Sisi’s Brave New Egypt?

El-Sisi (1)Frontpage, by Raymond Ibrahim, Jan. 21, 2015:

Originally published by PJ Media.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi continues to be the antithesis of longstanding mainstream media portrayals of him.

First there was his historic speech where he, leader of the largest Arab nation, and a Muslim, accused Islamic thinking of being the scourge of humanity—in words that no Western leader would dare utter. This remarkable speech—which some say should earn him the Nobel Peace Prize—might have fallen by the wayside had it not been posted on my website and further disseminated by PJ Media’s Roger L. Simon, Michael Ledeen, Roger Kimball, and many others, including Bruce Thornton and Robert Spencer.

Instead, MSM headlines on the day of and days after Sisi’s speech included “Egypt President Sisi urged to free al-Jazeera reporter” (BBC, Jan 1), “Egyptian gays living in fear under Sisi regime” (USA Today, Jan. 2), and “George Clooney’s wife Amal risks arrest in Egypt” (Fox News, Jan. 3).

Of course, the MSM finally did report on Sisi’s speech—everyone else seemed to know about it—but, again, to portray Sisi in a negative light. Thus, after briefly quoting the Egyptian president’s call for a “religious revolution,” the New York Times immediately adds:

Others, though, insist that the sources of the violence are alienation and resentment, not theology. They argue that the authoritarian rulers of Arab states — who have tried for decades to control Muslim teaching and the application of Islamic law — have set off a violent backlash expressed in religious ideas and language.

In other words, jihadi terror is a product of Sisi, whom the NYT habitually portrays as an oppressive autocrat—especially for his attempts to try to de-radicalize Muslim sermons and teachings (as discussed in this article).

Next, Sisi went to the St. Mark Coptic Cathedral during Christmas Eve Mass to offer Egypt’s Christian minority his congratulations and well wishing. Here again he made history as the first Egyptian president to enter a church during Christmas mass—a thing vehemently criticized by the nation’s Islamists, including the Salafi party (Islamic law bans well wishing to non-Muslims on their religious celebrations, which is why earlier presidents—Nasser, Sadat, Mubarak, and of course Morsi—never attended Christmas mass).

Accordingly, the greetings Sisi received from the hundreds of Christians present were jubilant. His address was often interrupted by applause, clapping, and cheers of “We love you!” and “hand in hand”—phrases he reciprocated. Part of his speech follows:

Egypt has brought a humanistic and civilizing message to the world for millennia and we’re here today to confirm that we are capable of doing so again. Yes, a humanistic and civilizing message should once more emanate from Egypt. This is why we mustn’t call ourselves anything other than “Egyptians.” This is what we must be—Egyptians, just Egyptians, Egyptians indeed! I just want to tell you that Allah willing, Allah willing, we shall build our nation together, accommodate each other, make room for each other, and we shall like each other—love each other, love each other in earnest, so that people may see… So let me tell you once again, Happy New Year, Happy New Year to you all, Happy New Year to all Egyptians!

Sisi stood side-by-side with Coptic Christian Pope Tawadros II—perhaps in remembrance of the fact that, when General Sisi first overthrew President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, Pope Tawadros stood side-by-side with him—and paid a heavy price: the Brotherhood and its sympathizers unleashed a Kristallnacht of “reprisals” that saw 82 Christian churches in Egypt attacked, many destroyed.

It is also significant to recall where Sisi came to offer his well-wishing to the Christians: the St. Mark Cathedral—Coptic Christianity’s most sacred church which, under Muhammad Morsi was, for the first time in its history, savagely attacked, by both Islamists and the nation’s security (see pictures here).

Once again, all of this has either been ignored or underplayed by most mainstream media.

There is, of course, a reason the MSM, which apparently follows the Obama administration’s lead, has been unkind to Sisi. One will recall that, although Sisi led the largest revolution in world history—a revolution that saw tens of millions take to the streets and ubiquitous signs and banners calling on U.S. President Obama and U.S. ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson to stop supporting terrorism (i.e., the Brotherhood)—U.S. leadership, followed by media, spoke only of a “military coup” against a “democratically elected president,” without pointing out that this president was pushing a draconian, Islamist agenda on millions who rejected it.

So what is the significance of all this—of Sisi? First, on the surface, all of this is positive. That Sisi would criticize the Muslim world and Islamic texts and thinking—in ways his Western counterparts could never—and then continue his “controversial” behavior by entering the Coptic Christian cathedral during Christmas mass to offer his greetings to Christians—a big no-no for Muslim leaders—is unprecedented. Nor can all this be merely for show. In the last attack on a Coptic church, it was two Muslim police officers guarding the church who died—not the Christian worshipers inside—a rarity.

That Sisi remains popular in Egypt also suggests that a large percentage of Egyptians approve of his behavior. Recently, for instance, after the Paris attacks, Amru Adib, host of Cairo Today, made some extremely critical comments concerning fellow Muslims/Egyptians, including by asking them “Are you, as Muslims, content with the fact that today we are all seen as terrorists by the world?… We [Egyptians] used to bring civilization to the world, today what? — We are barbarians!  Barbarians I tell you!” (More of Adib’s assertions here.)

That said, the others are still there—the Muslim Brotherhood, the Salafis, those whom we call “Islamists,” and their many sympathizers and allies.

Worst of all, they have that “corpus of [Islamic] texts and ideas” that has been “sacralized over the centuries” (to use Sisi’s own words) to support them—texts and ideas that denounce Sisi as an “apostate” deserving of death, and thus promising a continued struggle for the soul of Egypt.

Also see:

Sisi Is Just Another Caliphate-Idealizing Apologist For Islam Whose In-Actions Speak Louder Than His Hollow Words (andrewbostom.org)

Egyptian president has more guts to speak out about radical Islam than Obama [VIDEO]

al-sisi-egypt-elec_2921226bBy Allen West, Jan. 10. 2015:

Last night, I watched the movie “Fury” which depicts the brutality of fighting total war in close combat in the armor and infantry against the enemy — the final days of World War II against Germany. I found it rather strange and somehow timely to watch this film after what happened this past week in France. Sometime, someplace, there will have to be a leader who steps forth and understands the concept of civilizational warfare. There has to be one who can define and face the enemy and inspire a nation to seek victory. We are looking for such a leader in the West, but perhaps someone will come from another place to inspire us.

As reported in The Washington Times by my friend Charles Ortel, “The biggest story not yet covered appropriately in mainstream media plays out now in Egypt, where President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi attacks the root causes of continuing conflict between certain adherents of Islam and freedom-loving secularists, in defiance of President Obama and of fierce critics.”

 

“Living in a nation of 87 million persons, where an estimated 90 percent are Muslim, President el-Sisi is certain that the Muslim Brotherhood is not a secular organization, or a force for good and so his government holds hundreds of members of that organization in prison, where many face death sentences, including former President Mohammed Morsi. To see what President el-Sisi confronts now, peruse the still-operating English language website of the brotherhood.”

It is truly fascinating that here is the one leader in the Muslim world who has the courage not only to confront the enemy, but also its ideology. After all, it was el-Sisi who has taken on the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamists in Egypt, the Sinai and in neighboring Libya.

