Glazov Gang: Choudary, Spencer and Jasser Battle It Out On “Jihad in Chattanooga.”

free-672x372By Jamie Glazov July 31, 2015:

This special episode of The Glazov Gang was joined by Anjem Choudary, a London Imam, Robert Spencer, the Director of JihadWatch.org, and Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, the Founder and President of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy.

The three guests came on the show to discuss “Jihad in Chattanooga.”

Don’t miss the fireworks:

Islam between Radicalism and Reform

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Religious Freedom Coalition, by Andrew Harrod, PhD. – July 28, 2015:

“We can give up the business of saying that this has nothing to do with Islam,” stated Hudson Institute scholar Hassan Haqqani while discussing jihadist violence at Washington, DC’s American Enterprise Institute (AEI) on July 21.  Haqqani and AEI’s conference “Islamic Extremism, Reformism, and the War on Terror” examined insightfully radicalism’s literal rootedness in Islam and its reform prospects to a conference room filled with about 80 listeners.

Notwithstanding prevalent “political correctness,” AEI moderator Danielle Pletka stated that the atrocious Islamic State (in Iraq and Syria, or ISIL) “may not be the form of Islam that should be, but it is, in fact, certainly a form of Islam.”  The ideology of groups like ISIL, noted the former Pakistani ambassador to the United States Haqqani, “may be a variant, it may be a distortion, it may be an extreme view, but it does have to do with Islam.”  Brookings Institution scholar Shadi Hamid noted that Graeme Wood, the author of the “great Atlantic article,” had once expressed on a panel with Hamid that, theologically speaking, “ISIL is an example of the Islamic reformation.”

Hamid explained that, by reverting to the sources of Islamic doctrine, Muslim “reform and reformation can lead to ascendant conservative forces.”  A “reformation of sorts” by late 19th and early 20th century Islamic thinkers, for example, led to groups like the Muslim Brotherhood (MB).  Their “mainstream Islamism” is an “attempt to reconcile pre-modern Islamic law with the modern nation-state.”

Hamid questioned whether “Islam is uniquely resistant to secularization.”  “Prophet Muhammad,” Hamid noted of Islam’s founding figure, “was not just a prophet or theologian, but also a politician, a warrior, a merchant, and, perhaps most importantly, a head of state, a small kind of mini-state.”  Thus any advocacy in Islam of separating religion and politics must “go up against the prophetic model,” which “even not particularly religious Muslims really value.”  “There are ways to do that,” he qualified, “but they are challenging and it’s unlikely to get a critical mass of support in the Muslim world.”

Hamid added that Islam’s “Quranic inerrancy” entails a “creedal requirement to believe that the Quran is not just the word of God, not just inspired by God, but God’s actual speech.”  Contrary to Christian understanding of divinely-inspired, but man-made scripture, in Islam’s view of the Quran “every single letter and word is not mediated.”  “Even a lax Muslim has a more intense commitment to the [Quranic] text theoretically than a right-wing evangelical does to the Bible.”

Against such dogmatism Abbas Kadhim, a School of Advanced International Studies professor originally from the Shiite holy city of Najaf, Iraq, presented a more flexible understanding of Islamic reform.  For him this entailed “going back to the roots of Islam and then trying to derive from those roots what works for this time and this age, just like the Muslims throughout the centuries.”  Appearing on the panel after Kadhim, the Gallup pollster Mohamed Younis appeared to concur, stating that Islamic law or “sharia is the utopian ideal” mediated in implementation throughout history by complex, prudential human jurisprudence.  “ISIL is not a traditionalist movement,” he argued, but “actually a complete deviation or walking away from the traditions of jurisprudence within Islam,” demonstrating a “need to increase the jurisprudential literacy” of Muslims.

Kadhim took an almost iconoclastic approach to various Islamic tenets befitting his background in which, he argued, Shiite theology’s greater emphasis on ijtihad or individual intellectual exertion contrasted with Sunni doctrine.  The Islamic doctrine ofQuranic abrogation, for example, entails that later revealed (and often more violent) verses in the Quran replace earlier (often more benign) verses.  Yet German orientalist Theodor Nöldeke showed that “this is a mess here” trying to determine the Quran’s chronological order.

Kadhim also noted that Islam’s second canonical source, the hadith relating what Islam considers as Muhammad’s exemplary biography, are sayings about him recorded some 200 years after his death.  Hadith validity therefore depended upon a narrator “chain of transmission” or isnad, yet Kadhim rhetorically questioned his audience “how many of you can reproduce what we said in the last 15 minutes?”  He concluded that “Muslims have lied and attributed things to the prophet for 1,400 years,” dishonestly using Quran and hadith to “advance a certain agenda.”  Nonetheless, “in certain schools of Islam certain dead people have an omnipresent authority,” like the 13th century Ibn Taymiyyah among the Sunni Hanbali legal school dominant in the Arabian Peninsula.

Such outside-the-box Islamic thinking appealed to Haqqani, who noted that groups like ISIL have a “radical ideology, and all ideologies when they are fought need an ideological counter-narrative,” like Cold War Communism.  “Give a voice to the voices in the Muslim world that are being shut up” was his global strategy for encouraging Islamic diversity in the face of often repressive Muslim-majority societies.  He noted, for example, an Egyptian scholar for whom the initial Muslim community under Muhammad in seventh-century “Medina was not really a state in the modern sense.”  Similarly, panelist Jennifer Bryson, an Arabic scholar whopreviously questioned Pletka and others calling the Islamic State as such, described Muhammad “as more of a community leader.”

In this view, Haqqani stated, the “purpose of Islam is piety and not power” and the “whole notion of an Islamic state is flawed.”  Given his apolitical, pietistic understanding of Islam, he noted that Islam’s Shiite-Sunni division derives from seventh-century conflicts over Muhammad’s choice of succession in the initial Muslim caliphate.  “What relevance does it have in the 21st century?” he asked, and proclaimed among his mixed Shiite-Sunni fellow panelists “let the Shia be Shias, and let the Sunnis be Sunnis.”

