Abdel Fattah El-Sisi’s Long Road to Islamic Reform

Egyptian Leader Al-Sisi.

Religious Freedom Coalition, by Andrew Harrod, April 20, 2017:

“There has been a lot of positive symbolism” from Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi regarding Islamic reform but little action, stated former American Ambassador Alberto Fernandez on April 3 in Washington, DC.  He and his fellow Hudson Institute panelists examined the enormous difficulties confronting any reform of the doctrines underlying various jihadist agendas even as America’s new President Donald Trump prioritizes counterterrorism.

Hudson Institute Center for Religious Freedom Director Nina Shea opened the panel before a lecture room filled with about 70 listeners by noting the Sisi-Trump White House meeting at that very moment.  Shea observed that America’s important ally Egypt is the most populous Arab country (94 million people) with a quarter of all Arab speakers in the world.  Egypt also has the Middle East’s largest Christian community, the Copts, accounting for an estimated ten percent of Egypt’s population, more than all the Jews in Israel.

Addressing Trump’s meeting with Sisi, Fernandez stated that the “number one issue in for this administration in this regard is obviously writ large the counterterrorism issue,” particularly concerning defeating the Islamic State.  He emphasized the necessity “to find creative, smart, aggressive ways to challenge the appeal of the default ideology in the Middle East today,” namely “some type of Islamism.”  Such ideologies had a long history, as in the 1970s “Egypt was the proving ground for all of this stuff that we saw with Al Qaeda and the Islamic State” involving atrocities against Mesopotamia’s Christians and other minorities.  He recalled visiting Egypt as a young diplomat for the first time in 1984 and seeing policemen guarding every Christian church and cemetery, an indication of this community’s peril.

Hudson Institute Senior Fellow Samuel Tadros, himself a Copt, stated that “there is no doubt that the Islamist message is appealing in Egypt” and reprised his previous analysis of Islamism.  “Islamism seeks to create a state that connects heaven and earth,” an ideology that is still credible in the public imagination and has no viable contenders in the marketplace of ideas.  Despite repeated failures to create this idealized state by groups like Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda, the “basic premises of Islamism make sense for an average Egyptian.”

Fernandez and Tadros accordingly dashed any high hopes raised by Sisi’s 2015 New Year’s Day address on Islamic reform to Al Azhar University in Cairo, often considered Sunni Islam’s preeminent theological authority.  Tadros stated that the speech “was general, it was unprepared” while Fernandez noted that “Sisi kind of put out a very enticing marker but there is a lot of work that has to happen which hasn’t even begun yet.”  Although globally the “speech that Sisi gave was very well received,” the follow-on reminded Fernandez of the Arab proverb “she was pregnant with a mountain but gave birth to a mouse.”

While “there is a tremendous amount of space for Islamist extremism in Egypt still” as the 2015 blasphemy conviction of an Egyptian talk show host showed, Fernandez remained unimpressed with Sisi’s Islamic reform advocacy.

There has been a nibbling around the edges.  But you cannot say that the Egyptian government has done something which would be truly revolutionary, that has never happened in the Arab world, which is to have a government on the level of ideology, on the level of textbooks, on the level of the religious establishment really embrace a kind of liberal reinterpretation of problematic texts and concepts that are used by Salafi-jihadists and by Islamists.

“While Washington has welcomed this talk a lot, there are actually a lot of limits to what Sisi can offer in this regard,” Tadros warned.  Sisi “would like to see a reform of the religious discourse, but he has no plan, plus he has to deal with the reality of Al Azhar” as his appeals to reform easy divorce laws had shown.  The “answer from Al Azhar was a very clear public humiliation of the president….This is not debatable, this is the religion as it is; basically don’t talk about these issues.”

Given Sisi’s societal circumstances, Fernandez noted that “even the weak tea that we see with that symbolism actually provokes a reaction” from Islamists like an Islamic State video attacking Sisi as a “slave of the cross.”  Fernandez and Tadros likewise discussed rampant antisemitism permeating Egyptian society as exemplified by Fernandez’s last visit to Egypt three years ago.  The bookstore of the five-star Intercontinental Semiramis Hotel where he was staying had an entire shelf of anti-Semitic literature including the Jew-hatred staple, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and books featuring vampires with Stars of David.

