Cairo’s Al-Azhar University Sees Islamist Student Protests

In Egypt, Islamist Muslim Brotherhood supporters set fire to two buildings at Al-Azhar University's Cairo campus this weekend, according to Egyptian state television. The protesting students had clashes with police on Saturday.

At least one student was killed in the fighting, according to the AFP news agency. The security sources, however, denied news that a protester had been killed. In a footage broadcast by state TV, black smoke can be seen coming from the university's faculty of commerce building. According to the TV report, "terrorist students" also had set the agriculture faculty building on fire, FRANCE 24 reports.

State-run newspaper Al-Ahram reports that the fighting began between students and security forces when cops fired tear gas to disperse pro-Brotherhood students who were stopping their classmates from entering university buildings to take exams. To counter the tear gas, protesting students threw rocks at police and set tires on fire.

The Egypt government officially designated the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization following a suicide attack on a police station this month in which 16 people were killed. The organization condemned the attack, which was claimed by a radical faction based in the Sinai Peninsula.

Mass protests by Brotherhood supporters across Egypt followed on December 27th, with at least five people killed in clashes with police and hundreds arrested. The Brotherhood has been at the forefront of demonstrations against what it calls the "military coup" that deposed Islamist Mohammed Morsi as president after a year in office.

Al-Azhar is a well-known international center of Islamic education. For months, the university has been the scene of many Brotherhood protests.

Egypt's army-backed government is cracking down on the Brotherhood and its Islamist allies. The government's action increases tension in a country suffering the worst internal trouble of its modern history following Morsi's ousting in July.

According to a World Economic Forum report, Egypt is the worst country in the world when it comes to the quality of primary education. The Global Competitiveness Report 2013-2014 assessed the competitiveness landscape of 148 economies and provided insight into the drivers of their productivity and prosperity.

Based on the WEF's Global Competitiveness Indicator, the report ranks Egypt at the 118th position overall, 11 places lower than last year. The Global Competitiveness Indicator is an aggregate of 114 indicators grouped under 12 categories of "drivers of productivity and prosperity," including institutions, financial markets, technological readiness, and health and education, among others.

In November this year, Egyptian student unions and political parties called for the dismissal of ministers responsible for violations against students and an end to a new protest law. On November 30th, a press conference was held by representatives of six university Student Unions and the student representatives of eight political parties and movements. They all demanded the dismissal of the Minister of Higher Education Hossam Eissa and Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim.

At a press conference in Cairo, the student groups said the Minister of Higher Education is politically responsible for violations that have taken place within universities, while the Interior Minister is responsible for the recent deaths of students.

12 28, 2013
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