Kadhim’s fellow Iraqi Shiite conference presenter, Zainab Al-Suwaij from the American Islamic Congress, concurred in a “need to diversify the voices” among Muslims.  In particular, “certain organizations” in the United States habitually unnamed by her inappropriately claim to speak for all American Muslims.  Did she have in mind the Hamas-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), whose representatives were in the AEI audience?

Islamic diversity and nuance formed Bryson’s antidote for aggressive and authoritarian Islamic agendas.  For the recentChattanooga jihadist, the “problem was that he was disconnected from the very rich and complex traditions of Islam” characterized by “ongoing discussion.”  Yet precisely such variety explained for Hamid Islam’s recurring malign manifestations throughout the world.  “If you want to find something in Islamic tradition to justify whatever you are doing,” he stated, “you probably will be able to find it somewhere because Islam is such a diverse, rich tradition.”

While groups like the Muslim Brotherhood or ISIL in fact have an anchoring in Islamic canons, protestations by Bryson and others of Islam’s diversity do not explain how benign Islamic views would necessarily overcome opposition.  Kadhim’s scriptural critiques could just as well call into question Islam in its entirety and outrage the devout as lead to religious refinement.  Haqqani’s appeal for Shiite-Sunni tolerance downplays recurrent historical hostility within a divided Dar al-Islam among theological groups whose cosmic conflicts are no less passionate than America’s Civil War.  Making Islam, a faith not known for accepting debate and discussion, into a true religion of peace will be difficult indeed.

Andrew E. Harrod is a researcher and writer who holds a PhD from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and a JD from George Washington University Law School.  He is a fellow with the Lawfare Project, an organization combating the misuse of human rights law against Western societies.  He can be followed on twitter at @AEHarrod.

A Problem From Heaven – Why the United States Should Back Islam’s Reformation

Egyptian men read the Koran at Al-Azhar mosque in Cairo,  September 2008 NASSER NURI / REUTERS

Egyptian men read the Koran at Al-Azhar mosque in Cairo, September 2008 NASSER NURI / REUTERS

Imagine a platform for Muslim dissidents that communicated their message through YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Imagine ten reformist magazines for every one issue of the Islamic State’s Dabiq or al Qaeda’s Inspire. Imagine the argument for Islamic reform being available on radio and television in Arabic, Dari, Farsi, Pashto, and Urdu. Imagine grants and prizes for leading religious reformers. Imagine support for schools that act as anti-madrasahs.

Such a strategy would also give the United States an opportunity to shift its alliances to those Muslim individuals and groups that actually share its values and practices: those who fight for a true Muslim reformation and who currently find themselves maligned, if not persecuted, by the very governments Washington props up.

Foreign Affairs, by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, June 16, 2015:

We have a problem—not a problem from hell, but one that claims to come from heaven. That problem is sometimes called radical, or fundamentalist, Islam, and the self-styled Islamic State is just its latest iteration. But no one really understands it. In the summer of 2014, Major General Michael Nagata, the commander of U.S. special operations forces in the Middle East, admitted as much when talking about the Islamic State, or ISIS. “We do not understand the movement,” he said. “And until we do, we are not going to defeat it.” Although Nagata’s words are striking for their candor, there is nothing new about the state of affairs they describe. For years, U.S. policymakers have failed to grasp the nature of the threat posed by militant Islam and have almost entirely failed to mount an effective counteroffensive against it on the battlefield that matters most: the battlefield of ideas.

In the war of ideas, words matter. Last September, U.S. President Barack Obama insisted that the Islamic State “is not Islamic,” and later that month, he told the UN General Assembly that “Islam teaches peace.” In November, Obama condemned the beheading of the American aid worker Peter Kassig as “evil” but refused to use the term “radical Islam” to describe the ideology of his killers. The phrase is no longer heard in White House press briefings. The approved term is “violent extremism.”

The decision not to call violence committed in the name of Islam by its true name—jihad—is a strange one. It would be as if Western leaders during the Cold War had gone around calling communism an ideology of peace or condemning the Baader Meinhof Gang, a West German militant group, for not being true Marxists. It is time to drop the euphemisms and verbal contortions. A battle for the future of Islam is taking place between reformers and reactionaries, and its outcome matters. The United States needs to start helping the right side win.

TONGUE-TIED

How did the United States end up with a strategy based on Orwellian Newspeak? In the wake of 9/11, senior Bush administration officials sounded emphatic. “This is a battle for minds,” declared the Pentagon’s no. 2, Paul Wolfowitz, in 2002. But behind the scenes, there was a full-blown struggle going on about how to approach the subject of Islam. According to Joseph Bosco, who worked on strategic communications and Muslim outreach in the Office of the Secretary of Defense from 2002 to 2004, although some American officials defined Islam as inherently peaceful, others argued that, like Christianity, it had to go through a reformation. Eventually, an uneasy compromise was reached. “We bridged the divide by saying that most contemporary Muslims practice their faith peacefully and tolerantly, but a small, radical minority aspires to return to Islam’s harsh seventh century origins,” Bosco wrote in The National Interest.

Administration officials could not even agree on the target of their efforts. Was it global terrorism or Islamic extremism? Or was it the alleged root causes—poverty, Saudi funding, past errors of U.S. foreign policy, or something else altogether? There were “agonizing” meetings on the subject, one participant told U.S. News & World Report. “We couldn’t clarify what path to take, so it was dropped.”

It did not help that the issue cut across traditional bureaucratic demarcations. Officers from the U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command argued for the integration of public diplomacy, press relations, and covert operations. State Department officials saw this as yet another attempt by the Pentagon to annex their turf. Veterans of the campaign trail warned against going negative on a religion—any religion—ahead of the 2004 election. For all these reasons, by the middle of that year, the Bush administration had next to no strategy. Government Accountability Office investigators told Congress that those responsible for public diplomacy at the State Department had no guidance. “Everybody who knows how to do this has been screaming,” one insider told U.S. News. But outside Foggy Bottom, no one could hear them scream.

