Daily liberal and pan-Arab Elaph correspondent Jawad el Sayegh interviewed Dr Walid Phares regarding the latter’s visit to Egypt this week and his meeting with spiritual leaders in the country. Elaph wrote, “the Trump foreign policy advisor, Dr Walid Phares, arrived in Egypt during the Adha feast and held meetings with Minister of Religious Affairs and other spiritual leaders.” It quoted Phares stating “this was a private visit as part of a long range work with top Muslim clerics around the world. I have met with Sheikh of al Azhar before.” After his return to Washington, Elaph met with Phares. Here is the link.
Elaph: Given your position as an advisor to Mr. Trump, what did Shaykh Jumaa have to say about Mr. Trump? Does he understand Trump’s position relating to Muslims?
Phares: In fact the visit was private and part of a long range engagement with the top Islamic scholars in the world. Previously I had met with Sheikh el Azhar Mohamed al Tayyib in Cairo. This visit to Minister Sheikh Jumaa was a follow-up and an update to the previous one. I briefed the minister about the debate regarding Islamic political issues in the United States and he briefed me about the various reforms steps being taken in Egypt and other countries regarding spreading moderate views.”
Elaph: Have you discussed US elections?
Obviously, US elections were discussed but only with regards the statements made by Mr Trump back in December 2015 and the most recent series of statements made during foreign policy speeches this summer which explained clearly that candidate Trump wants to work with the moderates against the extremists, which is what Egypt is doing right now. Minister Jumaa didn’t take any position regarding US elections as these are domestic American affairs. We agreed to continue the dialogue.
Elaph: Does Shaykh Jumaa believe that Al Azhar is able to and has a role in standing up against radicalism? Do you believe that Al Azhar is capable of this?
In fact, Shaykh Jumaa is determined to engage in a campaign to promote moderation and counter extremism. He has published important work and is partnering with the Government and schools to reform the curriculum to remove what can brainwash the students’ minds and help raise younger generations of Egyptians and Muslims, aiming at stability, peace and good relations with all. Sheikh Jumaa and the Azhar institutions are engaged in internal and national dialogues to ensure the right reforms to achieve these goals. He seemed to be confident that this path is possible. We both agreed to exchange ideas and information about parallel paths in Egypt and the US. I invited him to address US audiences in the near future so that American Muslim and Americans at large get to know what the top scholarly positions on the world are thinking regarding these challenging issues. I met with other spiritual leaders as well.