July 31, 2018 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
Egypt | Special Dispatch No. 7598

During his visit to the U.K. this month for the first Emerging Peacemakers Forum, Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, Sheikh of Egypt's Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam's most prestigious institution, met with Queen Elizabeth II as well as with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby at Windsor Castle, on July 12, 2018.[1] Al-Tayyeb reportedly stayed at the archbishop's Lambeth Palace, one of the forum's venues, during his U.K. visit.[2] Also attending the forum, which was organized by Al-Azhar and the Archbishop of Canterbury,[3] was Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London Anba Angaelos.[4] During his visit, Al-Tayyeb also met with U.K. Minister of State for the Middle East at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Minister of State at the Department for International Development the Rt Hon Alistair Burt MP.[5] On July 19, U.K. Ambassador to Egypt John Casson said of the meetings and the conference: "We must invest in interfaith dialogues and prepare young generations to become future leaders and spread compassion, deeper understanding, and partnership with people who are different. This forum is one of the many steps with which the U.K. and Egypt come together as partners to build bridges of confidence and respect to have inclusive, peaceful, and flourishing societies."[6]

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, Queen Elizabeth II, and Sheikh of Al-Azhar Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, at Windsor Castle, July 12, 2018 (Source:, July 12, 2018).

On March 19, 2010, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak appointed Sheikh Dr. Ahmad Muhammad Ahmad Al-Tayyeb as head of Al-Azhar. Sheikh Al-Tayyeb succeeded Sheikh Muhammad Sayyed Tantawi, who passed away on March 10, 2010. Prior to his appointment, Al-Tayyeb was president of Al-Azhar University beginning in 2003; before that, he was Egypt's grand mufti. In 2004, Sheikh Al-Tayyeb was criticized in the U.S. Congress by the Egyptian Counterterrorism and Political Reform Act. The bill included numerous examples of objectionable statements and actions by Egyptian officials, many of them translated and provided by MEMRI. One example cited in the bill is of Sheikh Al-Tayyeb's call for "martyrdom attacks" by Palestinians against Israel.[7]

In 2003, Sheikh Al-Tayyeb forbade Muslims from assisting U.S. military in operations against Muslim countries, and also called for "martyrdom" attacks against Israel, saying: "Martyrdom operations, in which the Palestinians blow up targets of the Israeli occupation, are actions that are 100 percent permitted according to Islamic religious law, and it is forbidden to facilitate [the American forces'] attack of a Muslim country... Any attempt to invade Iraq is forbidden by Islamic religious law and by morality, and Islam forbids it, and even commands its believers to resist attempts at invasion and occupation. Islam is against striking any Arab or Islamic city, whether it be Baghdad or in Palestine."[8]

The following are more statements by Sheikh of Al-Azhar Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, going back as far as 2002:

Al-Tayyeb On 9/11: "We Condemned" 9/11 – But "Since Then Our Feelings Have Changed"  

In an extensive interview in 2002 with the Egyptian Islamic website, Al-Tayyeb said that while after 9/11, "all the Muslims, and the Arab world, rejected and condemned the event... because Islam prohibits such attacks on peaceful civilians," Arab feelings on the matter "have changed somewhat, or considerably" since 9/11 was used by the American administration as a pretext "to cause damage, killing, and exile throughout the entire Islamic world." He added: "Today, we still read in the Western [newspapers] that the perpetrator [of the September 11 attacks] cannot be determined with certainty, yet it was claimed from the first moment that Osama bin Laden was responsible!" He went on to hint that Israelis were involved in the attacks, saying: "We saw on television a group of Israelis deported from America because they had filmed the event – that is, they knew it was going to happen... If it is not easy to determine who carried out the deed, how is it that the Afghan people was destroyed because of an accusation that is as yet unproven?... The U.S. used these events as a pretext and an excuse to destroy the Islamic world and to accuse Islam of being a religion of terror and extremism."[9]

On Wife-Beating In Islam: "It's Not Really Like Beating, It's More Like Punching... Like Shoving Or Poking Her"

In his 2002 Lailatalqadr interview, Al-Tayyeb stressed: "It must be remembered that Islam liberated the woman 14 centuries ago, giving her rights that Western women received only in the 19th century."[10] However, in a May 25, 2007 interview, he said with regard to wife-beating in Islam: "It appeared as part of a program to reform the wife... It's not that anybody can start beating as he sees fit. [Westerners] who claim this are talking about an Islam which is a figment of their imagination... This method appeared as a part of the treatment of a rebellious wife... By Allah, even if only one woman out of a million It's not really beating, it's more like punching... It's like shoving or poking her. That's what it is."[11] (View this clip on MEMRI TV here or below.)

He said, also in April 2010: "There is not a single Al-Azhar scholar who claims that it is permissible for women to lead men in prayer."[12] (View this clip on MEMRI TV here or below.)

