CAIRO: The Islamic Research Academy (IRA) decided to retain possession of the passports of international students during their study at Al-Azhar University to regulate their arrival and departure, according to a Thursday IRA statement.
IRA has launched on procedures to monitor the foreign students and their commitment to attendance, IRA secretary-general Mohyee Afify said in the statement.
The new policy aims to “deal strictly” with students who do not take their studies seriously or who seek job opportunities and ignore the study, Afify said, adding that their positions should be left to others who are willing to learn at Al-Azhar.
IRA will coordinate with different state bodies to execute the strategy to guarantee the earnestness of the students, who are expected by Al-Azhar to return home to spread the “true teaching of Islam.”
International students studying at Al-Azhar in 2014/2015 amounted to 39,694, according to a statement by IRA Oct. 12. A total of 21,348 of the figure are in the undergraduate and postgraduate levels, while the rest are still in school.
The majority of students come from Asia at 16,487, while 9,488 are from Arab countries, 6,252 are from the African Sub-Sahara, 3,754 from Europe, 2,883 from Russia and the Commonwealth and only 830 from the Americas and Australia.
The decision also comes after concerns were raised that Al-Azhar expat students may be vulnerable to recruitment by extremist groups because they can operate for such groups in Egypt and when they return to their home countries, and also due to their possible financial difficulties.
A small number of Al-Azhar international students were arrested for participating in the 2013 pro-Muslim Brotherhood Rabaa al-Adaweya sit-in and were deported out of Egypt.
Additional reporting by Loai Ali