Such intellectual poison is unsurprising given Tadros’ assessment that the “Egyptian educational system remains a disaster; it simply teaches nothing about the outside world.”  A Christian Egyptian friend astounded him once when she related the inquiry of her fellow journalist about where her fiancée would spend his wedding night.  On the basis of the movie Braveheart, the inquiring journalist had obtained the bizarre belief that Coptic women spend their first night of marriage having sex with a Coptic priest.

For Tadros, the journalist’s pitiful ignorance about Copts is no anomaly, even though they are the indigenous people of an Egypt Islamicized after a seventh century Arab conquest.  Among Egyptian Muslims there is an “absence of any actual information about people that they have shared 14 centuries of living together.”  This allows “all these superstitions, these conspiracy theorists, this propaganda by Islamists to fill that vacuum.”

The only bright spot in the panel appeared in Tadros’ estimation most Egyptians considered Sisi, who came to power in a 2013 military overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood, as the only current acceptable political alternative.  “There are huge human rights abuses in the country, but it is also a very popular regime.  I have no doubt that even in free and fair elections President Sisi would win.”  He represents a “certain rejection of the Muslim Brotherhood, a demand for a return to normalcy, to stability.”

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.

U.S. Congress Hears Testimony on Need to Work With Egypt, Encourage Reform

Subcommittee Chairman Ros-Lehtinen Questions Witnesses at Hearing on Egypt 2 Years After Morsi

Subcommittee Chairman Ros-Lehtinen Questions Witnesses at Hearing on Egypt 2 Years After Morsi

CSP, by Olivia McCoy, May 20, 2015:

On Wednesday morning, May 20th,  the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee On Middle East and North Africa, looking at the state of Egypt after the ousting of President Mohammad Morsi.  This hearing follows the assassination of judges and prosecutors in Sinai this past Saturday when Morsi was sentenced to death. Recently there has an increase in attacks on judges in Egypt following convictions of Muslim Brotherhood members.

During the hearing, both the representatives and the witnesses emphasized the importance of continuing to strengthen our relationship with Egypt, while not condoning the social injustices taking place under Sisi’s regime. The witnesses stressed the importance of Egypt striking the balance between security and democracy, and argued for an increased military relationship with Egypt as Sisi continues his efforts against Muslim Brotherhood and Jihadist groups in the Sinai.

Egypt’s president, Abdel el-Sisi, has reportedly destroyed 80% of weapon smuggling tunnels leading out of the country. The current Egyptian government has also begun arresting members of the Muslim Brotherhood and sentenced Morsi to death. All three of the witnesses agreed that they did not believe Morsi and affiliates will eventually be executed, but Mr. Tadros argues that the government is using the ruling in order to send a message that they are willing to take all necessary steps to stop Muslim Brotherhood from growing and continuing to fight the government.

In response to questions posed by Rep Lois Frankel (D-FL), Dr. Eric Trager urged the U.S. to better coordinate its policy on Libya and Sinai with Egypt. The panelists agreed that there is a real threat to Egypt from the Islamic State, specifically coming from Libya.

While commenting Russian relations with Egypt, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) turned heads when he stated, “I think it’s a good thing that the Russians are helping Sisi”. The representative expressed that he thought it was “outrageous” that the U.S. gave Egypt helicopters without proper defense mechanisms to counter jihadist attacks. Rohrabacher argues Russia selling weapons to Egypt is a “good thing” because it will strengthen the military when fighting jihadists.

The witnesses disagreed arguing that relations between Russia and Egypt pose a problem to the United States, who should keep an eye on the relationship between Russia and Egypt. Their opinions stemmed from the concern that unlike the United States, Russia won’t push for more democracy and improved human rights.

Democracy was a strong theme throughout course of the hearing. Dr. Okail revealed that Egyptian media speaks favorably of Russia because it provides a simple relationship. Russia does not push for greater democracy as the United States does. Mr. Tadros argued that the United States should invest in creating Egyptian institutions that allow citizens to raise concerns about their government in a democratic manner. The witnesses revealed that the current Egyptian Regime, under Sisi, has been incredibly restrictive about the press and TV programs. Dr. Okail commented on the importance of the Internet and pushing for an unrestricted Internet where people can have a cyber forum to voice their concerns, whether that be through Facebook or other websites. She revealed that currently, many Egyptian civilians do not have access to the Internet.

