British Minister Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon yesterday visited Cairo for talks with Egyptian government ministers to discuss progress on aviation security in Sharm el-Sheikh.
Lord Ahmad, who has dual responsibility for aviation security in the Department for Transport and for countering extremism in the Home Office, also met Ministers to discus ways to cooperate on countering extremism. Lord Ahmad met the Prime Minister Sherif Ismail, Minister for the Interior Magdy Abdel Ghaffar, Minister for Civil Aviation Hossam Kamal, the Minister of Awqaf Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa and Minister for Transport Saad el-Geyoushi.
During the visit, Lord Ahmad also visited the Al-Azhar English Training Centre where he met a group of English teachers. The English Training Centre was set up for Al-Azhar by the British Council in 2007 to provide English language and teacher training for 600 undergraduate and graduate students at Al-Azhar every year. The British Council subsequently expanded the project to support English language teaching at several of Al-Azhar’s secondary schools in different governorates across Egypt.
Lord Ahmad said:
Egypt is a friend and partner to the UK, and a country of vital strategic importance in the region. That’s why we will not leave Egypt to stand alone in facing the challenges posed by terrorism and extremism in the twenty-first century.
We are working side-by-side with Egypt on improving aviation security and we appreciate all the efforts made so far. I know that the tourist industry is of great importance to the Egyptian economy and I also know that British tourists love holidays in Sharm el-Sheikh and want to return. I told Prime Minister Ismail today that the whole of the British government and I are very grateful for Egyptian efforts to improve security in Sharm el-Sheikh airport and that I appreciate the continuing cooperation on this matter.
I have also had important conversations with Egyptian Ministers on countering extremism. As the home to Al-Azhar university and the centre of the Arab world, Egypt and Islamic leaders here have a key role to play in presenting the true, tolerant, and open face of Islam and countering extremists like Daesh who distort and abuse the name of Islam.
The UK recently boosted its cooperation with Al-Azhar, when Ambassador John Casson and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed el-Tayyeb launched a new scholarship programme to send Al-Azhar PhD students to top British universities. Administered by the British Council in Egypt, the programme will identify exceptional Al-Azhar graduates and give them the opportunity to complete PhD studies in theology, comparative religion, and related disciplines. The aim of the programme is to raise up a new generation of religious leaders who promote a deeper understanding of Islam, cross-cultural understanding, and the values of peace, openness, and tolerance.