CAIRO — They came by the thousands, pouring through the ancient
stone archways and into the gleaming white marble courtyard of al-Azhar
mosque. The faithful had come to pray, to hear a thundering sermon from a
leader of Hamas and to witness a rebirth.
Co-opted for decades by irreligious and autocratic Egyptian
governments, al-Azhar was retaking its rightful place as the world’s
leading voice of Sunni Islam, worshipers said. The presence of a
once-banned Hamas preacher willing to speak incendiary truths was proof
that the millennium-old mosque and university that bear the al-Azhar
name had finally been set free.