Administration officials eventually settled on the “Muslim World Outreach” strategy, which relied partly on humanitarian projects carried out by the U.S. Agency for International Development and partly on Arabic-language media outlets funded by the U.S. government, such as Alhurra (a plain vanilla TV news channel) and Radio Sawa (a 24-hour pop music station that targets younger listeners). In effect, “Muslim World Outreach” meant not touching Islam at all. Karen Hughes, who was undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs from 2005 to 2007, has said that she “became convinced that our nation should avoid the language of religion in our discussion of terrorist acts.”

Here, if in few other respects, there has been striking continuity from Bush to Obama. From 2009 to 2011, Judith McHale served in the same position that Hughes had. “This effort is not about a ‘war of ideas,’ or winning the hearts and minds of huge numbers of people,” McHale said in 2012. “It’s about using digital platforms to reach that small but dangerous group of people around the world who are considering turning to terrorism and persuading them to instead turn in a different direction.” The whole concept of “violent extremism” implies that the United States is fine with people being extremists, so long as they do not resort to violence. Yet this line of reasoning fails to understand the crucial link between those who preach jihad and those who then carry it out. It also fails to understand that at a pivotal moment, the United States has opted out of a debate about Islam’s future.

Read more

Islam’s ‘Reformation’ Is Already Here—and It’s Called ‘ISIS’

vcBy Raymond Ibrahim, May 7, 2015:

The idea that Islam needs to reform is again in the spotlight following the recent publication of Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s new book, Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now.  While Ali makes the argument that Islam can reform—and is in desperate need of taking the extreme measures she suggests to do so—many of her critics offer a plethora of opposing claims, including that Islam need not reform at all.

The one argument not being made, however, is the one I make below—namely, that Islam has already “reformed.”  And violence, intolerance, and extremism—typified by the Islamic State (“ISIS”)—are the net result of this “reformation.”

Such a claim only sounds absurd due to our understanding of the word “reform.”  Yet despite its positive connotations, “reform” simply means 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 connotations.

Muslim notions of “improving” society can include purging it of “infidels” and “apostates,” and segregating Muslim men from women, keeping the latter under wraps or quarantined at home. Banning many forms of freedoms taken for granted in the West—from alcohol consumption to religious and gender equality—is an “improvement” and a “betterment” of society from a strictly Islamic point of view.

In short, an Islamic reformation will 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 first premises and reference points.  “Reform” only sounds good to most Western peoples because they naturally attribute Western connotations to the word.

Historical Parallels: Islam’s Reformation and the Protestant Reformation

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 current 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—including every atrocity ISIS commits, such as beheading, crucifying, and burning “infidels,” even mocking their corpses—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 teachings 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 exclusively 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” (Bernard Lewis,The Middle East, p. 333).

The unadulterated words of God—or Allah—are all that matter for the “reformists,” with ISIS at their head.

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 becoming better acquainted 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.

Christianity and Islam: Antithetical Teachings, Antithetical Results

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 scriptures 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 naturally 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 all 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.

The Islamic Reformation Is Here—and It’s ISIS

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 founders and scriptures of Christianity and Islam markedly differ from one another, Islam’s reformation is producing something markedly different.

Put differently, those in the West 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 is precisely what Ayaan Hirsi Ali is doing.  Some of her reforms as outlined in Heretic call for Muslims to begin doubting Muhammad (whose words and deeds are in the Hadith) and the Koran—the very two foundations of Islam.

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

Habitually 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 the example of Muhammad as laid out in the 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 very three things Ali is asking Muslims to start doubting.

The “Islamic reformation” some in the West are calling 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 and history in any meaningful way and still peacefully coexist with, much less complement, modernity the way Christianity does.

Note: An earlier version of this article first appeared on PJ Media in June 2014

Reformist Approach to Sharia a Refreshing Break with Academic Apologists

Rumee-Ahmed-ramadan-770.JPGJihad Watch, by Andrew Harrod, May 2, 2015:

In a refreshing departure from Sharia apologias common in Middle East studies, University of British Columbia Islamic law professor  rejected the “myth” of Sharia (Islamic law) as a “static, fixed, reified entity” on April 22 in the Georgetown University Center for Contemporary Arab Studies’ wood-paneled boardroom. Ahmed’s presentation, “Shari’a 2.0: Islamic Systematics and the Science of Islamic Legal Reform” before a student-dominated audience of about fifteen, demonstrated simultaneously Sharia’s all-too human origins as well as its embedded dangers.

He described a “sharp, sharp disconnect” between contemporary and historical Islamic interpretations of Sharia. According to the former, Islamic legal scholars substantiated their claim of being central to legitimating Islamic regimes that claimed to rule by God’s law. Yet judges who were not legal scholars often made politically motivated legal decisions that were subject to subsequent overruling by temporal rulers such as caliphs. Campaigning armies, meanwhile, would simply make unilateral decisions without consulting legal scholars on issues such as the division of spoils.

Concerning pre-colonial Islamic legal scholars, Ahmed questioned the power and reputation of such men in a world of three percent literacy. Political patronage could compromise the purity of their intentions. Danger lurked, he noted, since their struggles with rulers could lead to imprisonment or even execution.

Ahmed expressed a “very cynical view” regarding past legal use of Islam’s canonical texts. Quran 8:67-68, concerning the Muslim victory at the Battle of Badr under Muhammad, suggested that taking prisoners manifested a failure to fulfill a divine command to fight the enemy. But “sharp breaks” throughout history in the acceptance of taking and ransoming prisoners by Sunni Islam’sHanafi school of jurisprudence demonstrated how Islamic law responded to political developments with theological reinterpretation.

Practical realities aside, Ahmed described how earlier Islamic legal scholars created in their voluminous writings “subjunctive worlds.” Although these legal visions often had no expectation of implementation, they expressed the “ideal relationship between human beings and God.” “Writing a book of law is never a waste of time,” he noted, but is a “way to express your religiosity” or a “devotional act” similar to prayer. The intricacy of such legal thinking means that attempts to reform a single point of Islamic law on, for example, punishments involving whipping necessitates considering several other elements of Islamic legal theory.

Islamic legal history is replete with controversies surrounding reform, he said. Quran 5:38 was “pretty clear” in mandating hand amputation as punishment for stealing, although some had tried to interpret this verse to mean “cut off their power” with imprisonment. Several hadith, or canonical narratives of Muhammad’s life, however, did indeed mandate amputation and formed a corresponding pre-colonial Islamic legal consensus, contrary practice notwithstanding.

