Egypt is a deeply Islamic country – so the Ministry of Religion is an appropriately important political office. From 1995 until 2011 this ministry was headed by Mahmoud Hamdi Zakzouk, Professor of Philosophy, who completed a large part of his academic training in Germany. He came to Germany aged 29 in 1962 on a DAAD scholarship, first to Marburg and then to Munich, where he gained his doctorate with a comparison between Descartes and Al-Ghazali, an Arab scholar of the 12th century. At the time, Islamic thinkers were not a topic for academic philosophy in Germany and the orientalists drew a "completely false image of Islam", as Zakzouk noted. A situated that has changed little to this day. "Islam is not a religion of dispute, crime or violence," stresses Zakzouk. "Rather, the Koran was sent to us by Allah so that people would experience mercy and compassion." Before Zakzouk was appointed to the government office – which also came as a "complete surprise" to him – he taught philosophy at Al-Azhar University in Cairo and was also its rector.
The country's more than 60,000 Mosque were the Minister of Religion's most important area of responsibility. The goal was to take all the mosques into the care of the government. Before, a large proportion of the Egyptian mosques were privately owned and therefore difficult to control: "By taking over the mosques, we wanted to take away the fanatics' base, so that they could not spread false interpretations of the religion among the population," explains Zakzouk. Running prayer houses under state control also meant that the Ministry had to pay the costs of running the mosques. "We paid the workers, the Imam, the renovation work and so on. Although that cost a lot of money, it was important and necessary." After the change of government under Prime Minister Ahmed_Schafik in January 2011, Zakzouk no longer made himself available for health reasons. However, he is still Professor of Philosophy at Al-Azhar University, President of the Egyptian Philosophical Society, a member of the Islamic Research Academy in Cairo, and a member of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts, Salzburg.