The former general has also stood against the Islamic terror group Hamas. But what confounds me is not his actions –truly heroic — but the actions of our own president, Barack Hussein Obama. It was Obama who in 2009 went to the University of Cairo and delivered a speech where he requested Muslim Brotherhood members should appear front and center. It was Obama who applauded the ascension of Mohammad Morsi as Egypt’s president. And it has been Obama who has seemingly turned his back on Egypt since its ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood. There’s that nagging question of allegiance again.

When it came down to choosing between Hamas, Turkey, and Qatar as opposed to Israel and Egypt — under el-Sisi — our president chose the former, not the latter. And now, it is el-Sisi who is calling out the Islamists and the clerics, mullahs, imams who are causing strife globally.

As Charles writes, “President el-Sisi plays for his life against determined internal and external opposition while President Obama merely preens before friendly partisan crowds. Recently this year, the fully engaged leader of Egypt began a drive to reform Islam from within. His address to religious authorities at Al-Azhar University in Cairo on Jan. 1 is a stunning “must-read” and “must-share” development that only now is getting attention it so richly deserves. Wednesday, President el-Sisi put in a public appearance at a Christmas mass in Cairo — an historic first in Egypt’s modern history.” Funny, here in America we’re struggling in some places just to say Merry Christmas.

There couldn’t be any bigger contrast in leadership at a critical time such as this.

From the events this week in Paris we must learn that we cannot shy away from defining this enemy. The cultural jihadist apologists must no longer be given a platform. It is unbelievable that anyone would refer to the Islamic terrorists who wrought savage carnage this week as “activists.”

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah e-Sisi has shown us that we must fight the ideology which fuels the jihad. We cannot win this battle by denying who the enemy is — and if it takes the Egyptian president to show us the way — well, Molon Labe!

Coalition of Concerned Citizens Seeks Response to El Sisi’s Call for “Religious Revolution”

 

January 7, 2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Today letters were issued to several Islamic organizations in the United States by a Coalition of concerned citizens to get their official response to recent comments by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

The organizations contacted for their response included the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Islamic Society of North America, the Muslim American Society (MAS), and the North American Islamic Trust.

The Coalition sought responses for the following questions:

  • Is it the position of your organization that the imams of Al Azhar have a responsibility to renounce the “mindset” of jihad, conquest, and, as suggested by President Sisi, genocide of the world’s non-Muslims?
  • Is it the position of your organization that the time is right for a “religious revolution,” as President Sisi stated?
  • Is it the position of your organization that jihad is a holy obligation for all Muslims?

On New Year’s Day, President Sisi addressed the famous Egyptian University, Al Azhar. Occasionally called the “Vatican” of Islam, Al Azhar is a major center of Sunni Islamic thought, one of the most important scholarly institutions in the Islamic world.

President Sisi urged the imams (religious leaders) at Al Azhar to denounce the violence and revolution that has defined the Middle East since the Arab Spring. He urged the venerable institution to condemn the idea 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!”

Since the Arab Spring, the moderate and stable regimes have been under sustained assault by terrorist groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, Al Qaeda, the Islamic State, and other affiliated networks. President Sisi came to power in Egypt following the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi, who is himself a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.

President Sisi’s speech is seen as a direct challenge to the Muslim Brotherhood and the idea that jihad, or war against non-Muslims, must define Islam. According to the Muslim Brotherhood, jihad is the duty of all Muslims, and the highest honor for Muslims is actual death fighting jihad. (The motto of the organization states, “God is our objective; the Qur’an is the Constitution; the Prophet is our leader; jihad is our way; death for the sake of God is our wish.”)

In November, CAIR and MAS were designated as terrorist organizations by the United Arab Emirates. Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have also designated the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamic umbrella organization operating around the world, including in the United States, as a terrorist organization.

The Coalition, which includes retired military leaders, journalists, and citizen activists, will publicly release any and all responses from these organizations.

Below is a copy of the letter sent to the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). Identical letters were sent to the Council on American Islamic Relations, the Muslim American Society, the North American Islamic Trust, and various chapters of the Muslim Students Association.

LETTER TO THE ISLAMIC SOCIETY OF NORTH AMERICA

January 7, 2015

Mr. Azhar Azeez
Islamic Society of North America (ISNA)
P.O. Box 38
Plainfield, IN 46168

Dear Mr. Azeez:

This is a request for your organization’s official response to the speech given by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

On New Year’s Day, President Sisi stated (in part) before an audience at Al Azhar University in Cairo:

“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.”

In light of President Sisi’s comments, we ask for public clarification on the following points:

  • Is it the position of ISNA that the imams of Al Azhar have a responsibility to renounce the “mindset” of jihad, conquest, and, as suggested by President Sisi, genocide of the world’s non-Muslims?
  • Is it the position of ISNA that the time is right for a “religious revolution,” as President Sisi stated?
  • Is it the position of ISNA that jihad is a holy obligation for all Muslims?

Please note that this letter will be made public and published. We look forward to your prompt response.

Sincerely,

Wallace Bruschweiler
Data Security Holdings

Leslie Burt
The Counter Jihad Report

Mark Kohan
Conservative Party USA

Trevor Loudon
New Zeal Blog

Gary Kubiak & Dick Manasseri
S.E. Michigan 9.12 Tea Party

Terresa Monroe-Hamilton
NoisyRoom.net

Charles Ortel
Washington Times Columnist

William Palumbo
Qatar Awareness Campaign

Brent Parrish
The Right Planet

Thomas E. Snodgrass, Colonel, USAF (Ret)
Right Side News

Hannah Szenes
Journalist

Paul E. Vallely, Major General, US Army (Ret)
Stand Up America

The Significance of Sisi’s Speech

Raymond Ibrahim, Jan. 7, 2015:

On New Year’s Day, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi—the hero of Egypt’s 2013 anti-Muslim Brotherhood revolution—made some remarkable comments concerning the need for a “religious revolution.”

Watch the video below or click here to read the excerpt:

 

Sisi made his remarks during a speech celebrating the birth of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad—which was ironically held on January 1, 2015 (a day not acknowledged or celebrated in the Muslim world as it is based on a Christian calendar)—and he was addressing the nation’s top Islamic authorities from among the Awqaf Ministry (religious endowments) and Al Azhar University.

Although Sisi’s words were directed to Islam’s guardians and articulators, they indirectly lead to several important lessons for Western observers.

First, in just a few words, Sisi delivered a dose of truth and hard-hitting reality concerning the Islamic world’s relationship to the rest of the world—a dose of reality very few Western leaders dare think let alone proclaim.

“It’s inconceivable,” he said, “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!”

What a refreshingly honest statement to come from not only a political leader but a Muslim political leader who has much to lose, not least his life!  Contrast his very true words with the habitual reassurances of the Western establishment that Islamic world violence and intolerance is a product of anything and everything but Islam.

