ABU DHABI // Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, on Sunday welcomed a diverse delegation from Egypt to the capital.
Representatives of Al Azhar University, the global seat of Sunni Muslim learning, were joined by officials from the Coptic Christian church, popular artists and diplomats.
They had come to the UAE to convey their appreciation in person to senior UAE figures and the Government for their assistance in Egypt.
“Our fraternal love is mutual, and the support we provide to our brothers in Egypt is a duty and an extension to our stance by our fellow Arab countries,” said Sheikh Mohammed, who is also Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.
“We attach a great importance to Egypt, a key stabilising force in the Arab world. It is our duty and the duty of all wise people of the Arab world to contribute in its stability.”
Later in the day a number of artists from the delegation, including Ilham Shaheen, Hany Ramzi and Rami Sabry, announced that Egyptian performers would dedicate a song to the UAE on its 42nd National Day, on December 2.
“We artists agreed … to present the UAE with a gift on December 2 and produce a song for them. They deserve more than that,” Sabry said.
Emad Gad Badrous, deputy director of Egypt’s Al Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies and leader of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, said the UAE had offered much-needed financial and moral support to Egypt.
“The UAE took a strong position when other countries close to Egypt were reluctant to do so,” Mr Badrous said.
Mazhar Shahin of Al Azhar, who led Friday prayers in Tahrir Square during the 2011 protests, agreed. If it were not for the UAE standing by Egypt, other countries would have shied away, he said.
He said the transitional government has given the public figures room to breathe and returned freedoms taken away from them during the era of the former president Mohammed Morsi. They also spoke of struggles they faced before Mr Morsi was ousted.
“Al Azhar did not lose the people’s trust,” Sheikh Shahin said. “It was attempted through creating problems inside.
“The [old] government tried to sideline Al Azhar and even take over its leadership. This was clear as many entities went through akhwana [brotherhoodisation].”
He said Al Azhar would soon make a strong comeback and called on Arab countries to unite and create a moderate Islamic TV channel to promote moderate religion.
The Egyptian artists said they were affected by various restrictions imposed on them by Mr Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood-backed government.
“How to restrict us and scare us and allow us no opinion,” Shaheen said. “We had big influence on society. We were against Islamic extremist. We criticised them but they didn’t accept this.”
She said she would press on with lawsuits filed against Brotherhood figures who she said insulted her and her colleagues.
When asked about the ban on the popular Egyptian political satire show Albernameg starring Bassem Youssef, Mr Badrous said it had nothing to do with the transitional government, but was the channel’s decision.
He said the government had pushed for the programme’s return.