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Turkey challenges Egypt with new Islamic university

The Turkish decision to build an Islamic university similar to Al-Azhar has escalated the already tense relations between Cairo and Ankara.
A general view shows Al-Azhar University, which was founded in the 10th century through the endowment of a charitable trust, or awqaf, in Cairo March 19, 2013. The endowments, known as awqaf, receive donations from Muslims to operate specific social projects, such as mosques, schools and welfare schemes. The system goes back more than a thousand years, to soon after the birth of Islam. A fund management venture set up in Dubai this month is taking aim at one of the great backwaters of the Middle Eastern eco

CAIRO — The Turkish-Egyptian political conflict escalated Sept. 24 after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s speech to the UN General Assembly. Erdogan criticized the current Egyptian regime, describing its rise as a coup d’état. Egyptians frowned upon the statement, viewing it as interference in Egyptian internal affairs. The Egyptian diplomatic corps, highly angered by the speech, responded through official statements, which for the first time deviated from the usual diplomatic wording and accused Erdogan of funding terrorist groups.

Turkish-Egyptian tensions took on a new dimension, reaching the religious establishment of Al-Azhar, based in Cairo, after the Turkish Ministry of Religious Affairs announced its intention to build an Islamic university similar to Al-Azhar. According to Turkish officials, the university will replace Al-Azhar, whose role in the Islamic world has diminished. The move has awakened the ire of religious circles in Egypt.

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