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

Even after the appearance of the head-chopping, infidel-crucifying Islamic State, politicians like U.S. President Obama and U.K. Prime Minister Cameron insisted that the “caliphate” is not Islamic, despite all the evidence otherwise. Yet here is Sisi, the pious Muslim, saying that the majority of the terrorism plaguing the world today is related to the holy texts of Islam themselves:

That thinking [that is responsible for producing “anxiety, danger, killing and destruction” around the world]—I am not saying “religion” but “thinking”—that corpus of texts and ideas that we have sacralized over the centuries, to the point that departing from them has become almost impossible, is antagonizing the entire world.  It’s antagonizing the entire world!

As a Muslim, Sisi will not say that Islam, the “religion,” is responsible for “antagonizing the entire world,” but he certainly goes much further than his Western counterparts when he says that this “thinking” is rooted in an Islamic “corpus of texts and ideas” which have become so “sacralized.”

Recall that here in the West, Islamic terrorists are seen as mere “criminals” and their terrorism as “crimes” without mention of any Islamic text or ideology driving them.

The Egyptian president further invoked the classical Islamic teaching—the “thinking”—that divides the world into two warring halves: the Muslim world (or in Islamic/Arabic parlance, Dar al-Islam) which must forever be in a struggle with the rest of the world (or Dar al-Harb, the “abode of war”) till, in the Koran’s words, “all religion belongs to Allah” (Koran 8:39).

“Is it possible,” asked Sisi, “that 1.6 billion people should want to kill the rest of the world’s inhabitants—that is 7 billion—so that they themselves may live?”

Sisi made another important point that Western leaders and media habitually lie about: after affirming that Islamic “thinking” is “antagonizing the entire world,” he said that “this umma is being torn, it is being destroyed, it is being lost—and it is being lost by our own hands.”

In other words, Islamic terrorism and chaos is not a product of grievance, territorial disputes, colonialism, Israel, offensive cartoons, or anything else the West points to.  It’s a product of their “own hands.”

Again, one must appreciate how refreshing it is for a top political leader in the heart of the Islamic world to make such candid admissions that his Western counterparts dare not even think let alone speak. And bear in mind, Sisi has much to lose as opposed to Western politicians.  Calls by the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists that he is an apostate are sure to grow more aggressive now.

The critic may ask, “All well and good, but words aside, what has Sisi actually done to help bring about this “religious revolution”?  In fact, one popular journalist, Ibrahim Eissa, recently said just this on live television in Egypt:

Five months have passed since he [Sisi] became president, after his amazing showing at elections.  Okay: the president has, more than once, indicated the need for a renewal of religious discourse….  But he has not done a single thing, President Sisi, to renew religious discourse.  Nothing at all.

Yet it seems that Sisi has an answer for this, too: it is not his job as president of Egypt to reform the thinking of the Islamic world; rather, that role belongs to the ulema—which is precisely why he addressed them with such candid words.  Indeed, he repeatedly stressed that it is the ulema’s job to lead this “religious revolution.”

Thus, “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…. 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.”

Meanwhile, while Sisi was making these groundbreaking if not historic statements, the Western mainstream media, true to form, ignored them and instead offered puerile and redundant headlines, most critical of Sisi, like:

  • “Egypt President Sisi urged to free al-Jazeera reporter” (BBC, Jan 1; to which I respond, “Why, so Al Jazeera can continue lying and misleading the West about Sisi and Egypt’s anti-Muslim Brotherhood revolution?”)
  •  “Egyptian gays living in fear under Sisi regime” (USA Today, Jan. 2; to which I respond, “Homosexuals live in fear in all Islamic nations, regardless of Sisi.”)
  •  “George Clooney’s wife Amal risks arrest in Egypt” (Fox News, Jan. 3; to which I respond, “Who cares?  Only her innocence or guilt matter, not her husband’s fame”—which is the only reason Fox News chose the story in the first place.)

Whether concerning the true nature of Islam or the true nature of Sisi, here is the latest example of how unfathomably ignorant all those millions of people who exclusively follow the so-called “mainstream media” must surely be.

Also see:

In light of President Sisi’s comments, we ask for public clarification on the following points:

  • Is it the position of ISNA that the imams of Al Azhar have a responsibility to renounce the “mindset” of jihad, conquest, and, as suggested by President Sisi, genocide of the world’s non-Muslims?
  • Is it the position of ISNA that the time is right for a “religious revolution,” as President Sisi stated?
  • Is it the position of ISNA that jihad is a holy obligation for all Muslims?

Egyptian President Calls For Islam To Grow Up

20150105_SisiMBWarningFamily Security matters, by WALLACE S. BRUSCHWEILER, ALAN KORNMAN:

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi calls for Islam to ‘grow up’ and join the 21st Century in its  “Islamic thinking” at the prestigious Al-Azhar University.

General al-Sisi is saying the current Islamic Thinking based on the texts and Islamic Law are “antagonizing the entire world”  General al-Sisi understands that the current trajectory of the Islamic World is the major “source of anxiety, danger,  killing and destruction” for the rest of the non-Muslim world.

General al-Sisi, a devout Muslim, is telling all who will listen that his fellow Muslims who use terrorism, suicide bombings, beheadings, mass killings, violent expansionism and wish to kill and subjugate ‘the others’ to build a new caliphate so that they themselves may live, is Impossible!

You need to step outside of yourselves to be able to observe it from the outside, to root it out and replace it with a more enlightened vision of the world” General al-Sisi says.

General al-Sisi’s message will will capture the imagination of everyone who dreams of the day where the Muslim and non-Muslim world will find a common ground of mutual respect and the possibility of living in a more peaceful world.

Conversely, al-Sisi’s  message will enrage those who support violent Islamic expansionism, totalitarianism, hatred of the non-Muslim,  and subjugation of entire populations both Muslim and non-Muslim who do not follow the right form of Islam, whatever that may be.

Assuming President Obama does not openly support General al-Sisi’s call for Islam to join the 21st Century, we will know he is not a part of the solution.  If American Islamic civil rights groups like (CAIR) Council On American Islamic Relations, (MSA) Muslim Students Association, (ISNA)Islamic Society of North America, (NAIT) North American Islamic Trust, (MAS)Muslim American Society, and (MB) The Muslim Brotherhood to name only a few,  do not publicly support General al-Sisi’s call for change then they are a part of the problem.

We strongly suspect General al-Sisi’s message had been cleared with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

“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.”  Gen. El Sisi

Egyptian President General El Sisi – New Years Day Speech 2015 (Excerpt)

“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 from the outside, to root it out and replace it with a more enlightened vision of the world.

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.”

Where do you and especially the so called silent majority of Muslims stand?

Wallace Bruschweiler, a quadri-linguist and subject matter expert on counter terrorism and national security issues.  Over 30 years experience operating in Europe, Middle East, and North Africa.

Family Security Matters Contributing Editor Alan Kornman is the regional coordinator of The United West-Uniting Western Civilization for Freedom and Liberty. His email is: alan@theunitedwest.org

****

Epic Call by Egypt, Tunisia Leaders for Islamic Reformation

Supporters of Tunisia's new president, Beji Caid Essebsi, from the the Nidaa Tounes (Call for Tunisia) secular party movement. Photo: © Reuters

Supporters of Tunisia’s new president, Beji Caid Essebsi, from the the Nidaa Tounes (Call for Tunisia) secular party movement. Photo: © Reuters

An ideological battle in the Muslim world between secular-democratic reformers and Islamists is happening. The question now is which side will win.

