March 11, 2010 – New York – The American Jewish Committee (AJC) extends condolences to the Egyptian people and the Muslim world on the death of Sheikh Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar and former Grand Mufti of Cairo.
"Sheikh Tantawi occupied what is arguably the most prominent official position in the Sunni Muslim world," said Rabbi David Rosen, AJC's International Director of Interreligious Affairs. “In his outreach to the non-Muslim world and to modernity at large, Sheikh Tantawi had to contend with much criticism from arch-conservative Muslim quarters. He nevertheless went ahead with those interfaith initiatives which we hope and pray will be taken up with even greater courage and determination by his successors."
Sheikh Tantawi pioneered a number of important interreligious initiatives. He hosted the historic Alexandria Summit in 2002, the first gathering of religious leaders of the Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities in Israel and the Palestinian territories, which condemned violence in the name of religion as the desecration of the Divine Name and of religion.
The Alexandria Summit, which led to the establishment of an interreligious leadership council in the Holy Land, was facilitated by then Archbishop of Canterbury Lord George Carey and organized by then Israeli Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Rabbi Michael Melchior.
Addressing AJC’s 2004 Annual Meeting in Washington, Melchior paid tribute to the role of AJC in the preparations and convening of the summit.