Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar Ahmed al-Tayeb on Monday criticized what he called "European interference" in the internal affairs of Arab and Muslim countries on the pretext of protecting minority rights. At a meeting with Spanish Ambassador to Egypt Antonio Lopez, al-Tayeb accused the West of having "double standards" vis-a-vis Middle East issues. Spain formally assumed the rotating presidency of the European Union earlier this month.
Al-Tayeb went on to say Egypt was "well aware" of the problems it faced, stressing that Egypt was able solve its problems without the tutelage of other countries. He asserted that religious differences were not tantamount to sectarian conflict.
Arabs must be prepared to address regional issues, including longstanding cultural differences, without showing bias towards one party over the other, the grand sheikh said. He urged the Arabs to apply the same fair standards to all citizens in order to maintain cultural unity and so as not to provide the West with an opportunity to cast itself in the role of guardian of the region's minorities.
At Monday's meeting with the Spanish ambassador, al-Tayeb reportedly called on the EU and western governments to cooperate with Cairo in an effort to determine the real reasons for the tension and violence currently wracking the region, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention the over 60 years of horror suffered by the Palestinian people since the Israeli occupation of their land–issues which, he said, were chronically ignored by the EU.
Al-Tayeb also called on western nations to address the behavior of Israel's extreme right-wing government, which has continued to pursue a policy of genocide against the Palestinian population in contravention of international law and numerous United Nations resolutions.
For his part, Lopez expressed his country's appreciation of Al-Azhar's role in promoting religious and cultural dialogue. He stressed that the EU sought a resolution of the longstanding Middle East conflict and was striving to convert this desire into proactive steps aimed at achieving justice in the region and putting an end to outstanding problems in Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Lopez also praised Egypt's efforts in combating terrorism and achieving peace in the Middle East.
Translated from the Arabic Edition.