Slavery’s permissibility received a similar “unequivocal yes” in Islamic law sixty or seventy years ago. Political pressures forced Muslim scholars to justify abolition in what Ahmed described as a “little bit of a technical argument” premised on the understanding that “times have changed.” The Islamic State (ISIS), though, has recently reintroduced slavery, arguing that times have changed again.

Other controversies involving Sharia have been addressed creatively, Ahmed noted. The Egyptian jihadist group Gama’a al-Islamiyya, for example, discovered in Western contract law a unique basis for abolishing airline hijacking: the purchaser of an airline ticket may not violate its terms by destroying or seizing the plane. In the political sphere, while many European diaspora Muslims vote simply for the sake of political participation, the Sharia principle of maslaha or public good allows conservative Muslims to participate in non-Muslim politics in order to advance Islam.

One of Ahmed’s Powerpoints stated, “Gender: The Greatest Challenge to Islamic Reform.” “Gender pervades every part of Islamic law,” he explained, a law that was traditionally patriarchal. The Quran, for example 4:11, prescribes half the inheritance for women as for men.

Nonetheless, Sharia’s past malleability made Ahmed optimistic that in Islam, “any law, no matter how entrenched it seems in Muslim texts, can be reformed.” To this end, he is developing an application allowing popular citation of legal arguments and sources in order to “democratize” and “crowdsource Sharia.” That way, less educated and “state-sponsored ulama” (religious scholars) will “not have a monopoly on Islamic law.”

Ahmed himself would like to “get less religion” in Muslim governance, but Sharia is not going to disappear from Muslim societies anytime soon, including pertinent national constitution clauses. An “overwhelming number” of surveyed Muslims expressed a belief in Sharia, often including corporal punishment, as divine. Alternatively, millions of Muslims sought an Islamic theological basis to justify their support for human rights norms such as gender equality. “Context driving law is not just legitimate, it’s inevitable,” he concluded.

Ahmed’s illuminating and refreshingly honest examination of Sharia raised several important concerns surrounding Islamic law and its reform. On one hand, critical examination of Sharia’s past could cause many Muslims to be as reform-minded as Ahmed and to reject Sharia as a divinely-ordained, unalterable legal code that demands future application. On the other hand, Sharia contains serious moral failings not easily resolved even with the most sophisticated (or sophistic) Islamic theological and legal arguments.

As presented by Ahmed, Islamic law suffers from an unwieldy, unstable, and incoherent structure stemming from Islam’s doctrinal foundations. As one of his slides stated, Islam’s arbitrary conception of God is “beyond our moral code.” Islamic norms then derive from Muhammad, who “is supposed to be the pristine believer” in Islamic teaching and thus, according to some Islamic teachings, incapable of sin. On the basis of the life of this seventh-century desert dweller, Islamic law has accepted slavery while possessing an “unnecessary amount of information on the law of wells.” Developing modern legal standards for a free society within such a body of law will be difficult indeed, which is why Ahmed’s insistence on reform is so important.

Andrew E. Harrod is a freelance researcher and writer who holds a PhD from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and a JD from George Washington University Law School. He is a fellow with the Lawfare Project; follow him on twitter at @AEHarrod. He wrote this essay for Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.

Why Islam Needs a Reformation

“Islam’s borders are bloody,” wrote the late political scientist Samuel Huntington in 1996, “and so are its innards.” Nearly 20 years later, Huntington looks more right than ever before. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, at least 70% of all the fatalities in armed conflicts around the world last year were in wars involving Muslims. In 2013, there were nearly 12,000 terrorist attacks world-wide. The lion’s share were in Muslim-majority countries, and many of the others were carried out by Muslims. By far the most numerous victims of Muslim violence—including executions and lynchings not captured in these statistics—are Muslims themselves.

Not all of this violence is explicitly motivated by religion, but a great deal of it is. I believe that it is foolish to insist, as Western leaders habitually do, that the violent acts committed in the name of Islam can somehow be divorced from the religion itself. For more than a decade, my message has been simple: Islam is not a religion of peace.

When I assert this, I do not mean that Islamic belief makes all Muslims violent. This is manifestly not the case: There are many millions of peaceful Muslims in the world. What I do say is that the call to violence and the justification for it are explicitly stated in the sacred texts of Islam. Moreover, this theologically sanctioned violence is there to be activated by any number of offenses, including but not limited to apostasy, adultery, blasphemy and even something as vague as threats to family honor or to the honor of Islam itself.

It is not just al Qaeda and Islamic State that show the violent face of Islamic faith and practice. It is Pakistan, where any statement critical of the Prophet or Islam is labeled as blasphemy and punishable by death. It is Saudi Arabia, where churches and synagogues are outlawed and where beheadings are a legitimate form of punishment. It is Iran, where stoning is an acceptable punishment and homosexuals are hanged for their “crime.”

As I see it, the fundamental problem is that the majority of otherwise peaceful and law-abiding Muslims are unwilling to acknowledge, much less to repudiate, the theological warrant for intolerance and violence embedded in their own religious texts. It simply will not do for Muslims to claim that their religion has been “hijacked” by extremists. The killers of Islamic State and Nigeria’s Boko Haram cite the same religious texts that every other Muslim in the world considers sacrosanct.

Instead of letting Islam off the hook with bland clichés about the religion of peace, we in the West need to challenge and debate the very substance of Islamic thought and practice. We need to hold Islam accountable for the acts of its most violent adherents and to demand that it reform or disavow the key beliefs that are used to justify those acts.

As it turns out, the West has some experience with this sort of reformist project. It is precisely what took place in Judaism and Christianity over the centuries, as both traditions gradually consigned the violent passages of their own sacred texts to the past. Many parts of the Bible and the Talmud reflect patriarchal norms, and both also contain many stories of harsh human and divine retribution. As President Barack Obama said in remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast last month, “Remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.”

