Grand Imam Faces Backlash for Wishing Christians a Merry Christmas

Grand Imam Faces Backlash for Wishing Christians a Merry Christmas

Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed El-Tayeb | Photo Credit: El-Nahar Araby

Grand Imam of al-Azhar, Ahmed al-Tayeb, has experienced backlash for wishing Christians across the world a merry Christmas on 25 December.

His original tweet read: “I congratulate my dear brothers and friends Pope Francis, Pope Tawadros II, the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Justin Welby, Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople along with other church leaders and all Christian brothers in the East and West for the occasion of Christmas.”

Al-Tayeb followed up with a second tweet, “pray[ing] to Allah that the voice of brotherhood and peace will be louder, and that safety and stability will prevail everywhere.”

Responses to al-Tayeb have been polarised between supportive and inflamed, with many either saluting the Imam for his tolerance or disparaging him for allegedly straying from his beliefs.

The backlash has prompted Dar Al-Ifta, Egypt’s leading Islamic authority, to release a statement on 26 December saying that there is no “objection to congratulating non-Muslims on their holidays and occasions.” Furthermore, the statement insisted that this is not a deviation from religion “as some extremists claim.”

“Congratulating non-Muslim partners of the homeland and holidays is good neighbourliness, and the greeting is returned with kindness and good coexistence,” the statement concluded.

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With a heart for radio and an appetite for culture, Mona is a writer and illustrator based in Cairo. At the Erasmus University Rotterdam, she obtained a BSc and MA in Media, Culture, and Society, while actively writing for the faculty magazine. After graduating, Mona was an academic advisor at the American University in Cairo, as well as Managing Director of a small, campus-based advertising firm. Gears shifting, her knack for cultural research took over - enter: Egyptian Streets. Mona’s focus is tapered to issues of identity politics, culture, and social architecture.

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