By Ryan Mauro:

The newly elected President of Tunisia Beji Caid Essebsi and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi recently issued loud calls for progressive reformations in Islamic thought to modernize outdated doctrine. Both of them explicitly identify the Islamist ideology as the core problem.

Raymond Ibrahim reports that Egyptian President El-Sisi gave a momentous speech during the celebrations of the birthday of Mohammed, the founder of Islam, where he told Muslims to have a “religious revolution” to change Islamic “thinking.”

The location is equally as important as the timing. He did this at Al-Azhar University, the world’s most prominent Sunni school of learning.

El-Sisi confronted Islamist propaganda that changing Islamic doctrine is tantamount to blasphemy. He emphasized that there’s a difference between the interpretation of the religion and the religion itself. He argued that the ones who are actually hurting Islam are those who oppose the reformers.

“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!” El-Sisi declared.

He did not blame the troubles of the Muslim world on Western influence or a wild Zionist conspiracy against Islam as Islamist do. On the contrary, El-Sisi said the source of global conflict originates in ideologies from the Muslim world.

“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 ummah is being torn, it is being destroyed, it is being lost—and it is being lost by our own hands,” he said.

Last year, El-Sisi declared that “Religious discourse is the greatest battle and challenge facing the Egyptian people.” He said that an Islamic reformation is necessary to modernize doctrines that have not been revised for 800 years.

“In Islam, there was a civil state, not an Islamic one,” El-Sisi said. His government formed an independent commission that recommended banning Islamist political parties, “reforming religious discourse” and various measures to minimize the influence of political Islam (Islamism).

He also apologized to a woman who was sexually assaulted in Tahrir Square and said her “honor” was violated; a challenge to the cultural theme of “honor” that forms the basis of women’s rights abuses.

Separately, the Tunisian presidency was won by a secular-democratic candidate named Beji Caid Essebsi who defeated a pro-Hamas secularist with 55% of the vote versus 45%.

Shortly after his victory, Essebsi wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post crediting Western influence, specifically the Enlightenment and the separation of religion and state, with providing the basis for Tunisia’s secular-democratic transition.

***

The momentous symbolism of what is happening in Tunisia and Egypt is difficult to exaggerate.

Tunisia is where the “Arab Spring” was born and where the subsequent “Islamist Awakening” won its first electoral victory. It was first-hand experience that led to the removal of Islamists from power and their replacement with secular-democrats advocating a progressive reformation in Islamic doctrine.

Read more at Clarion Project

Also see:

Egypt’s Sisi: Islamic “Thinking” Is “Antagonizing the Entire World”

By Raymond IbrahimJanuary 1, 2015:

Speaking before Al-Azhar and the Awqaf Ministry on New Year’s Day, 2015, in connection to Prophet Muhammad’s upcoming birthday, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, a vocal supporter for a renewed vision of Islam, made what must be his most forceful and impassioned plea to date on the subject.

Among other things, Sisi said that the “corpus of [Islamic] texts and ideas that we have sacralized over the years” are  “antagonizing the entire world”; that it is not “possible that 1.6 billion people [reference to the world’s Muslims] should want to kill the rest of the world’s inhabitants—that is 7 billion—so that they themselves may live”; and that Egypt (or the Islamic world in its entirety) “is being torn, it is being destroyed, it is being lost—and it is being lost by our own hands.”

The relevant excerpt from Sisi’s speech follows (translation by Michele Antaki):

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 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.

Note: It is unclear if in the last instance of umma Sisi is referring to Egypt (“the nation”) or if he is using it in the pan-Islamic sense as he did initially to refer to the entire Islamic world.

Opening the Door to Muslim Dissidents

22 Nov 2014:

“When presidents say Islam is a religion of peace,” former George W. Bush advisor Elliot Abrams said at a forum on Monday, “the average American thinks this is crap.”

Presidents Bush and Obama both publicly declared Islam to be a religion of peace, which has struck a sour chord for many. Far better, Abrams said, for American leaders to ask, “Is there something in Islam that has led some Muslims to behave in a way that we consider to be terrible? And what’s the debate in Islam?” It is this last question that signals what may prove to be the most important weapon in the ever-escalating battle between the West and ISIS.

To date, American and Western leaders have preemptively shut down any debate within Islam by declaring that Islam is the religion of peace and that terrorism has nothing to do with Islam. In so doing, Western governments have effectively shut the door on those Muslims who dare to dissent, who suggest reform rather than radicalism as the solution to Islam’s ills. The result is that the Islamists are running the show, from Iraq to Syria to Libya to Iran.

During the Cold War, U.S. support for Soviet and Eastern European dissidents was a decisive factor in breaking the Soviet Union’s grip over much of the world. In the 1960s and 1970s, American support came primarily from private groups and individuals. But President Reagan understood that support to dissidents could be decisive in the battle. If dissidents received moral and material support from the West, it would help to prove that Soviet domination was not inevitable and that the so-called Forces of History were in fact reversible. Thus, engaging in the war of ideas became a key component of the Reagan doctrine.

Today, no one has heard of the Muslim dissidents, the reformers. They certainly are not invited to the White House. That privilege is reserved for the heads of CAIR and ISNA and MAS.

To date, one man has helped to get the voices of dissidents heard. Stephen Ulph started his career studying terrorism. A Brit, he was a founder and former editor of Terrorism Security Monitor and editor and analyst for Islamic Affairs, published by Jane’s Information Group. But his fluency in various Middle Eastern languages eventually brought him into contact with some of the Middle East’s dissident voices. He understood their importance in the fight against terrorism, and it then became his mission to support them and bring their voices to a Western audience. He created the website http://www.almuslih.org, The Reformer, where he publishes their articles in both English and Arabic. Mr. Ulph brought a small group of reformers together in December 2012 in Rome, a meeting I had the privilege to attend. Most were familiar with each other’s work, but they had never met each other.

The voices within the reformist movement are wide-ranging. Some consider themselves devout Muslims who want to see their religion learn to live alongside other religions; others had left the faith but maintained pride in their Muslim-Arab heritage. The solutions they offered were also wide-ranging. The most prominent among the participants in Rome was Lafif Lakhdar, a French-Tunisian writer who died just a few months after the meeting. He argued that terrorism did not come out of a vacuum; it came out of the education, which glorified martyrdom. “We have to dismantle the martyrdom argument,” he said. Dr. Abd al-Khaliq Hussein, an Iraqi intellectual, argued against the “root-cause analysis” that has so pervaded U.S. counter-terrorism policy. He warned that the West’s courting of the Islamists defeats any efforts at reform and can lead only to totalitarianism.

These are the men and women who can answer Eliot Abrams’ question, “What is the debate in Islam?” On December 2, Stephen Ulph is bringing a handful of the Almuslih reformers to Washington for a one-day discussion, co-sponsored by the Westminster Institute, entitled Progressive Arab Voices on Islamic Reform. Perhaps some in Washington will understand the importance of U.S. support for dissident voices in the Muslim world and will want to hear what they have to say.

For more information on the conference, go to www.Almuslih.org.