Islamic State militants marching through Raqqa, Syria, a stronghold of the Sunni extremist group, in an undated file image posted on a militant website on Jan. 14, 2014. PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS

Islamic State militants marching through Raqqa, Syria, a stronghold of the Sunni extremist group, in an undated file image posted on a militant website on Jan. 14, 2014. PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS

Yet today, because their faiths went through a long, meaningful process of Reformation and Enlightenment, the vast majority of Jews and Christians have come to dismiss religious scripture that urges intolerance or violence. There are literalist fringes in both religions, but they are true fringes. Regrettably, in Islam, it is the other way around: It is those seeking religious reform who are the fringe element.

Any serious discussion of Islam must begin with its core creed, which is based on the Quran (the words said to have been revealed by the Angel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad) and the hadith (the accompanying works that detail Muhammad’s life and words). Despite some sectarian differences, this creed unites all Muslims. All, without exception, know by heart these words: “I bear witness that there is no God but Allah; and Muhammad is His messenger.” This is the Shahada, the Muslim profession of faith.

The Shahada might seem to be a declaration of belief no different from any other. But the reality is that the Shahada is both a religious and a political symbol.

In the early days of Islam, when Muhammad was going from door to door in Mecca trying to persuade the polytheists to abandon their idols of worship, he was inviting them to accept that there was no god but Allah and that he was Allah’s messenger.

After 10 years of trying this kind of persuasion, however, he and his small band of believers went to Medina, and from that moment, Muhammad’s mission took on a political dimension. Unbelievers were still invited to submit to Allah, but after Medina, they were attacked if they refused. If defeated, they were given the option to convert or to die. (Jews and Christians could retain their faith if they submitted to paying a special tax.)

No symbol represents the soul of Islam more than the Shahada. But today there is a contest within Islam for the ownership of that symbol. Who owns the Shahada? Is it those Muslims who want to emphasize Muhammad’s years in Mecca or those who are inspired by his conquests after Medina? On this basis, I believe that we can distinguish three different groups of Muslims.

The first group is the most problematic. These are the fundamentalists who, when they say the Shahada, mean: “We must live by the strict letter of our creed.” They envision a regime based on Shariah, Islamic religious law. They argue for an Islam largely or completely unchanged from its original seventh-century version. What is more, they take it as a requirement of their faith that they impose it on everyone else.

I shall call them Medina Muslims, in that they see the forcible imposition of Shariah as their religious duty. They aim not just to obey Muhammad’s teaching but also to emulate his warlike conduct after his move to Medina. Even if they do not themselves engage in violence, they do not hesitate to condone it.

It is Medina Muslims who call Jews and Christians “pigs and monkeys.” It is Medina Muslims who prescribe death for the crime of apostasy, death by stoning for adultery and hanging for homosexuality. It is Medina Muslims who put women in burqas and beat them if they leave their homes alone or if they are improperly veiled.

Muslim children carry torches during a parade before Eid al-Fitr, at the end of the holy month of Ramadan, on July 27, 2014, in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

Muslim children carry torches during a parade before Eid al-Fitr, at the end of the holy month of Ramadan, on July 27, 2014, in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

The second group—and the clear majority throughout the Muslim world—consists of Muslims who are loyal to the core creed and worship devoutly but are not inclined to practice violence. I call them Mecca Muslims. Like devout Christians or Jews who attend religious services every day and abide by religious rules in what they eat and wear, Mecca Muslims focus on religious observance. I was born in Somalia and raised as a Mecca Muslim. So were the majority of Muslims from Casablanca to Jakarta.

Yet the Mecca Muslims have a problem: Their religious beliefs exist in an uneasy tension with modernity—the complex of economic, cultural and political innovations that not only reshaped the Western world but also dramatically transformed the developing world as the West exported it. The rational, secular and individualistic values of modernity are fundamentally corrosive of traditional societies, especially hierarchies based on gender, age and inherited status.

Trapped between two worlds of belief and experience, these Muslims are engaged in a daily struggle to adhere to Islam in the context of a society that challenges their values and beliefs at every turn. Many are able to resolve this tension only by withdrawing into self-enclosed (and increasingly self-governing) enclaves. This is called cocooning, a practice whereby Muslim immigrants attempt to wall off outside influences, permitting only an Islamic education for their children and disengaging from the wider non-Muslim community.

It is my hope to engage this second group of Muslims—those closer to Mecca than to Medina—in a dialogue about the meaning and practice of their faith. I recognize that these Muslims are not likely to heed a call for doctrinal reformation from someone they regard as an apostate and infidel. But they may reconsider if I can persuade them to think of me not as an apostate but as a heretic: one of a growing number of people born into Islam who have sought to think critically about the faith we were raised in. It is with this third group—only a few of whom have left Islam altogether—that I would now identify myself.

These are the Muslim dissidents. A few of us have been forced by experience to conclude that we could not continue to be believers; yet we remain deeply engaged in the debate about Islam’s future. The majority of dissidents are reforming believers—among them clerics who have come to realize that their religion must change if its followers are not to be condemned to an interminable cycle of political violence.

How many Muslims belong to each group? Ed Husain of the Council on Foreign Relations estimates that only 3% of the world’s Muslims understand Islam in the militant terms I associate with Muhammad’s time in Medina. But out of well over 1.6 billion believers, or 23% of the globe’s population, that 48 million seems to be more than enough. (I would put the number significantly higher, based on survey data on attitudes toward Shariah in Muslim countries.)

In any case, regardless of the numbers, it is the Medina Muslims who have captured the world’s attention on the airwaves, over social media, in far too many mosques and, of course, on the battlefield.

The Medina Muslims pose a threat not just to non-Muslims. They also undermine the position of those Mecca Muslims attempting to lead a quiet life in their cultural cocoons throughout the Western world. But those under the greatest threat are the dissidents and reformers within Islam, who face ostracism and rejection, who must brave all manner of insults, who must deal with the death threats—or face death itself.

For the world at large, the only viable strategy for containing the threat posed by the Medina Muslims is to side with the dissidents and reformers and to help them to do two things: first, identify and repudiate those parts of Muhammad’s legacy that summon Muslims to intolerance and war, and second, persuade the great majority of believers—the Mecca Muslims—to accept this change.