Al-Tayyeb: Christians Are "Unbelievers"; Interfaith Talks Do Not Promote "The Need To Respect Islam's Symbols"

It was reported in December 2016 that Al-Tayyeb had called Christians "unbelievers because they do not believe in Muhammad or the Quran, and from this point of view they are considered unbelievers as far as I am concerned."[13]

In a July 2010 interview, he criticized the interfaith dialogue talks in Europe, claiming that they "did not significantly [benefit the] Muslims and did not lead to any actual change in the West's positions at the decision[-making] level" and did not promote "the need to respect Islam's symbols, just as we Muslims respect the emblems of the other religions."[14]

Al-Tayyeb Opposes Shi'ite Proselytizing

Al-Tayyeb said in an April 2010 television appearance that he is against "Shi'ite proselytizing in Sunni countries. I oppose this categorically. I am against proselytizing. I am against the formation of Shi'ite cells among the Sunni youth, in Egypt or elsewhere... I will never agree to a similar Shi'ite campaign in any Sunni country."[15] (View this clip on MEMRI TV here or below.)

Regarding whether a non-Muslim could ever be the ruler of a Muslim country, he said, also in April 2010: "For a non-Muslim to rule a country with a Muslim majority is illogical and unacceptable, in terms of religion, as well as democracy. Otherwise, you should let me make a Muslim the ruler of Britain. Would you accept such a thing?"[16] (View this clip on MEMRI TV here or below.)

Homosexuality "Is Forbidden... If [Foreign] Elements Wish To Impose [Acceptance Of] This On Us, Under The Banner Of Human Rights, We Are Opposed"

In the 2002 Lailatalqadr interview, he also said: "The problem arises when the West tries to impose its civilization on us... I'll give you an example. Several foreign elements maintain that sexual perversion [i.e. homosexuality] is justified. We think that it is forbidden. If these elements wish to impose this on us, under the banner of human rights, we are opposed."[17]

Under Al-Tayyeb, Al-Azhar Refuses To Declare ISIS, Other Islamic Terror Groups As Heretical

Under Al-Tayyeb's leadership, Al-Azhar has repeatedly refused to declare the Islamic State (ISIS) and other Islamic terrorist organizations as heretical.[18]

Cinema, Theater And Other Arts "Reduce Man's Honor"

He said in the same interview: "With regard to the arts, Islam has a single goal, and that is to serve the peace-seeking human nature. Anything that actualizes this is welcomed. The problem is that there are arts that reduce man's honor, and these Islam rejects. I refer to cinema, theater, and other arts..." [19]

Al-Tayyeb On Palestinian Terrorism: "It Is The Palestinians' Right To Blow Up Whatever They Want" 

In his 2002 interview with, Al-Tayyeb said: "What the Palestinians are doing is self-defense, defense of their religion and their homeland. They are responding to the killing and to a barbaric enemy... If Israel existed within its borders and was not occupying the West Bank, and the Palestinians were entering, destroying, and killing Israelis – I would tell you that this [killing Israeli civilians] was forbidden. But if Israel is the aggressor and the American government is behind it, and the West stands by observing, it is the Palestinians' right to blow up whatever they want."[20]

Also, in a January 2011 meeting with then-Hamas prime minister in Gaza Isma'il Haniya, the two agreed to hold an international conference on Jerusalem and the holy places under the aegis of Al-Azhar, and Al-Tayyeb said that he would be willing to visit Palestine and even become a martyr for its sake, if the Palestinian sides united. [21]

Al-Tayyeb Justifies Antisemitism On Basis Of Quran; "If Not For The Abuse Of The Region By Means Of The Zionist Entity, There Would Never Have Been Any Problem"

In an October 2013 television appearance, Al-Tayyeb cited the Quran to justify antisemitism and hostility toward Jews: "Since the inception of Islam 1,400 years ago, we have been suffering from Jewish and Zionist interference in Muslim affairs. This is a cause of great distress for the Muslims... The Quran said it, and history has proven it: 'You shall find the strongest among men in enmity to the believers to be the Jews and the polytheists.'"[22] (View this clip on MEMRI TV here or below).

In a January 26, 2018 Egyptian TV interview, Al-Tayyeb said that "a most devious and malicious plot was hatched to plunge this dagger [i.e. Israel] into the body of the Arab world." Sheikh Al-Tayyeb said that the Arabs have recently "had to swallow a dose of poison" as manifested by Arab and Muslim infighting, ultimately "[serving] the interests of the well-known [Zionist] entity." This entity would not settle for Al-Aqsa Mosque, but would "march on the Kaaba and on the Prophet's Mosque [in Medina]." He added: "If not for the abuse of the region by means of the Zionist entity, there would never have been any problem. The Middle East and the region would have progressed... I met with Tony Blair when he visited us here on December 5, a little over a month ago. I told him that if countries – I did not mention names – move their embassies to Jerusalem, this will open the gates of Hell upon the West before the East."[23] (View this clip on MEMRI TV here or below.)

Also, in December 2017, Al-Tayyeb cancelled a meeting with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence after U.S. President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.[24]


[1], July 13, 2018;, July 19, 2018;, July 12, 2018;, July 20, 2018.   

[2], July 14, 2018.

[3], July 19, 2018.

[4], July 18, 2018.

[5], July 19, 2018.

[6], July 19, 2018.

[24], December 8, 2017.

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