggle against extremism; homosexuality, and women's status.
The deputy sheikh of Al-Azhar, Dr. Muhammad Al-Dhawini, spoke extensively on the issue of homosexuality, likening it to terror, since both are forms of corruption that threaten society, he said. Calling to judge behaviors like homosexuality according to the laws of the shari'a, and not regard it as a matter of freedom or democracy, he urged the religious institutions to fight this "moral perversion" that causes young people to renounce the values and moral precepts of Islam."
The conference's closing statement, which listed a number of conclusions and recommendations, stated for example that homosexuality often stems from psychological problems and that young people must be shielded from content that "promotes" it.
It should be noted that Al-Azhar has addressed the issue of homosexuality in the past, calling it an "abomination" that the West tries to impose on other societies.
This reports reviews some of the statements made by Al-Dhawini at the conference and the recommendations of the conference in this context.
Al-Azhar Deputy Sheikh Al-Dhawini: Homosexuality Is A Moral Perversion, Must Be Fought Like Terror
Al-Azhar deputy sheikh Muhammad Al-Dhawini said at the conference: "Islam is a pure religion that illuminates the heart of the believer. It is divine law, replete with elements that improve one's condition in [this] world and the next. It is a moral code that perfumes the life of society…
"We must confront deviations from the straight path with correct jurisprudence and honest efforts. The role of the clerics is to rebuff false claims and ignorant interpretations of the Quran and the Sunna, fight deviations in ideology and conduct, and shape people's thinking so they can lead dignified lives.
"There is no such thing as acceptable and unacceptable deviations from the right path. A deviation is a deviation, whether it is called that or not. Pretty names do not change the reality of abominable acts, and one's perspective on things does not change their essence. A baseless and evil mistake does not become correct just because someone thinks it is so. Thus, there is no difference between terror and destruction [on the one hand] and homosexuality and abominations [on the other]. Both are unacceptable forms of corruption, both threaten the wellbeing of stable societies, and both hide behind pretty names and shiny slogans of freedom and democracy. In this context we must not be swayed by people's inclination to present things as fair or ugly, but rely only on the criteria of the shari'a… The aim of enlightened religious discourse is to stabilize society by clarifying Allah's laws and applying them to the situation of the people…
"The religious institutions and the clerics therefore have a great responsibility to understand people's reality, adapt to developments and comprehend the challenges. They must present an alternative discourse instead of the discourse of hatred, extremism, terror and moral perversion… The institutions must all fulfill their duty of establishing an enlightened discourse and cooperate in combating deviant thinking that impedes progress. They must use all the tools at their disposal to inculcate the values of tolerance, peace, citizenship and coexistence, so as to allow families to fulfill their function, dispel doubts, refute the deviant interpretations of the extremists and fight moral perversion.
"All of us – individuals and institutions, peoples and governments, nations and societies – must lend a hand and fight this gushing torrent that aims to cause our young people to lose their identity and renounce the values, principles and morals of their religion. The targeting of young people is one of the most dangerous social perils, and we must harness all our abilities to fight it and eliminate all its negative repercussions. We must all listen to the young people before we speak to them. They have questions and we must answer them, guide them, advise them and show them the right path."
Al-Azhar Deputy Sheikh Muhammad Al-Dhawini at the conference (Facebook.com/soutelazhar, October 20, 2022)
The Conference's Closing Statement: We Must Protect Young People From Content Promoting Homosexuality
Following the conference, the Al-Azhar Observatory for Combating Extremism issued a closing statement with a number of conclusions and recommendations. The statement stresses that dialogue is a human necessity and so is fighting extremism, and that freedom is a means rather than an end. Both in the East and in the West, it explains, freedom is not absolute but exists within certain limits imposed by religion, custom and the law.
On the issue of homosexuality, the statement says that "modern science has proved that homosexuality often stems from psychological, social or physiological problems." It calls to "use the correct terms in order to prevent confusion that leads to misunderstanding and to the problematic behaviors typical of our age. For example, when we refer to attacks and crimes as 'Islamic jihad', or call homosexuality 'mithliyya,' it undermines [the ability] to address many problems and creates confusion in young people's minds."
Another recommendation is "to prevent teens and children from being exposed to content that promotes homosexuality and destructive extremist ideas, and also to create attractive drama series that promote [religious] values and denounce all forms of extremism, violence and homosexuality." 
 Facebook.com/soutelazhar, October 30, 2022.
 See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1621 - Religious Authorities Across The Muslim World: Homosexuality Is A Dangerous Abomination That The West Is Trying To Impose On Us – February 2, 2022.
 Al-Dhawini uses the word shudhoudh, whose literal meaning is "perversion."
 Facebook.com/soutelazhar, October 20, 2022.
 Mithliyya is the neutral Arabic term for homosexuality.
 Albawabhnews.com, October 30, 2022.