Sunday, January 04, 2015

Egypt’s al-Sisi Makes Extraordinary Speech on Islam

By Roger L. Simon
January 3, 2015

Al-Azhar responds to Sisi’s call for ‘religious revolution’
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi - YOUM7/Essam Elshamy

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.

Here are the key parts as translated on Raymond Ibrahim’s blog:
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!
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.
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]
Al-Sisi is certainly correct.  The whole world has been waiting for a long time for the next move of these imams or for somebody, anybody that will modernize Islam as other religions have done..  Whether that will happen, of course, is another question, but what al-Sisi is saying here is in many ways more revolutionary than the “Arab Spring.”  People ask, where are the “moderate Muslims”?  Well, one of them may be the president of Egypt. The boys from Hamas, Hezbollah, ISIS, Boko Haram, al Qaeda, etc., etc., are probably not too happy about what al-Sisi said.  Let’s hope he doesn’t suffer the fate of Anwar Sadat for his courage.

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