CAIRO: Al-Azhar has announced a competition for expat students to submit research papers on the “spreading Shiism in Sunni communities,” according to a Thursday statement.
The studies should include reasons behind spreading Shiism in a Sunni society, the subsequent “dangers,” and means to address such spreading, Al-Azhar stated.
The papers should derive their ideas from books that discuss Shiite ideology, books authored by Shiite scholars and books by Sunni personalities specialized in refuting Shiism. It is also required to write a paper on Al-Azhar’s efforts to counter the “Shiite tide.”
Applicants are also required to present an artistic work on the subject; plays, poems, short stories and speeches are accepted.
Egypt does not include the Islamic sect in the statistics of the population; hence there no official records on Egyptian Shiites. Of 90 million people in Egypt, the most populous Arab state, Shiites are claimed to be estimated between 800,000 and 2 million.
Al-Azhar has largely been tolerant towards Shiism, but with allegations that Iran works on a “Shiite tide” in Egypt to benefit from its large population and core importance in the region, the top religious institution has shown reservations on public Shiite rituals.
International students studying at Al-Azhar in 2014/2015 numbered 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.