The lack of free speech in Egypt was concerning to the panelists and representatives alike. Mr. Tadros revealed that atheists have received prison sentences up to three years for posts on Facebook, and that human rights defenders, both domestic and international, have been arrested. All three panelists agreed that the U.S. cannot influence Egypt in a more democratic direction while the government still faces a threat from the Muslim Brotherhood. Ultimately, all three witnesses agreed that the United State’s idea of democracy can’t be sustained in Egypt until new, independent institutions are created to defend it.

Egypt remains an important ally because of the critical role they play in control of the Suarez canal and as a buffer between territories controlled by the Islamic State. The United States needs to continue strengthening our military relationship with Egypt while condemning the government’s infringement on democratic rights such as free speech.

***

Also see:

Egypt, Libya: U.S. Not Supporting Us Against the Islamists

Egyptian supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood attack the U.S. embassy in Cairo on Sept. 11, 2012. Several Islamic State flags can be seen in the crowd. (Photo: © Reuters)

Egyptian supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood attack the U.S. embassy in Cairo on Sept. 11, 2012. Several Islamic State flags can be seen in the crowd. (Photo: © Reuters)

Clarion Project, by Ryan Mauro, April 9, 2015:

The anti-Islamist governments of Egypt and Libya are complaining publicly that the U.S. is not providing enough counter-terrorism assistance and is supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood. They remain appreciative of the U.S.-backed intervention to topple Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, but criticize the U.S. for not having a plan to contend with Islamist terrorists and militias afterwards.

Egyptian President El-Sisi is gently criticizing the U.S. for not supporting the anti-Islamist government of Libya enough. He said, “there is a legitimate [Libyan] government and that government is denied the weapons it needs to confront terrorists.”

El-Sisi traces it back to original mistakes that the West made in Libya He said that the military intervention to overthrow Gaddafi was the correct decision but the West failed to implement a strategy to help Libyans tackle Islamist forces afterwards.

“The NATO operation in Libya was not complete, which led the North African country to fall under the control of militant and extremist groups,” he said. He was more forceful in another statement that “we abandoned the Libyan people to extremist militias.”

Gaddafi supported terrorism, hid chemical weapons and spread anti-Americanism and radical Islamic propaganda. His relatively secular dictatorship stimulated Islamism and committed gross human rights violations. The NATO and Arab League alliance militarily intervened when the Libyan rebels—a mixture of Islamists, designated terrorists and secular-democrats—were about to experience a bloodbath in Benghazi.

The Muslim Brotherhood lost the first elections in a landslide despite massive organizational advantages. Unfortunately, the U.S. turned a blind eye to Islamism and even welcomed the participation of Qatar, one of the Muslim Brotherhood’s biggest allies.

The Qatari-backed Islamists stabbed the West in the back by undercutting the secular-democrats and using its influence to benefit the Muslim Brotherhood’s political and militia operations. The West doesn’t even see the backstabbing because it doesn’t view the Muslim Brotherhood as part of the problem.

Libya is now in a civil war. The internationally-recognized government in the east, based in Tobruk, is backed by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. A rival government is based in the west at Tripoli and it has a coalition of loyal Islamist militias named the Libyan Dawn. This government is led by the Muslim Brotherhood and backed by Qatar, Turkey and Sudan. The West is neutral.

The chaos has allowed ISIS to grow in the north. The terrorist group has captured Derna and expanded to Sirte. ISIS is reported to have 800 fighters in Derna alone. The Libyan Foreign Minister says 5,000 foreign jihadists are now in the country.

And it’s getting worse. The spiritual leader of Ansar al-Sharia, the Al-Qaeda affiliate in Libya responsible for the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, announced his allegiance to ISIS. Abu Abdullah al-Libi tweeted a photo of a book titled, The Legal Validity of Pledging Allegiance to the Islamic State” and started a pro-ISIS Arabic website.

One of the biggest problems facing ISIS is that the legitimacy of its caliphate was widely rejected on procedural grounds and al-Libi can help craft rebuttals. He is presented expert on Sharia Law so he speaks with religious authority, making him a dangerous addition to the relatively unpopular ISIS’ ranks.