Islam is at a crossroads. Muslims need to make a conscious decision to confront, debate and ultimately reject the violent elements within their religion. To some extent—not least because of widespread revulsion at the atrocities of Islamic State, al Qaeda and the rest—this process has already begun. But it needs leadership from the dissidents, and they in turn stand no chance without support from the West.

What needs to happen for us to defeat the extremists for good? Economic, political, judicial and military tools have been proposed and some of them deployed. But I believe that these will have little effect unless Islam itself is reformed.

Such a reformation has been called for repeatedly at least since the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the subsequent abolition of the caliphate. But I would like to specify precisely what needs to be reformed.

I have identified five precepts central to Islam that have made it resistant to historical change and adaptation. Only when the harmfulness of these ideas are recognized and they are repudiated will a true Muslim Reformation have been achieved.

Here are the five areas that require amendment:

1. Muhammad’s semi-divine status, along with the literalist reading of the Quran.
Muhammad should not be seen as infallible, let alone as a source of divine writ. He should be seen as a historical figure who united the Arab tribes in a premodern context that cannot be replicated in the 21st century. And although Islam maintains that the Quran is the literal word of Allah, it is, in historical reality, a book that was shaped by human hands. Large parts of the Quran simply reflect the tribal values of the 7th-century Arabian context from which it emerged. The Quran’s eternal spiritual values must be separated from the cultural accidents of the place and time of its birth.

2. The supremacy of life after death.
The appeal of martyrdom will fade only when Muslims assign a greater value to the rewards of this life than to those promised in the hereafter.

3. Shariah, the vast body of religious legislation.
Muslims should learn to put the dynamic, evolving laws made by human beings above those aspects of Shariah that are violent, intolerant or anachronistic.

4. The right of individual Muslims to enforce Islamic law.
There is no room in the modern world for religious police, vigilantes and politically empowered clerics.

5. The imperative to wage jihad, or holy war.
Islam must become a true religion of peace, which means rejecting the imposition of religion by the sword.

I know that this argument will make many Muslims uncomfortable. Some are bound to be offended by my proposed amendments. Others will contend that I am not qualified to discuss these complex issues of theology and law. I am also afraid—genuinely afraid—that it will make a few Muslims even more eager to silence me.

But this is not a work of theology. It is more in the nature of a public intervention in the debate about the future of Islam. The biggest obstacle to change within the Muslim world is precisely its suppression of the sort of critical thinking I am attempting here. If my proposal for reform helps to spark a serious discussion of these issues among Muslims themselves, I will consider it a success.

Let me make two things clear. I do not seek to inspire another war on terror or extremism—violence in the name of Islam cannot be ended by military means alone. Nor am I any sort of “Islamophobe.” At various times, I myself have been all three kinds of Muslim: a fundamentalist, a cocooned believer and a dissident. My journey has gone from Mecca to Medina to Manhattan.

For me, there seemed no way to reconcile my faith with the freedoms I came to the West to embrace. I left the faith, despite the threat of the death penalty prescribed by Shariah for apostates. Future generations of Muslims deserve better, safer options. Muslims should be able to welcome modernity, not be forced to wall themselves off, or live in a state of cognitive dissonance, or lash out in violent rejection.

But it is not only Muslims who would benefit from a reformation of Islam. We in the West have an enormous stake in how the struggle over Islam plays out. We cannot remain on the sidelines, as though the outcome has nothing to do with us. For if the Medina Muslims win and the hope for a Muslim Reformation dies, the rest of the world too will pay an enormous price—not only in blood spilled but also in freedom lost.

This essay is adapted from Ms. Hirsi Ali’s new book, “Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now,” to be published Tuesday by HarperCollins (which, like The Wall Street Journal, is owned by News Corp). Her previous books include “Infidel” and “Nomad: From Islam to America, A Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations.”

Why Politicians Pretend Islam Has No Role in Violence

by Daniel Pipes
The Washington Times
March 9, 2015

Prominent non-Muslim political figures have embarrassed themselves by denying the self-evident connection of Islam to the Islamic State (ISIS) and to Islamist violence in Paris and Copenhagen, even claiming these are contrary to Islam. What do they hope to achieve through these falsehoods and what is their significance?

First, a sampling of the double talk:

President Barack Obama tells the world that ISIS “is not Islamic” because its “actions represent no faith, least of all the Muslim faith.” He holds “we are not at war with Islam [but] with people who have perverted Islam.”

British

Prime Minister David Cameron and U.S. President Barack Obama agree that violence perverts Islam.

Secretary of State John Kerry echoes him: ISIS consists of “coldblooded killers masquerading as a religious movement” who promote a “hateful ideology has nothing do with Islam.” His spokesperson, Jen Psaki, goes further: the terrorists “are enemies of Islam.”

Jeh Johnson, the U.S. secretary of Homeland Security, assents: “ISIL is [not] Islamic.” My favorite:Howard Dean, the former Democrat governor of Vermont, says of the Charlie Hebdo attackers, “They’re about as Muslim as I am.”

Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont, has declared himself a Muslim?

Europeans speak identically: David Cameron, the Conservative British prime minister, portrays ISISas “extremists who want to abuse Islam” and who “pervert the Islamic faith.” He calls Islam “a religion of peace” and dismisses ISIS members as not Muslims, but “monsters.” His immigration minister, James Brokenshire, argues that terrorism and extremism “have nothing to do with Islam.”

On the Labour side, former British prime minister Tony Blair finds ISIS ideology to be “based in a complete perversion of the proper faith of Islam,” while a former home secretary, Jack Straw, denounces “the medieval barbarity of ISIS and its ilk” which he deems “completely contrary to Islam.”

Across the channel, French president François Hollande insists that the Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Cacher criminals “have nothing to do with the Muslim faith.” His prime minister, Manuel Valls, concurs: “Islam has nothing to do with ISIS.”

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte echoes the same theme: “ISIS is a terrorist organization which misuses Islam.” Daniel Cohn-Bendit, a left-wing German politician, calls the Paris murderers fascists, not Muslims. From Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agrees: “Extremism and Islam are completely different things.”