Katie Gorka is the president of the Council on Global Security: @katharine gorka.

Dr. Bill Warner on “Measuring Extremism in Islam” – on The Glazov Gang

pl-450x285Frontpage:

This week’s Glazov Gang was joined by Dr. Bill Warner, a scientist who has studied Islam since 1970. He has used the scientific method in the study of Islamic texts and has made its doctrine easy to understand. As an example, he had produced a Koran that anyone can read and understand. Visit his site atpoliticalislam.com.

Dr. Warner joined the show to discuss Measuring Extremism in Islam, illuminating how Sharia compliance defines a way to gauge civilizational “extremism” that goes beyond beheadings:

 

***

Bill Warner also spoke to the JDL in Canada on Nov. 17, 2014. Here is the video thanks to Blazing Cat Fur:

Is the Islamic State the Islamic ‘Reformation’?

Screen-Shot-2014-10-14-at-2.34.22-PM1-358x350By Fjordman:

The self-declared Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has shocked the world with its brutality. The British Prime Minister David Cameron, along with other Western leaders, claims that the Islamic State has “nothing to do with the great religion of Islam, a religion of peace.” The former British PM Tony Blair states that IS’ ideology is “based in a complete perversion of the proper faith of Islam.”

Notice that both the current and a previous British Prime Minister say virtually the same thing as Tariq Ramadan. He is a Swiss writer of Egyptian origin and is a Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies at Oxford University in Britain. Tariq Ramadan suggests that the Islamic State is ”not Islamic.”

Ramadan is the grandson of Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood. Banna’s stated goal was the restoration of an Islamic Caliphate. We now have an Islamic State under the leadership of a Caliph. You could therefore argue that ISIS have fulfilled the original promise of Hassan al-Banna. What Tariq Ramadan is in effect saying is that: “The Islamic State have fulfilled the promise of my pious Muslim grandfather. Yet this has nothing to do with Islam.”

The slick Islamic infiltrator Tariq Ramadan has always reminded me of the deceiving manipulator Grima Wormtongue from Tolkien’s novel The Lord of the Rings. It is no wonder that Western ruling elites are clueless about the true nature of the Islamic threat when we allow people such as Ramadan to be treated as experts on Islam in prestigious Western universities and advise Western authorities on matters related to Islam.

Saying that the Islamic State has nothing to do with Islam or Islamic teachings is false. ISIS propagandists quote authentic Koranic verses or respected hadith literature in favor of their actions. Yes, texts can be interpreted in different ways, but some interpretations have a stronger foundation than others do. A rubber band can be stretched up to a certain point, but not forever. Likewise, texts can be read in several ways, but they are not infinitely elastic.

Maybe what the militant members of the Islamic State are doing is not the only way to interpret Islamic religious texts. Maybe. What should worry us, however, is that it is a perfectly legitimate way to interpret Islamic texts.

The Islamic State now has many supporters, also in Western countries. Their atrocities resonate with quite a few Muslims who recognize something similar from Islamic history. In the earliest days of Islam, Mohammed and his companions raided and pillaged their opponents, massacred and beheaded non-Muslims, enslaved their children, raped their women and forced them to be sex slaves. Suggesting that it has nothing to do with Islam, when militant Muslims today directly copy the behavior of their Prophet as described in Islamic sources, is not credible.

Western leaders and commentators are often shockingly ill-informed about Islam. Tony Blair, then still Britain’s Prime Minister, wrote about Islam for the influential magazine Foreign Affairs in its January 2007 issue. This quote sums up the breathtaking cluelessness of Western leaders:

o-TONY-BLAIR-AND-PROTEST-facebook

To me, the most remarkable thing about the Koran is how progressive it is. I write with great humility as a member of another faith. As an outsider, the Koran strikes me as a reforming book, trying to return Judaism and Christianity to their origins, much as reformers attempted to do with the Christian church centuries later. The Koran is inclusive. It extols science and knowledge and abhors superstition. It is practical and far ahead of its time in attitudes toward marriage, women, and governance. Under its guidance, the spread of Islam and its dominance over previously Christian or pagan lands were breathtaking. Over centuries, Islam founded an empire and led the world in discovery, art, and culture. The standard-bearers of tolerance in the early Middle Ages were far more likely to be found in Muslim lands than in Christian ones.”

Some observers suggest that Islam needs to be reformed. Yet it is arguable that we have already witnessed an Islamic Reformation, and that ISIS/the Islamic State represents a culmination of this process.

In 2007 I published an essay with the title Do we want an Islamic Reformation? The question of whether Islam can be reformed largely hinges upon one’s definition of “Reformation.” This is often implicitly taken to mean something along the lines of “peaceful, non-sharia-based with respect for individual choice, freedom of speech and the freedom to criticize and leave your religion.” In other words: “Reform” is vaguely taken to mean less Islam, or at least less traditional sharia laws, and no violent Jihad.

However, several observers argue that there are similarities between Martin Luther and the Christian or Protestant Reformation in sixteenth century Europe and the reform movement started by Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab in the Arabian Peninsula in the 18th century. Wahhab’s alliance with the family of Muhammad bin Saud led to the creation of Saudi Arabia. Using its massive oil wealth, paid for by non-Muslims, that country has for generations funded strict sharia-based Islamic movements worldwide. This Islamic revivalist movement is at the base of the present-day Salafist movement.

Read more at Frontpage

Does Moderate Islamic Ideology Exist?

tawfikNewsmax, By Tawfik Hamid, Sep. 10, 2014:

One of the guiding principles of the Islamic State is that Muslims must fight non-Muslims all over the world and offer them the following choices: Join, pay a humiliating tax called “jijya,” or to be killed. This violent principle was the basic doctrine that justified the Islamic conquests by the early Muslims.

After recent savagery by ISIS and other militant groups around the world, the following question inevitably is raised: Is it possible to be a follower and not adhere to that mandate?

In other words, if a young Muslim became very religious, is there an approved Islamic theological source or interpretation that clearly contradicts such a principle or at least teaches it in a different way, for example, contextualizing it in time and place?
The sad answer is: No.

Typically, there are five sources for Islamic law. These are: the Koran — the Hadith of Prophet Muhammad (such as Sahih Al-Buchakry), the actions of the disciples of Mohamed (Sahaba), the four schools of Islamic jurisprudence, and the Tafseer or Interpretations of the Koran.

If a young Muslim whether the Islamic State is adhering to doctrine, the following shocking results would arise.

The literal understanding of the Koran 9:29 can easily be used to justify what extremists are doing.  “Fight those who do not believe in Allah or in the Last Day and who do not consider unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have made unlawful and who do not adopt the religion of truth from those who were given the Scripture (Jews and Christians) – [fight] until they give the jizyah willingly while they are humiliated.”

The following Sahih (authentic) Hadith in Al-Buchakry also supports violent ideology.
“Muhammad said: “I have been ordered to fight the people till they say: La ilaha illallah (none has the right to be worshipped but Allah), and whoever said No God other than, Allah will save his property and his life from me.”

If the same young Sunni Muslim felt uncomfortable with the literal interpretations of such text a search for an answer in the actions of the Sahaba might ensue. Sadly, the Sahaba or Disciples of Muhammad were the ones who used such a principle to justify the Islamic conquests and subjugating non-Muslims to Islam.

