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Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyib is the Grand Imam of al-Azhar. Tayyib belongs to al-Azhar’s more liberal and moderate wing and was appointed by Mubarak in March 2010 after the death of former Grand Imam Mohamed Sayyid Tantawi. He was formerly rector of al-Azhar University in Cairo and received a doctorate in Islamic philosophy from the Sorbonne. Tayyib was also a member of the influential policy committee of the former ruling National Democratic Party during the Mubarak era, but resigned from his position after his appointment as Grand Imam of al-Azhar. He notably supported efforts to ban the face veil in Egypt’s schools. During the Mubarak era, he was also highly critical of the Muslim Brotherhood and its presence among students at al-Azhar.
After the uprising, Tayyib has been outspoken about the need for al-Azhar to remain independent of the government, especially in funding, and to renew its role as a major institution in the Islamic world. He helped author the “Al-Azhar Document” attempting to resolve the controversy about supra-constitutional principles—the document called for a civil, democratic state preserving fundamental rights and liberties within an Islamic framework. He has also called for Egypt to support Hezbollah in Lebanon and establish strong relations with Iran and Turkey.