A crisis in relations between Turkey and Egypt, driven in large measure by Turkish anger over the army deposing Egypt’s former president Mohammed Morsi, my be impacting not just Ankara’s regional position but it’s economic status.
This week Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan scolded the head of Cairo’s Al-Azhar religious seminary for assenting to the Egyptian military’s moves to strip the country’s former Islamist regime of power. Erdogan said he was “disappointed” that Grand Imam Ahmed al-Tayeb had sided with Egypt’s military over the Muslim Brotherhood-linked government.
Al-Tayeb, the Turkish premier declared, was “finished.” He went further, insisting that “history will curse Al-Azhar Imam as it cursed religious intellectuals in Turkey before,” an apparent reference to Turkish religious figures who collaborated with the country’s former military rulers.
In response, a spokesman for Egypt’s military-linked presidency denounced Erdogan as a man of “no religious culture.” For its part Al-Azhar responded with a condemnation, asserting that al-Tayeb was “t considered a symbol of Egyptians alone, but also occupies a lofty status in the Arab and Islamic worlds.” The university called for a formal retraction.
The General Union for the Egyptian Chamber of Commerce responded to the comments by announcing that it was suspending relations with Turkey. The Turkish-Egyptian Businessmen’s Association subsequently voiced concerns over how bilateral tensions were impacting the Turkish economy.
Even Egypt’s Christian leaders jumped to the Muslim leader’s defense. The ecumenical Egyptian council of churches noted that the imam is “of high stature, honest patriotism and honorable history.” The country’s Catholic Church added that Al-Azhar is a “beacon of moderate Islam throughout the whole world and a symbol for Egyptians, both Muslims and Christians.” The state-run Al-Ahram newspaper reported that Coptic Pope Tawadros II even telephoned al-Tayeb to condemn the incident.
[Photo: Kimse / Wiki Commons]