The fourth source for Islamic law is the four schools of Islamic jurisprudence namely, Al-Shafeii, Al-Hanbali, Al-Hanafi, and Al- Maleki. These schools, without a single exception, support the principle that Muslims must fight non-Muslims and offer them the dire choices.

The fifth, and final hope for one searching for a different understanding of Koran 9:29 is to find an interpretation (or commentary) that interprets it differently.

A basic research on almost all approved interpretation for the Quran support the same violent understanding. More than leading 25 different approved Koran Interpretations that are usually used by Muslims to understand the Koran unambiguously support the violent understanding of the verse.

Saying that “Islam is the religion of peace” or condemning radicals as being “un-Islamic” without condemning the principle that Muslims must fight non-Muslims to subjugate them to Islam, is not just hypocritical, it is counterproductive as it hides the true cause of the problem and impedes the efforts to solve it.

It also dangerously ignores the seriousness of the problem. Similarly, not calling the “Islamic State” the Islamic State (to avoid using the word Islamic) as suggested by some Islamic scholars is not going to change the painful fact that ISIS is using an approved and unchallenged principle of the Islamic theology. Such scholars need to work on providing peaceful alternatives to the current violent theology instead of asking the world not use the label Islamic State.

There are many moderate Muslims; however, until the leading Islamic scholars provide peaceful theology that clearly contradicts the violent views of the Islamic State, the existence of moderate “Islam” must be questioned.

Dr. Tawfik Hamid is the author of “Inside Jihad: Understanding and Confronting Radical Islam.” Read more reports from Tawfik Hamid — Click Here Now.

The Watchman: Jihadists on the March

Published on Jul 8, 2014 by The Christian Broadcasting Network

On this week’s edition of The Watchman, we sit down with Middle East experts Raymond Ibrahim and Tawfik Hamid to discuss the latest developments with the Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS, Al Qaeda, and Iran and what can be done to counter the jihadist.

Islam’s ‘Protestant Reformation’

Raymond Ibrahim, July 1, 2014:

Editor’s note: The following article originally appeared in two parts but is being published again as one article due to some confusions prompted by its original appearance as two parts.

In order to prevent a clash of civilizations, or worse, Islam must reform.   This is the contention of many Western peoples.  And, pointing to Christianity’s Protestant Reformation as proof that Islam can also reform, many are optimistic.

Overlooked by most, however, is that Islam has been reforming.  What is today called “radical Islam” is the reformation of Islam.  And it follows the same pattern of Christianity’s Protestant Reformation.

The problem is our understanding of the word “reform.”  Despite its positive connotations, “reform” simplymeans to “make changes (in something, typically a social, political, or economic institution or practice) in order to improve it.”

Synonyms of “reform” include “make better,” “ameliorate,” and “improve”—splendid words all, yet words all subjective and loaded with Western references.

Muslim notions of “improving” society may include purging it of “infidels” and their corrupt ways; or segregating men and women, keeping the latter under wraps or quarantined at home; or executing apostates, who are seen as traitorous agitators.

Banning many forms of freedoms taken for granted in the West—from alcohol consumption to religious and gender equality—can be deemed an “improvement” and a “betterment” of society.

In short, an Islamic reformation need not lead to what we think of as an “improvement” and “betterment” of society—simply because “we” are not Muslims and do not share their reference points and first premises.  “Reform” only sounds good to most Western peoples because they, secular and religious alike, are to a great extent products of Christianity’s Protestant Reformation; and so, a priori, they naturally attribute positive connotations to the word.

—–

At its core, the Protestant Reformation was a revolt against tradition in the name of scripture—in this case, the Bible.  With the coming of the printing press, increasing numbers of Christians became better acquainted with the Bible’s contents, parts of which they felt contradicted what the Church was teaching.  So they broke away, protesting that the only Christian authority was “scripture alone,” sola scriptura.

Islam’s reformation follows the same logic of the Protestant Reformation—specifically by prioritizing scripture over centuries of tradition and legal debate—but with antithetical results that reflect the contradictory teachings of the core texts of Christianity and Islam.

As with Christianity, throughout most of its history, Islam’s scriptures, specifically its “twin pillars,” the Koran (literal words of Allah) and the Hadith (words and deeds of Allah’s prophet, Muhammad), were inaccessible to the overwhelming majority of Muslims.  Only a few scholars, or ulema—literally, “they who know”—were literate in Arabic and/or had possession of Islam’s scriptures.  The average Muslim knew only the basics of Islam, or its “Five Pillars.”

In this context, a “medieval synthesis” flourished throughout the Islamic world.  Guided by an evolving general consensus (or ijma‘), Muslims sought to accommodate reality by, in medieval historian Daniel Pipes’ words,

translat[ing] Islam from a body of abstract, infeasible demands [as stipulated in the Koran and Hadith] into a workable system. In practical terms, it toned down Sharia and made the code of law operational. Sharia could now be sufficiently applied without Muslims being subjected to its more stringent demands…  [However,] While the medieval synthesis worked over the centuries, it never overcame a fundamental weakness: It is not comprehensively rooted in or derived from the foundational, constitutional texts of Islam. Based on compromises and half measures, it always remained vulnerable to challenge by purists (emphasis added).

This vulnerability has now reached breaking point: millions of more Korans published in Arabic and other languages are in circulation today compared to just a century ago; millions of more Muslims are now literate enough to read and understand the Koran compared to their medieval forbears.  The Hadith, which contains some of the most intolerant teachings and violent deeds attributed to Islam’s prophet, is now collated and accessible, in part thanks to the efforts of Western scholars, the Orientalists.  Most recently, there is the Internet—where all these scriptures are now available in dozens of languages and to anyone with a laptop or iphone.

In this backdrop, what has been called at different times, places, and contexts “Islamic fundamentalism,” “radical Islam,” “Islamism,” and “Salafism” flourished.  Many of today’s Muslim believers, much better acquainted than their ancestors with the often black and white words of their scriptures, are protesting against earlier traditions, are protesting against the “medieval synthesis,” in favor of scriptural literalism—just like their Christian Protestant counterparts once did.

Thus, if Martin Luther (d. 1546) rejected the extra-scriptural accretions of the Church and “reformed” Christianity by aligning it more closely with scripture, Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab (d. 1787), one of Islam’s first modern reformers, “called for a return to the pure, authentic Islam of the Prophet, and the rejection of the accretions that had corrupted it and distorted it,” in the words of Bernard Lewis (The Middle East, p. 333).

The unadulterated words of God—or Allah—are all that matter for the reformists.

Note: Because they are better acquainted with Islam’s scriptures, other Muslims, of course, are apostatizing—whether by converting to other religions, most notably Christianity, or whether by abandoning religion altogether, even if only in their hearts (for fear of the apostasy penalty).  This is an important point to be revisited later.  Muslims who do not become disaffected after better acquainting themselves with the literal teachings of Islam’s scriptures and who instead become more faithful to and observant of them are the topic of this essay.