This is not a new view: for example, prior U.S. presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush also aired their insights about what is and is not Islam, though less assertively.

Summarizing these statements, which come straight out of the Islamist playbook: Islam is purely a religion of peace, so violence and barbarism categorically have nothing to do with it; indeed, these “masquerade” and “pervert” Islam. By implication, more Islam is needed to solve these “monstrous” and “barbaric” problems.

But, of course, this interpretation neglects the scriptures of Islam and the history of Muslims, steeped in the assumption of superiority toward non-Muslims and the righteous violence of jihad. Ironically, ignoring the Islamic impulse means foregoing the best tool to defeat jihadism: for, if the problem results not from an interpretation of Islam, but from random evil and irrational impulses, how can one possibly counter it? Only acknowledging the legacy of Islamic imperialism opens ways to re-interpret the faith’s scriptures in modern, moderate, and good-neighborly ways.

Why, then, do powerful politicians make ignorant and counterproductive arguments, ones they surely know to be false, especially as violent Islamism spreads (think of Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab, and the Taliban)? Cowardice and multiculturalism play a role, to be sure, but two other reasons have more importance:

First, they want not to offend Muslims, who they fear are more prone to violence if they perceive non-Muslims pursuing a “war on Islam.” Second, they worry that focusing on Muslims means fundamental changes to the secular order, while denying an Islamic element permits avoid troubling issues. For example, it permits airplane security to look for passengers’ weapons rather than engage in Israeli-style interrogations.

According to non-Muslim politicians these Taliban members have nothing to do with Islam.

My prediction: Denial will continue unless violence increases. In retrospect, the 3,000 victims of 9/11 did not shake non-Muslim complacency. The nearly 30,000 fatalities from Islamist terrorism since then also have not altered the official line. Perhaps 300,000 dead will cast aside worries about Islamist sensibilities and a reluctance to make profound social changes, replacing these with a determination to fight a radical utopian ideology; three million dead will surely suffice.

Without such casualties, however, politicians will likely continue with denial because it’s easier that way. I regret this – but prefer denial to the alternative.

Mr. Pipes (DanielPipes.org, @DanielPipes) is president of the Middle East Forum. © 2015 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.


March 9, 2015 addendum: For many more details on the cases cited here, see my weblog entry “Islam vs. History” at DanielPipes.org.

 

 

Also see:

Sisi’s religious revolution gets underway

 

By Michele Antaki:

Last week, the news spread across the web that Egypt’s President Al-Sisi had “cancelled Islamic education” in all of Egypt. Was it in fulfillment of his New Year call for a religious revolution?  Was that dramatic announcement for real or a just a wild rumor?

Bonjour Egypte, a French-language online publication, announced on February 20th that Al-Sisi’s Ministry of Education had “published a manual of values and ethics, for all levels of education, after canceling the program of Islamic education.” It added: “The decision is explained by the lack of moral values in the Egyptian street. Sissi, a champion of secularism and an enemy of the Muslim Brotherhood, has canceled the teaching of Islam in the schools of Egypt.”

The same word-for-word announcement had already been made by a different publication on 26 June 2014, only to be denied as a fake in an online forum one day later.

On February 22, in the Saudi holy city of Mecca where a counter-terrorism conference was held in the aftermath of the slaughter of 21 Copts by the Islamic State, Grand Imam Ahmed Tayyeb called for a radical reform of religious education to prevent the misinterpretation of the Quran by extremists. “The only hope for Muslim nations to restore their unity is to deal with this Takfiri trend [accusing other Muslims of being unbelievers] in our schools and universities.” He offered no indication whether this reform had been effected in Egypt and to what extent.

When Sisi called for a religious revolution on January 1st, 2015 before an assembly of ulema and clerics at prestigious Al-Azhar University, the world caught its breath. Could it be that the leader of a great Muslim nation, seat of the foremost Sunni Islamic learning center, was truly intent on carrying out such a historic and unprecedented reform?

Sisi knew that in requesting the revisiting of the “corpus of texts and ideas” that had been “sacralized over the years” and were “antagonizing the entire world,” he was taking enormous risks and not endearing himself to the radical fringes of his people. And indeed, voices calling out for his death were quickly heard on programs broadcast by Turkey-based Muslim Brotherhood channels: “Anyone who kills Egyptian President Abdel Al-Fattah Al-Sisi and the journalists who support him would be doing a good deed,” said Salama Abdel Al-Qawi on Rabea TV.  On Misr Alaan TV, Wagdi Ghoneim clamored that “whoever can bring us the head of one of these dogs and Hell-dwellers” would be “rewarded by Allah.”

In calling for a ‘religious revolution,’ Sisi also knew that he was up against tremendous odds, owing to Al-Azhar’s educational curricula that had been promoting a radical Salafist and Wahhabist brand of Islam for quite some time.

On Jan 4, the popular satellite TV host Ibrahim Issa showed, with book in hand, that what Al-Azhar taught in its curricula was exactly what Daesh [ISIS] practiced. To wit, that “all adult, free and able men” were to “kill infidels,” and do so “without so much as a prior notice or even an invitation to embrace Islam.” Issa, in his characteristically refreshing and funny style, chided his audience for being so deeply in denial. “So you find Daesh horrible, don’t you? Oh dear, oh dear! But why, when Daesh does exactly what Al-Azhar teaches?” He added that there was “no hope that Al-Azhar would ever lead the “religious revolution’” requested by Sisi, unless Al-Azhar was first willing to “reform itself.”  For how could an entity that was “part of the problem be also part of the solution?”

As Sisi had done, Issa made the distinction between religion/doctrine/belief (deen/ akida) on the one hand, and the thinking/ideology (fikr) on the other. He further explained that what was meant by the latter was the body of interpretative and non-core texts — such as Bukhari’s Hadith, for example, which narrated violent episodes taken from the lives of the Prophet’s companions. Those were amenable to re-interpretation in terms of contextual relevance.

