The Cairo-based Al-Azhar, the leading center of religious learning and supreme source of religious authority in the Sunni Muslim world, has issued a statement congratulating Hamas and the other Gazan factions on their October 7, 2023 attack, in which hundreds of armed militants raided Israeli territory, murdered over 600 people, kidnapped over 100, and wounded over 2,000.
Among other things, the statement, which was devoid of any condemnation of the large-scale surprise attack, declared that Al-Azhar "salutes with utmost pride the resistance efforts of the proud Palestinian people," "supports the hearts and hands of the proud Palestinian people who have imbued us with spirit and faith and restored us to life," and asserted that “every occupation disappears sooner or later.”
It should be noted that the head of this institution, Al-Azhar Sheikh Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, is known for his extremist positions and support of terror and terror organizations, and has refused to promote a moderate religious discourse as part of the fight against extremism. In the past he stated, for example, that martyrdom attacks by Palestinians against Israeli targets are legitimate acts of self-defense, for, as long as Israel, the "barbaric enemy," continues to attack the Palestinians with Western and American backing, the Palestinians are entitled "to blow up whatever they want." He also said that there was no proof that Osama bin Laden was responsible for the September 11, 2001 attacks and hinted that Israelis may have been behind them. On another occasion he claimed that fundamentalist terrorist groups are the product of imperialism in the service of global Zionism."
Moreover, Al-Azhar under Al-Tayyeb refused to accuse Muslim terrorists of heresy – which would have deprived them of religious justification for their violent actions – thus undermining the efforts of Egyptian President 'Abd Al-Fattah Al-Sisi to promote moderate religious discourse.
The following is a translation of Al-Azhar's statement:
"The honorable Al-Azhar salutes with utmost pride the resistance efforts of the proud Palestinian people.
"Al-Azhar conveys its heartfelt condolences for our martyrs, the martyrs of the Islamic and Arab nation, the martyrs of proud Palestine, who attained martyrdom for the sake of defending their homeland, their nation and their cause, [which is also] our cause and the cause of all honorable people in the world: the Palestinian cause. Al-Azhar prays to Allah to grant the Palestinian people steadfastness in the face of the Zionist tyranny and terror.
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"Al-Azhar salutes with utmost pride the resistance efforts of the proud Palestinian people, and demands that the civilized world and the international community examine in a spirit of rationality and wisdom the Zionist occupation of Palestine, which is the most prolonged occupation in modern history. This occupation is a stain on the forehead of humanity and the international community, which practices discrimination and knows only a double standard when it comes to the Palestinian issue.
"Al-Azhar supports the hearts and hands of the proud Palestinian people who have imbued us with spirit and faith and restored us to life, after we thought that would never happen, and prays that Allah grant them steadfastness, peace of mind and strength. It stresses that every occupation disappears sooner or later, whether this takes a long time or a short time."
 He added that the Muslims initially condemned the attacks but later their feelings changed, and that the U.S. was using the attacks to target them.
 Despite his frequent participation in interfaith dialogue and the fact that in 2019 he signed the Document on Human Fraternity along with Pope Francis, Al-Tayyeb also spoke against such dialogue in the past, called Christians "infidels," and stated that a non-Muslim cannot head a Muslim country because this contravenes the religion, common sense, and democracy. He has also declared that unrepentant apostates should be killed.
On Al-Tayyeb's positions see MEMRI Reports:
Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1505, Dispute At Al-Azhar's 'International Conference On The Renewal Of Islamic Thought' Reflects Institution's Long-Standing Rejection Of Religious Reforms In Egypt, March 20, 2020;
Special Dispatch No. 7598, Egypt's Al-Azhar Sheikh Al-Tayyeb, In Official U.K. Visit, Meets With Queen, Archbishop Of Canterbury, Discusses Interfaith Coexistence: Al-Tayyeb's Antisemitic, Anti-Christian, Anti-Shi'ite, Anti-Gay Statements From The MEMRI Archives, July 31, 2018;
Special Dispatch No. 7376 - Egyptian Religious Establishment Continues To Refuse To Accuse Islamic Terrorist Organization Activists Of Heresy – March 9, 2018;
Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1326 - In Egypt, Clashes Between The Institution Of The Presidency And The Institution Of Al-Azhar – August 21, 2017;
Special Dispatch No. 5910 - Al-Azhar: The Islamic State (ISIS) Is A Terrorist Organization, But It Must Not Be Accused Of Heresy – December 21, 2014.
 Facebook.com/soutelazhar, October 7, 2023.