Source: Carnegie Endowment
Author(s): Nathan J. Brown, Mariam Ghanem
Original Link: http://carnegie-mec.org/diwan/70103
Over the past month, debate in Egypt has centered around a legislative initiative designed to reorganize the way the country’s religious establishment is governed.
At first glance, the initiative appeared designed to place the top leadership of Al-Azhar, the sprawling research and educational state institution that looms over the religious field in Egypt, under greater presidential oversight, much as was done with top judicial positions last month. However, the effort was actually more audacious, designed not just to change things at Al-Azhar’s senior levels, but to reach deep into its functioning.
Its audacity was its own undoing, at least for now. Al-Azhar succeeded in rallying its supporters, wrapping itself in a mixture of religious authority and Egyptian pride, and portraying itself as an institution under unjustified assault. It was an increasingly rare example of an Egyptian political actor mobilizing a constituency on its own behalf. Yet there are signs that the effort to restructure Al-Azhar, though tabled, had real effects. Egypt’s religious leadership has been treading more carefully and the political leadership has been more successful in exploiting some divisions in the religious sector…
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