—–

How Christianity and Islam can follow similar patterns of reform but with antithetical results rests in the fact that their scriptures are often antithetical to one another.   This is the key point, and one admittedly unintelligible to postmodern, secular sensibilities, which tend to lump all religious scripture together in a melting pot of relativism without bothering to evaluate the significance of their respective words and teachings.

Obviously a point by point comparison of the scriptures of Islam and Christianity is inappropriate for an article of this length (see my “Are Judaism and Christianity as Violent as Islam” for a more comprehensive treatment).

Suffice it to note some contradictions (which will be rejected as a matter of course by the relativistic mindset):

  • The New Testament preaches peace, brotherly love, tolerance, and forgiveness—for all humans, believers and non-believers alike.  Instead of combatting and converting “infidels,” Christians are called to pray for those who persecute them and turn the other cheek (which is not the same thing as passivity, for Christians are also called to be bold and unapologetic).  Conversely, the Koran and Hadith call for war, or jihad, against all non-believers, until they either convert, accept subjugation and discrimination, or die.
  • The New Testament has no punishment for the apostate from Christianity.  Conversely, Islam’s prophet himself decreed that “Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him.”
  • The New Testament teaches monogamy, one husband and one wife, thereby dignifying the woman.  The Koran allows polygamy—up to four wives—and the possession of concubines, or sex-slaves.  More literalist readings treat women as possessions.
  • The New Testament discourages lying (e.g., Col. 3:9).  The Koran permits it; the prophet himself often deceived others, and permitted lying to one’s wife, to reconcile quarreling parties, and to the “infidel” during war.

It is precisely because Christian scriptural literalism lends itself to religious freedom, tolerance, and the dignity of women, that Western civilization developed the way it did—despite the nonstop propaganda campaign emanating from academia, Hollywood, and other major media that says otherwise.

And it is precisely because Islamic scriptural literalism is at odds with religious freedom, tolerance, and the dignity of women, that Islamic civilization is the way it is—despite the nonstop propaganda campaign emanating from academia, Hollywood, and other major media that says otherwise.

—–

Those in the West waiting for an Islamic “reformation” along the same lines of the Protestant Reformation, on the assumption that it will lead to similar results, must embrace two facts: 1) Islam’s reformation is well on its way, and yes, along the same lines of the Protestant Reformation—with a focus on scripture and a disregard for tradition—and for similar historic reasons (literacy, scriptural dissemination, etc.); 2) But because the core teachings of the scriptures of Christianity and Islam markedly differ from one another, Islam’s reformation has naturally produced a civilization markedly different from the West.

Put differently, those in the West uncritically calling for an “Islamic reformation” need to acknowledge what it is they are really calling for: the secularization of Islam in the name of modernity; the trivialization and sidelining of Islamic law from Muslim society.

That would not be a “reformation”—certainly nothing analogous to the Protestant Reformation.

Overlooked is that Western secularism was, and is, possible only because Christian scripture lends itself to the division between church and state, the spiritual and the temporal.

Upholding the literal teachings of Christianity is possible within a secular—or any—state.  Christ called on believers to “render unto Caesar the things of Caesar (temporal) and unto God the things of God (spiritual)” (Matt. 22:21).  For the “kingdom of God” is “not of this world” (John 18:36).  Indeed, a good chunk of the New Testament deals with how “man is not justified by the works of the law… for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified” (Gal. 2:16).

On the other hand, mainstream Islam is devoted to upholding the law; and Islamic scripture calls for a fusion between Islamic law—Sharia—and the state.   Allah decrees in the Koran that “It is not fitting for true believers—men or women—to take their choice in affairs if Allah and His Messenger have decreed otherwise. He that disobeys Allah and His Messenger strays far indeed!” (33:36).   Allah tells the prophet of Islam, “We put you on an ordained way [literarily in Arabic, sharia] of command; so follow it and do not follow the inclinations of those who are ignorant” (45:18).

Mainstream Islamic exegesis has always interpreted such verses to mean that Muslims must follow the commandments of Allah as laid out in the Koran and Hadith—in a word, Sharia.

And Sharia is so concerned with the details of this world, with the everyday doings of Muslims, that every conceivable human action falls under five rulings, or ahkam: the forbidden (haram), the discouraged (makruh), the neutral (mubah), the recommended (mustahib), and the obligatory (wajib).

Conversely, Islam offers little concerning the spiritual (sidelined Sufism the exception).

Unlike Christianity, then, Islam without the law—without Sharia—becomes meaningless.   After all, the Arabic word Islam literally means “submit.”  Submit to what?  Allah’s laws as codified in Sharia and derived from the Koran and Hadith.

The “Islamic reformation” some in the West are hoping for is really nothing less than an Islam without Islam—secularization not reformation; Muslims prioritizing secular, civic, and humanitarian laws over Allah’s law; a “reformation” that would slowly see the religion of Muhammad go into the dustbin of history.

Such a scenario is certainly more plausible than believing that Islam can be true to its scriptures in any meaningful way and still peacefully coexist with, much less complement, modernity the way Christianity does.

Islam’s ‘Protestant Reformation’ (Part 1)

By Raymond Ibrahim, June 22, 2014:

In order to prevent a clash of civilizations, or worse, Islam must reform.   This is the contention of many Western peoples.  And, pointing to Christianity’s Protestant Reformation as proof that Islam can also reform, many are optimistic.

Overlooked by most, however, is that Islam has been reforming. What is today called “radical Islam” is the reformation of Islam.  And it follows the same pattern of Christianity’s Protestant Reformation.

The problem is our understanding of the word “reform.”  Despite its positive connotations, “reform” simply meansto “make changes (in something, typically a social, political, or economic institution or practice) in order to improve it.”

Synonyms of “reform” include “make better,” “ameliorate,” and “improve”—splendid words all, yet words all subjective and loaded with Western references.

Muslim notions of “improving” society may include purging it of “infidels” and their corrupt ways; or segregating men and women, keeping the latter under wraps or quarantined at home; or executing apostates, who are seen as traitorous agitators.

Banning many forms of freedoms taken for granted in the West—from alcohol consumption to religious and gender equality—can be deemed an “improvement” and a “betterment” of society.

In short, an Islamic reformation need not lead to what we think of as an “improvement” and “betterment” of society—simply because “we” are not Muslims and do not share their reference points and first premises.  “Reform” only sounds good to most Western peoples because they, secular and religious alike, are to a great extent products of Christianity’s Protestant Reformation; and so, a priori, they naturally attribute positive connotations to the word.

—-

At its core, the Protestant Reformation was a revolt against tradition in the name of scripture—in this case, the Bible.  With the coming of the printing press, increasing numbers of Christians became better acquainted with the Bible’s contents, parts of which they felt contradicted what the Church was teaching.  So they broke away, protesting that the only Christian authority was “scripture alone,” sola scriptura.

Islam’s reformation follows the same logic of the Protestant Reformation—specifically by prioritizing scripture over centuries of tradition and legal debate—but with antithetical results that reflect the contradictory teachings of the core texts of Christianity and Islam.