ISIS says Tunisia is next and its largest training camp is less than 30 miles from the border. The anti-Islamist government there faces a major threat because Tunisia is the greatest source of foreign fighters for ISIS.

Libyan Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni chastised the U.S. and Europe in February for not providing its army with the weapons to fight ISIS and the Libyan Dawn coalition of Islamist militias who loyal to the rival government in Tripoli. A growing chorus of U.S. officials are urging a lifting of the U.N. arms embargo on Libya.

“Libya Dawn is part of militant Islamists which get weapons, ammunition and supplies from all over the world, but America and Britain have other ideas against the interest of the Libyan people,” Al-Thinni said.

He accused the U.S. and U.K. of siding with the Muslim Brotherhood and trying to get the “terrorist grouping” into political power. Al-Thinni said his country would instead look to Russia and accused Turkey of supporting the Libyan Dawn forces.

“The British are trying with all their power to save the Brotherhood and ensure their involvement in Libya’s political scene,” said an anonymous member of Al-Thinni’s cabinet in December.

The Libyan Foreign Minister likewise lamented that his country is “not part of any international strategy against terrorism.”

The U.S. ambassador to Libya pushed back against Libya and Egypt’s statements in February that the Muslim Brotherhood-linked Islamist militias are part of the same problem as ISIS. She rejected the notion that the U.S. should favor the Tobruk-based secular-democratic government over the Islamist one.

” This is not to suggest that ideology has played no role in Libya’s internal conflict, although it is not the defining role that some – particularly external parties – have sought to highlight; Libyans are by and large conservative, Sunni Muslims who share similar values.  Labels are unhelpful and misleading,” she wrote on the fourth anniversary of Libya’s revolution.

The Libyan embassy’s charge d’affairs and women’s rights activist Wafa Bugaighis said the U.S. is not supporting the Libyan government enough with intelligence-sharing, arms transfers and training. She emphasized that Libya is not requesting U.S. airstrikes or ground forces.

Read more

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:

“First Steps in Defeating Islamic Terror: Understanding the Arab and Muslim World”

Published on Feb 19, 2015 by emetonline

EMET was proud to host Dr. Mordechai Kedar on why Islamic terrorists are targeting the free world, and what we need to know about the Muslim and Arab world to win the war on terror.

From ISIS’s beheadings, to the tragic terrorist attacks in Paris, including the Charlie Hebdo shootings leaving 13 innocent dead, and the slaughter of four Jews at a Kosher supermarket for the mere fact that they were Jewish, the Western world has been left shocked by an enemy it does not know how to defeat. The Islamic State’s campaign of genocide and crimes against humanity has taken on a new level of horror with the recent murder of Jordanian pilot, Moaz al-Kassasbeh, who was burned alive by the radical Islamic terror group. The U.S.’s greatest ally in the Middle East, the State of Israel, was subject to Hamas’ launch of 4,000 rockets into many of its major cities, and the State has to fight terrorists, including those from Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, and Hezbollah, on a daily basis to protect its citizens.

Dr. Mordechai Kedar is an academic expert on the Israeli Arab population. He served for twenty-five years in IDF Military Intelligence, where he specialized in Islamic groups, the political discourse of Arab countries, the Arabic press and mass media, and the Syrian domestic arena. The Los Angeles TimesEdmund Sanders described him as “one of the few Arabic-speaking Israeli pundits seen on Arabic satellite channels defending Israel”

***

3620388745_e201000530_z

“WE ARE DEALING WITH AN IDEOLOGY” By Andrew Harrod, (philosproject.org)

Israeli scholar Mordechai Kedar’s Feb. 12 presentation for the Endowment for Middle East Truth gave indispensable insight into the Islamic sources of jihadist movements now threatening the world. During his briefing entitled “First Steps in Defeating Islamic Terror,” Kedar warned that one must recognize the nature of a threat if one ever hopes to defeat it.

“There is no radical Islam,” Kedar said definitively. “There is no moderate Islam. There is Islam.” Each of Islam’s three canonical sources includes “whatever you want to justify, [from] zero violence to 100 percent violence.”

