The Grand Imam of Egypt’s Al-Azhar University, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, has said that “Salafis are not Sunnis” during a conference in Chechnya.
During the conference in Grozny, Tayeb said that Salafis were not Sunnis when he was defining what is meant by “Sunnism.”
Al Azhar has traditionally been regarded as one of the most prestigious institutions in the Sunni Muslim world, but is now considered by many to be a pawn of the Egyptian government.
More than 100 clerics from various countries – including Russia, Syria, Turkey, India, Britain, Lebanon, Egypt, South Africa and Jordan – attended the Grozny conference to disassociate themselves and Sunnism from terrorist groups.
The attendees said groups like ISIS have no links to Sunnism altogether.
However, the remarks have caused a storm of anger among clerics in Saudi Arabia.
Some have said that the rhetoric used by the Egyptian cleric was designed to weaken Islam as practised in Saudi Arabia and establish a new dominant Sunni leadership under the auspices of Al-Azhar in Egypt.
The Russian initiative was meant to sow discord in the Islamic world, they claimed, saying the conference targets the Saudi Kingdom.
Meanwhile, prominent western Muslim theologians like Dr Yasir Qadhi have also denounced Tayeb’s remarks.
On his Facebook page he said: “Sadly, sectarianism is still well and alive in the Ummah… The fact that this conference was sponsored and planned by some of the most repressive government regimes in the world, for political purposes, and with a sectarian agenda, and indirectly supported by Western powers.”