Saturday, January 10, 2015

Can President el-Sisi Reform Islam?

Lost in the Parisian turmoil have been recent speeches by Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

Evidently, the world’s attention is more easily transfixed by the dramas of mass murder and hostage taking, but at a time when the world needs, more than anything, a Muslim leader who can move his co-religionists away from terror and toward modernity, President Sisi is stepping forth.

Roger Simon described Sisi’s speech to a room full of Muslim clerics:

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi made an extraordinary speech on New Year’s Day to Cairo’s Al-Azhar and the Awqaf Ministry calling for a long overdue virtual ecclesiastical revolution in Islam.  This is something no Western leader has the had the courage to do, certainly not Barack Obama, despite his Muslim education.

Accusing the umma (world Islamic population) of encouraging the hostility of the entire world, al-Sisi’s speech is so dramatic and essentially revolutionary it brings to mind Khrushchev’s famous speech exposing Stalin. Many have called for a reformation of Islam, but for the leader of the largest Arab nation to do so has world-changing implications.

Simon quotes some key portions of Sisi’s speech, translated by Raymond Ibrahim:

I am referring here to the religious clerics.   We have to think hard about what we are facing—and I have, in fact, addressed this topic a couple of times before.  It’s inconceivable that the thinking that we hold most sacred should cause the entire umma [Islamic world] to be a source of anxiety, danger, killing and destruction for the rest of the world.  Impossible!

That thinking—I am not saying “religion” but “thinking”—that corpus of texts and ideas that we have sacralized over the years, to the point that departing from them has become almost impossible, is antagonizing the entire world.  It’s antagonizing the entire world!

Is it possible that 1.6 billion people [Muslims] should want to kill the rest of the world’s inhabitants—that is 7 billion—so that they themselves may live? Impossible!

All this that I am telling you, you cannot feel it if you remain trapped within this mindset. You need to step outside of yourselves to be able to observe it and reflect on it from a more enlightened perspective.

I say and repeat again that we are in need of a religious revolution. You, imams, are responsible before Allah. The entire world, I say it again, the entire world is waiting for your next move… because this umma is being torn, it is being destroyed, it is being lost—and it is being lost by our own hands. [bolds mine]

I am saying these words here at Al Azhar, before this assembly of scholars and ulema—Allah Almighty be witness to your truth on Judgment Day concerning that which I’m talking about now.

Next, to make clear his vision for a new Egypt, Sisi visited a Coptic Christian Church and was shown to be warmly greeting the Israeli ambassador to Egypt.

In a country where Anwar Sadat was assassinated for making peace with Israel, Sisi was showing exemplary courage.

The Jewish Press reported on the scene at the Church:

For the first time ever, Coptic Christians in Egypt were able to greet the president of their country on the most important holiday of their faith.

President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is the first Egyptian leader ever to attend Christmas mass at Cairo’s Abbasiya Cathedral, where he greeted Coptic Christians in a speech.

Sisi’s attendance at the religious service was preceded by a heavy security presence, especially due to prior attacks on Christian sites by radical Islamists.

The president congratulated Egypt’s Coptic community on the occasion of the holiday, and maintained that all Egyptians are as “one hand.”

Naturally, President Sisi is not the Obama administration’s favorite Muslim. An administration that welcomed the election of Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi with open arms has been notably unsympathetic to the man who overthrew him.

There is much to criticize about Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, but he is an ally in the ongoing struggle against Islamist terrorism. Surely, his statements are far, far better than those of Barack Obama and French president Hollande—neither of who are capable of placing blame with Islam at all.

The New York Times, viscerally anti-military-- outdid them in October, standing up for the Muslim Brotherhood and showering Sisi with contempt:

The Times editorialized:

Since Abdel Fattah el-Sisi took control in Egypt though a military coup in July 2013, the country has returned to its authoritarian moorings by jailing political opponents, silencing critics and vilifying peaceful Islamists.

Leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, which became the leading political movement in the wake of Egypt’s 2011 popular uprising, are languishing in prison, unfairly branded as terrorists. That has left a large generation of Brotherhood supporters rudderless, raising the possibility that some will be drawn to militancy. Just when the United States is battling Sunni extremists in Iraq and Syria, seeking to isolate the terrorist group known as the Islamic State, Egypt’s crushing authoritarianism could well persuade a significant number of its citizens that violence is the only tool they have for fighting back.

Egypt today is in many ways more repressive than it was during the darkest periods of the reign of deposed strongman Hosni Mubarak. Mr. Sisi’s government has cracked down on demonstrations, tightened control of state media and prosecuted journalists. A new, vaguely worded law will soon stiffen penalties for individuals who receive foreign funding, making it a crime punishable by life in prison. The measure, ostensibly intended to fight terrorism, is similar to policies the state has used to suppress the work of pro-democracy organizations.

Of course, the Times does not recognize that the Muslim Brotherhood is a terrorist organization. And naturally, it continues to traffic in the canard that repressing terrorism will breed terrorists.

In truth, Sisi has declared war on terrorism. Fighting Islamists is not going to be pretty. It might well require actions that offend the delicate sensibility of the New York Times.

The Times, which is even more pusillanimous than that of the Obama administration, favors appeasement.

If Sisi succeeds in reviving the Egyptian economy the people who voted for him will be ill inclined to join the world jihad.

Keep in mind Roger Simon’s observation:

At the same time, Egypt’s stock market, up thirty percent, was the best bet of any for 2014, according to the Financial Times. Does this mean Egypt is about to turn into Denmark any time soon?  Undoubtedly not.  But Denmark — and a number of other European countries — may be turning into Egypt or something worse.  So all is fair and el-Sisi is to be applauded.

As for the absurd notion that Islamic terrorists are not Muslims or that their actions have nothing to do with their religion, the point is refuted by none other than Bill Maher.

Obviously, Maher knows something that the Obama administration and the Times do not:

We’re Americans so we don’t want to single out people, but when you look at that list just since 9/11, then we had the Madrid bombings in ’04, London in ’05, Mumbai, the Kenyan mall, Benghazi, which was one of 20 cities that erupted when that movie Innocence of Muslims was on the Internet, ISIS, Boko Haram who killed an entire village this week, Pakistan last year killing all those kids at the school, Canada parliament, Australia,” said Maher. “What we’ve said all along, and have been called bigots for it, is when there’s this many bad apples, there’s something wrong with the orchard.


Kaiser Derden (aka TDL) said...

So he wants the cult that was founded on violence, expanded by violence and remains relevant today due to violence to reform and become non - violent ?

He's talking about taking power away from men for no other reason than he's worried about bad press ... does anyone think the men will reform because of that ?

Sam L. said...

"It might well require actions that offend the delicate sensibility of the New York Times." Only some of their sensibilities are delicate; others are angry, irritated, and highly unsuitable for children.