Being allied too closely to the former regime lost Al-Azhar credibility in the eyes of Muslims both here and throughout the world. In the absence of an authoritative voice to speak in the name of Islam, other voices rose up to speak on behalf of Muslims and these have left the world with a legacy of fanaticism and extremism that will take many years to overcome.
These voices, ignorant of Islam, have imagined a mood of hostility between Muslims and others that has never been a part of Islam’s message.
We are now living with the results of this. In recent months, the Christian Churches have been meeting to evaluate the situation they find themselves in. There is no doubt that as a result of many of the changes sweeping across the Arab world, many Christians have become fearful for their future, imagining that an upsurge in Islam will mean a rise in extremism and a threat to their safety. It is a sad fact that in recent months many thousands of them have packed their bags and left the Middle East altogether.
And yet, it is impossible to imagine a Middle East without a Christian presence. Who could imagine an Egypt without Christian and Muslim families living together, side by side, as they have done for centuries? Twenty years ago, no child going to school asked his classmate what religion he belonged to. Voices from outside, though, have managed to fuel mistrust and misunderstanding to such a level that sectarianism has indeed become a problem, both in Egypt and throughout the Middle East.