As with Christianity, throughout most of its history, Islam’s scriptures, specifically its “twin pillars,” the Koran (literal words of Allah) and the Hadith (words and deeds of Allah’s prophet, Muhammad), were inaccessible to the overwhelming majority of Muslims.  Only a few scholars, or ulema—literally, “they who know”—were literate in Arabic and/or had possession of Islam’s scriptures.  The average Muslim knew only the basics of Islam, or its “Five Pillars.”

In this context, a “medieval synthesis” flourished throughout the Islamic world.  Guided by an evolving general consensus (or ijma‘), Muslims sought to accommodate reality by, in medieval historian Daniel Pipes’ words,

translat[ing] Islam from a body of abstract, infeasible demands [as stipulated in the Koran and Hadith] into a workable system. In practical terms, it toned down Sharia and made the code of law operational. Sharia could now be sufficiently applied without Muslims being subjected to its more stringent demands…  [However,] While the medieval synthesis worked over the centuries, it never overcame a fundamental weakness: It is not comprehensively rooted in or derived from the foundational, constitutional texts of Islam. Based on compromises and half measures, it always remained vulnerable to challenge by purists (emphasis added).

This vulnerability has now reached breaking point: millions of more Korans published in Arabic and other languages are in circulation today compared to just a century ago; millions of more Muslims are now literate enough to read and understand the Koran compared to their medieval forbears.  The Hadith, which contains some of the most intolerant teachings and violent deeds attributed to Islam’s prophet, is now collated and accessible, in part thanks to the efforts of Western scholars, the Orientalists.  Most recently, there is the Internet—where all these scriptures are now available in dozens of languages and to anyone with a laptop or iphone.

In this backdrop, what has been called at different times, places, and contexts “Islamic fundamentalism,” “radical Islam,” “Islamism,” and “Salafism” flourished.  Many of today’s Muslim believers, much better acquainted with the often black and white words of their scriptures than their ancestors, are protesting against earlier traditions, are protesting against the “medieval synthesis,” in favor of scriptural literalism—just like their Christian Protestant counterparts once did.

Thus, if Martin Luther (d. 1546) rejected the extra-scriptural accretions of the Church and “reformed” Christianity by aligning it more closely with scripture, Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab (d. 1787), one of Islam’s first modern reformers, “called for a return to the pure, authentic Islam of the Prophet, and the rejection of the accretions that had corrupted it and distorted it,” in the words of Bernard Lewis (The Middle East, p. 333).

The unadulterated words of God—or Allah—are all that matter for the reformists.

Note: Because they are better acquainted with Islam’s scriptures, other Muslims, of course, are apostatizing—whether by converting to other religions, most notably Christianity, or whether by abandoning religion altogether, even if only in their hearts (for fear of the apostasy penalty).  This is an important point to be revisited later.  Muslims who do not become disaffected after better acquainting themselves with the literal teachings of Islam’s scriptures and who instead become more faithful to and observant of them are the topic of this essay.

Part 2 will appear later this week

Can Islamism Evolve?

lightBy Andrew C. McCarthy:

Like everything Daniel Pipes writes, his column this week about the prospects of Islamism is interesting and admirably honest. If every public intellectual were as willing as Daniel to check his premises regularly and modify them when new facts call them into question, our discourse would be a lot more civil and edifying.

His column is about “Islamism,” which is the ideology I (among others) call “Islamic supremacism” — a.k.a “radical” or “extremist” Islam, or even “sharia-ism” in the recent coinage of my friend Joy Brighton . . . all of us, it should be conceded, grappling for the pitch-perfect term that (we hope) justifies sidestepping the gnawing question whether Islam itself inevitably breeds aggressive Muslim groups even if it is otherwise widely construed, or at least practiced, benignly.

Daniel has previously rejected the possibility that Islamism, which is innately dictatorial, could evolve into something that approximates pluralistic democracy. He now surveys recent developments and concludes it is conceivable — not likely, but conceivable — that Islamism could evolve and improve.

To me, the developments Daniel cites are just glimmers here and there along a mostly discouraging trajectory. I will make three points, more in reaction than in direct response to his observations.

1. Only our own lower expectations of what liberal democracy is make it possible to speculate that Islamism could become borderline democratic. While Daniel mines some hopeful signs that Islamism — or at least branches of it — could be progressing away from unyielding authoritarianism, the parallel phenomenon (which is not the subject of his column) is that Western democracy is regressing away from a culture of individual liberty protected by limited government. If it now seems conceivable that Islamism could democratize, it can only be owing to modern democracy’s accommodation of more centralized and intrusive government.

2. The only conclusion of Daniel’s that I have a real quarrel with is his assertion that

Islamism has significantly evolved over the past 13 years. As recently as 2001, its adherents were synonymous with criminals, terrorists, and revolutionaries.

I think this conflates Islamism with our perception of Islamism. Personally, I don’t believe Islamism has materially changed at all. Instead, beginning about 21 years ago with the bombing of the World Trade Center, there was a vigorous effort on the part of progressive policy-makers and thinkers — an effort that still persists — to convince the public that the only “radical” Muslims were violent jihadists (who were incongruously portrayed as both “extremist” Muslims and practitioners of a “false Islam”). All other Muslims, we were told, were “moderates,” no matter how immoderate their beliefs. There was very little public understanding of sharia — the Islamic societal framework and legal system — and of the fact that imposing its implementation is the rationale for both jihadist terror and the non-violent agitations of Islamist groups.

What has changed over the past 13 years is not Islamism. Thanks to the good work of people like Daniel — I have tried to do my share, too — the public has begun to learn that Islamists include not only terrorists but Islamic supremacists who seek to impose and inculcate sharia standards by such other means as lawfare, legislation, the classroom, the media, popular culture, etc. There is nothing new in this variegated approach; it is the same plan for ground-up revolution that Muslim Brotherhood founder Hasan al-Banna laid out nearly a century ago. There is, however, more popular awareness today that not every non-terrorist Muslim activist is a “moderate.”

Daniel recalls his observation all those years ago that many Islamists “are peaceable in appearance, but they all must be considered potential killers.” He says “these words ring archaic now,” but, to me, they simply reflect the still valid insight that terrorist and non-terrorist Islamists share objectives even if their methods differ. I don’t think there has been any real evolution just because we are in a time when many Islamists, as Daniel says, “find the ballot box a more effective means to power than the gun.”

It has always been the case that some Islamists pursue the sharia agenda by barbaric means and others by political and legal processes. The only difference today lies in the nature of their opportunities. In Muslim-majority countries such as Egypt, Islamists got the chance to obtain by popular vote what they had previously sought by terrorism — control of the government. And what happened when the Muslim Brotherhood took over? Terrorists were sprung from captivity. Islamist Egypt seamlessly became a hospitable place for jihadists to organize against Israel and the United States. Islamists — both violent and ostensibly non-violent — put their differences aside and allied against the West.

’Twas ever thus. Daniel is surely right that “some reforms of Islam are already underway” (my italics). But that hardly means Islamism is reforming in any substantial way. Indeed, the link in Daniel’s assertion about ongoing Islamic reform takes the reader to an excellent essay he wrote for Commentary last year, which portrays the reform of Islam as what is required “if Islamism is to be defeated,” not as a phenomenon happening in Islamism itself.

Read more at National Review

*********

Daniel Pipes has written a reply: Islamism’s Trajectory