In an earlier, Dec.14 program, Al-Azhar refused to consider the Islamic State as an apostate. On Dec.11, Al-Azhar had called the Islamic State criminal while insisting that “No believer can be declared an apostate, regardless of his sins.”  Nonsense, opined Issa. Apostasy had been declared many times against believers. The real reason for the reluctance was simply that ISIS’s practices were based on Al-Azhar’s teachings,[i] which had been allowed to stand for decades with the regrettable connivance and complicity of the State. Consequently, if ISIS was now declared an apostate, so should Al-Azhar.

Issa’s views echoed those of Sheikh Mohammed Abdallah Nasr, a former Al-Azhar student and a leading figure of the “Azhariyyun” Civil State Front, which is opposed to political Islam. “Although many consider Al-Azhar a representative of moderate Islam, its curricula incite hatred, discrimination and intolerance, and are a doctrinal reference for the Islamic State,” he said to MCN direct.

Read more at American Thinker

Michele Antaki was raised in Egypt and France. LLM of Law – France. PG Diploma of Conference Interpretation – UK. She was a UN interpreter in NY for 27 years in 4 languages – Arabic, English, French, Spanish.

Also see:

Dr. Zuhdi Jasser: How to Win the New Cold War Against Muslim Theocracy

Published on Mar 8, 2015 by Rebel Media

Dr. Zuhdi Jasser of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy tells TheRebel.media’s Brian Lilley how the West should fight the spread of Muslim supremacism here and abroad.

Is Sisi Islam’s Long-Awaited Reformer?

In view of the news that Sisi sets conditions to reconcile with Muslim Brotherhood the following assessment of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s views on reform of Islam deserves close scrutiny. Andrew Bostom has been sounding the alarm on this all along.

by Daniel Pipes
The National Review
January 19, 2015

908In a widely praised January 1 speech at Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi addressed the country’s religious leadership, saying the time had come to reform Islam. He’s won Western plaudits for this, including a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize, but I have reservations about the speech.

To begin with, no matter how fine Sisi’s ideas, no politician – and especially no strongman – has moved modern Islam. Atatürk’s reforms in Turkey are systematically being reversed. A decade ago, King Abdullah II of Jordan and President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan gave similarly fine speeches on “the true voice of Islam” and “enlightened moderation” that immediately disappeared from view. Yes, Sisi’s comments are stronger, but he is not a religious authority and, in all likelihood, they too will disappear without a trace.

As for content: Sisi praised the faith of Islam and focused on what he calls fikr, literally meaning thoughtbut in this context meaning wrong ideas. He complained that wrong ideas, which he did not specify, have become sacralized and that the religious leadership dares not criticize them. But Sisi did criticize, and in a colloquial Arabic highly unusual for discussing such topics: “It is inconceivable that the wrong ideas which we sacralize should make the entire umma [Muslim community] a source of concern, danger, killing, and destruction for the whole world. This is not possible.”

Nonetheless, that is precisely what has occurred: “We have reached the point that Muslims have antagonized the entire world. Is it conceivable that 1.6 billion [Muslims] want to kill the rest of the world’s population of 7 billion, so that Muslims prosper? This is not possible.” Sisi continued, to faint applause from the religious dignitaries assembled before him, to call on them to bring about a “religious revolution.” Barring that, the Muslim community “is being torn apart, destroyed, and is going to hell.”

Kudos to Sisi for tough talk on this problem; his candor stands in sharp contrast to the mumbo-jumbo emanating from his Western counterparts who uphold the pretense that the current wave of violence has nothing to do with Islam. (Of many flamboyantly erroneous remarks, my favorite is from Howard Dean, the former governor of Vermont, who responded to the Charlie Hebdo massacre with, “I stopped calling these people Muslim terrorists. They’re about as Muslim as I am.”)

But Sisi gave no specifics regarding the revolution he seeks; what might he have in mind? Contrary to what his admirers say, I believe he champions a subtle version of Islamism, defined the full application of Islamic law (Shari’a) in the public sphere.

Several indications point to Sisi having been an Islamist. He was a practicing Muslim who apparently has memorized the Koran. The Financial Times found that his wife wore thehijab (headscarf) and one of his daughters theniqab (the covering that reveals only eyes and hands). The Muslim Brotherhood president, Mohamed Morsi, appointed Sisi his defense minister precisely because he saw the then-general as an ally.

While a student in Pennsylvania in 2005-06, Sisi wrote a paper advocating democracy adapted to Islam, one that “may bear little resemblance” to its Western prototype but “will have its own shape or form coupled with stronger religious ties.” His version of democracy did not separate mosque and state but was established “upon Islamic beliefs,” meaning that government agencies must “take Islamic beliefs into consideration when carrying out their duties.” In other words, Shari’a trumps popular will.

Also in that paper, Sisi partially aligned himself with Salafis, those long-bearded and burqa’ed Islamists aspiring to live as Muhammad did. He described the early caliphate not merely as “the ideal form of government” but also “the goal for any new form of government” and he hoped for the revival of “the earliest form” of the caliphate.

It’s certainly possible that Sisi’s views of Islam, like many Egyptians’, have evolved, especially since his break with Morsi two years ago. Indeed, rumors have him affiliated with the radically anti-Islamist Quranist movement, whose leader, Ahmed Subhy Mansour, he cited in his student paper. But Mansour suspects Sisi is “playing with words” and waits to see if Sisi is serious about reform.

Indeed, until we know more about Sisi’s personal views and see what he does next, I understand his speech not as a stance against all of Islamism but only against its specifically violent form, the kind that is ravaging Nigeria, Somalia, Syria-Iraq, and Pakistan, the kind that has placed such cities as Boston, Ottawa, Sydney, and Paris under siege. Like other cooler heads, Sisi promotes Shari’a through evolution and popular support, rather than through revolution and brutality. Non violence, to be sure, is an improvement over violence. But it’s hardly the reform of Islam that non-Muslims hope to see – especially when one recalls that working through the system is more likely to succeed.

True reform requires scholars of Islam, not strongmen, and a repudiation of implementing Shari’a in the public sphere. For both these reasons, Sisi is not likely to be that reformer.

Daniel Pipes (DanielPipes.org, @DanielPipes) is president of the Middle East Forum.

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.

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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?