A delegation from Egypt’s Al-Azhar Institute is discussing with Nigerian clerics and affiliated schools the culture of moderation in religion to avoid extremism and promote tolerance.

The delegation, which is on a five-day visit to Nigeria, also came with the proposal to increase its scholarship offer to Nigerian youths to study at the world-famous institution in Cairo, Egypt.

Dr Nazeer Ayad, the Secretary-General of the Islamic Research Academy at Al-Azhar Institute and head of the delegation, said that the Abrahamic religion — a group of monotheistic religions, encompassing Judaism, Christianity and Islam, has a core meeting point that needed to be exploited.

He said “the religion teaches the core human nature of love, belief in one God and tolerance of other religions and beliefs. All the Prophets from this root strongly uphold moderation and promote tolerance among adherents.

“The basic teaching is that of individual scholarship, enlightenment and deep knowledge of the tenets of religion. With deep knowledge, no individual will hate, despise or disrespect another person or religion.”

He attributed ignorance of religious tenet as the chief cause of terrorism, adding that Islam does not teach anybody to take up arms against another fellow human irrespective of religious difference.

Ayad said that Al-Azhar Institute was built on the tenet of moderation and tolerance and it formed the basis of its philosophy which it teaches to all students of the institution who came from all parts of the world.

He stressed the roles and shared responsibilities of the Islamic educational and policy institutes in spreading the true teachings of Islam that promote moderation and acceptance of all faiths and beliefs.

He pledged additional resources for the capacity building of Nigerian Islamic institutes and preachers, with the view of equipping them with the needed knowledge and skills to check religious radicalism.

Egyptian Ambassador to Nigeria, Ihab Awad, also stressed the need for cordial relations between Egypt and Nigeria in several areas of comparative advantage, adding that the two nations have long-standing mutual relations.

“The delegations from Al-Azhar is a most important one that will cement the religious, educational and cultural relations between us, which has been on for several decades. It is gladdening to see the array of prominent Nigerians that have gone through the institution and are holding the flag high.

“The offer of more scholarship to Nigerian youths to study in the institution is a further commitment of brotherly affection between the two countries. Several high-level visits have been made between officials of the two countries to create mutual benefits for its peoples,” Awad said.

He pledged to continue to explore new areas for the mutual cooperation of the two countries, adding that the visit of the delegation would be further consolidated by the embassy, as well as its counterpart in Egypt.

Umar Rimi, the Nigerian ambassador to Egypt, pledged to make necessary arrangements to ensure that decisions reached during the delegation’s visit were further cemented in Egypt.

Mr Rimi said that “as a new ambassador in Egypt, I have been enjoying good working relations with my counterpart Mr Awad. So, I pledge to create conducive environment towards achieving the decisions and agreements reached at the end of the visit.

“My office in Cairo will offer wide ranging assistance to Nigerians residing in parts of Egypt, as well as those coming to elevate the mutual cooperation among us,” he said.

Dr Nahla El-Saaedy, the Director of Al-Azhar’s International Students Development Centre, asserted the necessity to develop frameworks that ensure equal gender accessibility to Al-Azhar affiliated educational institutes in Nigeria.

She identified the need to supplement the existing Arabic language training centres as key to the ongoing efforts to preventing radicalisation in the country.

During the visit, the delegation explored the possibilities of increasing the number of scholarships – currently standing at 671 annual scholarships – granted to Nigerian students, as well as expanding its presence through cooperation and association agreements with additional schools and academic institutes in Nigeria.

The visit also included a one-day official trip to Kano State where the delegation engaged the Governor and Emir of Kano and paid a visit to the Egyptian Cultural Centre and to the Al-Azhar Academy in the state, as well as other schools affiliated to Al-Azhar.

Al-Azhar Institute is considered to be the most influential Sunni Islamic academic and preaching institution world-wide.

It traditionally adopted a moderate understanding and approach to Islamic teachings; and promoted the values of peaceful coexistence and mutual understanding among the three Abrahamic religions.