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Al-Azhar Grand Imam to address 2014 FIFA World Cup inaugural
Friday April 18, 2014 3:21 PM, Agencies

Putting the final touches on World Cup preparations, Brazilian officials have invited Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar to give a speech at the inauguration ceremony of the world's largest sports event.

Al Azhar Grand Mufti

"The invitation represents a global recognition of the significant role of Al Azhar in establishing principals of moderate Islam amid the notable increase of terrorism," Brazilian ambassador to Cairo Marco Brandão was quoted by the Egyptian daily al-Shorouk, Cairo Post reported.

In a Tuesday's meeting with el-Tayib, Brandão stressed the important role played by Al Azhar institution in spreading the values of peace and prosperity, in supporting stability and renouncing violence.

According to the Egypt's State Information Service (SIS), Tayeb said after the meeting that "Al-Azhar is a learning institution concerned with delineating the truths of the Islamic religion that calls for holding fast to religious values, such as the virtues of tolerance and the acceptance of the 'other.'"

He also called on the Muslim community in Brazil to "integrate with their society while retaining their Islamic values, in order to become positive additions to Brazilian society," Asharq Al-Awsat reported.

Brandão asserted there were numerous mosques and Islamic organizations in Brazil, and that the country's Muslims were highly integrated into Brazilian society.

The invitation was praised by Mohammad Mehanna, adviser to grand imam.

The invitation "emphasizes the fact that the moderate Islamic concepts of al-Azhar are honored by the whole world," he told the Post.

"Islam calls on practicing sports to keep the body fit and healthy.

"Millions of people will watch this great event and will get to know more about Islam through the speech of the Grand Imam," said Mehanna.

According to the 2001 census, there are 27,239 Muslims in Brazil.

However, the Islamic Brazilian Federation puts the number at around one and a half million.

Hosted by Brazil for the second time, the FIFA World Cup football tournament would run from June 12 to July 13, 2014.

Twelve cities are scheduled to host matches: Belo Horizonte, Brasilia, Cuiaba, Curitiba, Fortaleza, Manuas, Natal, Porto Alegre, Recife, Salvador, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro

Sao Paulo is set to host the opening match of the 2014 World Cup.

This invitation comes a month after FIFA President Sepp Blatter said there would be no speeches at the opening ceremony this year.

The decision cited Brazilian President Rousseff's being booed during a speech she gave opening last summer's FIFA Confederations Cup held in Brazil.

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