French far-right leader in Egypt for surprise talks with Al-Azhar

The grand imam of Al-Azhar told Marine Le Pen the National Front's "opinions must be reviewed and corrected."

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French far-right leader Marine Le Pen held talks in Egypt with Al-Azhar that broached the top Sunni Muslim body's "serious concerns" over her party's stance on Islam, it said.

National Front president Le Pen met late Thursday with Ahmed al-Tayeb, grand imam of Al-Azhar, at its Cairo headquarters during which he questioned her organisation's "hostile opinions towards Islam and Muslims", an Al-Azhar statement said.

Tayeb added that the National Front's "opinions must be reviewed and corrected".

The National Front, which had a strong showing in local elections in March, has campaigned on politically explosive issues of immigration and the integration of Islam into French society after the Paris Islamist attacks.

Le Pen, who did not wear a veil during the meeting, "recognised the need to not confuse Islam with the violent acts committed" in its name, Al-Azhar said.

The National Front leader tweeted: "Meeting in Cairo with the highest Sunni authority: strong agreement on the fight against extremism."

Thursday's talks were conducted at Le Pen's request, Al-Azhar said, "to discuss matters related to erroneous ideas and concepts about Islam and extremist ideologies and racism that some Muslims in Europe are suffering from."

The millennium-old institution has emerged as a leading theological centre of Sunni Islam, the main branch of the religion, and shows a will to promote moderate Islam and dialogue with Christians.

Al-Azhar supervises several universities across the country offering courses to thousands of Muslim students from around the world.

It was founded in 970 by the Shiite Fatimid dynasty that ruled Egypt between 969 and 1171, but was converted to Sunni Islam after a Sunni dynasty took over the country.

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