Critics of Al-Azhar say it is too tied down to old ways and is failing to modernize its teachings – fueling extremism.
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It was a startling collision of religion and politics. Egypt's president proposed a new law that would prevent Muslim men from ending their marriages simply by saying "divorce" three times. The country's top institution of Islamic preachers, Al-Azhar, bluntly rejected the idea, saying Islam gives men that right and nothing can change that.In the months since, that confrontation escalated into a blistering feud over who speaks for Islam and how to bring reforms. Al-Azhar is revered in Egypt and is prestigious across the Muslim world. A 1,000-year-old university of scholar-preachers, it teaches new generations of Sunni preachers and produces research that for many spells out what being a Muslim entails. The more Al-Azhar is seen as a branch of the Egyptian state, the less legitimacy its voice on Islam has, supporters argue. Radical militant sheikhs already dismiss Al-Azhar as "preachers of the sultan" willing to skew "true Islam" to meet the ruler's wishes.Soon after taking office in 2014, Sisi called for the "modernizing of religious discourse," saying Muslims had to dramatically rethink how to address issues to stem Islamic militancy.
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