chapter  4
13 Pages

Inter-Faith Strife: The Al-Azhar Discourse on Israel

On 15 December 1997 Sheikh of al-Azhar, Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, received the Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Israel Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, in Cairo. At the very least this was a major symbolic breakthrough in the relationship between the Jewish state and the official Muslim world. It occurred within the general environment of 'dialoguing' that evolved in the international public arena as a counter-stance to Samuel Huntington's 'Clash of civilizations'. In the late 1990s it gained an extra boost following the unexpected move in 1997 by the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran Muhammad Sayyed Khatami, who, eschewing the traditional 'big Satan' rhetoric, called for the establishment of dialogue with 'other societies and nations'.1