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Egypt's Al-Azhar rejects Tunisia's calls for equal inheritance for women

Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi's calls to change the inheritance law faced backlash across the region, with Egypt's Al-Azhar sharply denouncing them.
Egyptian Sunni Muslim clerics  attend a conference on extremism at Al-Azhar in Cairo on December 3, 2014. Al-Azhar, one of the most prestigious centres of Sunni Muslim learning, is holding a two-day conference on "Fighting Extremism and Terrorism."AFP PHOTO / KHALED DESOUKI        (Photo credit should read KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Calls by Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi for “full gender equality, including equal inheritance rights for women” have provoked an outcry from Al-Azhar clerics, who denounced the concept as “running counter to Islamic teachings.” They also sparked condemnation from Egypt’s loyalist media, with some anti-reformists calling the idea “blasphemous” and others even inciting violence against the Tunisian leadership.

Essebsi’s comments came in a speech marking National Women’s Day Aug. 13, which commemorates the promulgation of Tunisia’s Personal Status Code in 1956 — a “pioneering” set of laws regulating marriage, divorce, custody and inheritance that profoundly changed the legal status of women in the predominantly Muslim country. By promoting education for girls, abolishing polygamy and outlawing repudiation of a wife outside court-mandated divorce, Tunisia’s personal status code paved the way for greater gender equality and remains to date among the most progressive in the Arab world.

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