Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Obama out on a limb in Cairo

WASHINGTON – As political tightropes go, President Barack Obama is about to walk a precarious line tomorrow in a high-stakes speech aimed at closing the chasm with Islam.
But as the young American leader approaches the dais in Cairo for what many hope will be a milestone of cultural outreach, Obama can take solace in signals from prominent Muslim leaders determined to meet him in the moderate middle.

Officials with Cairo's ancient Al-Azhar University, widely regarded as one of the world's great fonts of Muslim thought, this week announced the launch of a new satellite channel to reclaim what they regard as the authoritative Islam – a pluralistic, tolerant religion committed to a peaceful planet.
The Al-Azhari channel is to go to air in mid-August for the start of the holy month of Ramadan with a 24-hour-a-day blend of education and entertainment that aspires to meet the bridge-building challenge "for the Obama era," says the project's main benefactor.

"We've been talking about it for a few years. But with Obama taking the initiative and going so far to calm tensions, this is the moment to reciprocate," said Hassan Tatanaki, a Libyan oil executive and philanthropist who seeded the station with an initial infusion of $2.9 million.

Getting senior scholars at Al-Azhar on board, Tatanaki said, was the crucial step in bringing the idea to reality. While Islam has no formal hierarchy with which to render religious ruling – Al-Azhar, founded in 975 – stands as the foremost centre of Sunni Muslim learning. read more

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