Shaykh of al-Azhar: "The Western Understanding of Human Rights is Against That Which is Sacred to Us"

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Translated from the original Arabic by Al Mutarjim


The Shaykh of al-Azhar, the Grand Imam Dr. Ahmad al-Tayib, by many considered to be the foremost authority in Sunni Islam, issued a statement on October 17, 2011, condemning attempts to bring progressive notions of human rights and freedom to the Middle East. Dr. al-Tayib explained that "the Western understanding of human rights is against that which is sacred to us," and that "opening the door for human rights from a purely Western understanding would destroy our homes and clash with our beliefs."

Of course, if a critic were to say that Islam is incompatible with a modern understanding of human rights, they would quickly be branded as Islamophobes.

The Grand Imam Dr. Ahmad al-Tayib, the Shaykh of al-Azhar, stressed that opening the door for human rights from a purely Western understanding would destroy our homes and clash with our beliefs and with that which is sacred to us. He relates this to the maxim, "He built a palace and destroyed an Egypt," saying, "Not everything which is a right for the Western man is a right for the Arab or Muslim man."

He added during his reception of Dr. Butrous Butrous Ghali, president of the National Council for Human Rights, today at noon, that human rights should not clash with that which is sacred to us, because many of those who brag about defending human rights have taken them as part of a booming trade under the auspices of globalization. The Shaykh of al-Azhar called for the encouragement of all efforts to resist globalization, because it is crystal clear that America is currently suffering in every place and in every realm. This confirms that the culture of New York should not direct us in the East. We have a culture, values, and history which protect us from dissipating and melting away.

[...] (Goes on to talk about situation in Yemen)

The Grand Imam called for the protection of Arab and Islamic civilization, which is based on morals and religious values. He added that the civilization of the Ummah is led by faith and values, contrary to Western civilization, which is led by the interests of personal freedom. We need to breathe new life into the East, in every meaning of the word--in culture, economics, society, and so on. This will not happen except through hard, continuous, and independent work.