Controversial Muslim thinker Abu Zayd dies

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The Egyptian thinker and theologian Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd has died aged 67 in a Cairo hospital. He was admitted to hospital last month suffering from a viral infection.

Mr Abu Zayd drew vehement criticism with his controversial statements on Islam and the Qur’an. In Egypt a number of clerics viewed him as an apostate. They issued a fatwa on him and demanded he should be divorced from his wife. The demand was later enforced by an Egyptian court, at which Mr Abu Zayd and his wife emigrated to the Netherlands. Since the mid-1990s he had been a professor at Leiden University.

Mr Abu Zayd’s books provoked fierce debate on Islam and the interpretation of the Qur’an. In the Netherlands he was active in the discussion on Islam and extremism among young Muslims. Earlier this year, protests by Salafist clerics led to his being refused entry to Kuwait, where he had been invited to give a lecture.

In an interview with Radio Netherlands Worldwide, Mr Abu Zayd called for more Western country’s to offer grants to students from Islamic countries. He saw this as the best way to stimulate reform within Islam. He said that the Western education system taught students to think critically, and this would encourage Islamic students to study their religion from both a historical and a modern perspective.

Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd is to be buried in his birthplace, Tanta.


© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

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