Like Jews and Christians, every Muslim “has his own reality of religious doctrine” and “can argue that opposing viewpoints have hijacked Islam.” Many Muslims uphold Islam’s positive ideas and are “as peaceful as can be.” Other Muslims go the opposite way. Kedar pointed out that environment plays a significant role, since a Muslim who grows up in a free society like the United States will most likely “tailor his Islamic garment” with benign texts, while a Muslim who grows up in war-torn Libya will probably seek out Islam’s more martial aspects.

The problem is that it only takes a few bad seeds. If just one out of every 10,000 Muslims in the worldwide community of 1.5 billion joined ISIS or a similar group, these 150,000 Muslims could “devastate the whole world.” After all, 9/11 and this January’s Paris massacres took place at the hands of just a few jihadists.

The audience watched segments of an ISIS propaganda video showing mass beheadings of captives in places like Europe, Malaysia and the Middle East. This type of video strikes terror in the hearts of Iraqi soldiers and other Middle Easterners longing for peace and order. An English-speaking jihadist pictured in the video warned that Americans deployed to the region could be the next beheading victims; he also called out “to Obama, the dog of Rome.” Kedar explained that a medieval Muslim leader, following the 1453 Ottoman subjugation of the “cats” of Constantinople, had declared that the “dogs of Rome” were Islam’s next target.

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, which was founded in 1928, can be thought of as the grandmother of organizations like ISIS, Al-Qaeda and Nigeria’s Boko Haram. The Muslim Brotherhood’s logo, whose depiction of crossed swords and Quran leaves no doubt about its Islamic agenda, features the Arabic word “prepare,” which occurs only once in the Quran, in verse 8:60’s command to “prepare … whatever you are able of power and of steeds of war, by which you may terrify the enemy of Allah.” The Muslim Brotherhood and similar organizations represent Sunni terror, while Hezbollah is the Shiite terror counterpart with a state sponsor in Iran’s Islamic Republic, possibly nuclear-armed in the future.

One audience member referenced Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s internationally noted New Year’s Day address that called for Islamic reform, but Kedar was unimpressed. “I highly respect this man,” he said, but added that Sisi is no different from past dictators like Anwar Sadat (subsequently assassinated), Hosni Mubarak, or Hafez Assad. “Every ruler who sees himself as a target of those radical Muslims has made similar appeals for religious reform,” Kedar said, “yet the last people on earth to change anything are political Muslims who would not consider Sisi legitimate” after that president overthrew Muslim Brotherhood rule.

Willful blindness was a running theme in Kedar’s briefing. He warned that “political correctness will kill America after it already killed Europe,” where the human landscape is morphing after decades of Muslim immigration and non-assimilation.

Kedar ominously concluded his presentation by saying that “the Atlantic is not wide enough to protect this country from a global jihadist ideology.” He pointed to the book 40 Hadith on Jihad, which has a chapter titled “War is a Deception.” While current policies often prevent American authorities from asking about religion during criminal investigations, combatting Islamic threats demands, first and foremost, “intelligence, intelligence and intelligence.” Sun Tzu’s dictum of knowing the enemy remains valid in today’s conflicts, religious or not.

Hero of the Middle East: Abdel Fattah el-Sisi

Gatestone Institute, by Bassam Tawil, February 23, 2015:

The courageous, historic speech yesterday by the Grand Imam of al-Azhar University, the seat of Sunni Islam, calling for the reform of Islam, was the result of the even more courageous, historic speech delivered a few weeks ago by Egypt’s devoutly Muslim President, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.

The Muslim Brotherhood, the current American administration’s great friend, is the tree whose fruit is the Islamist terrorism embodied by the ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Al-Nusra Front, Boko Haram and others.

Apparently some of the Sunni Arab States have not yet realized that their own national security, and ability to withstand Iran, depend on how strong Egypt is.

It is possible, in fact, that U.S. policy is to weaken the Sunni world seeking to unite under el-Sisi’s flag of modernity. With European complicity, the U.S. Administration is trying to defraud the Arabs and turn the Israel-Palestine conflict into a center of Middle Eastern chaos, in order to hide the nuclear deal they are concocting with Iran.

The treachery of the U.S. Administration is the reason why Egypt’s faith in the United States, which is supposed to defend the Arabs against a nuclear Iran, has effectively evaporated.

And now the greatest American insanity of all time: America and Turkey are arming and training Islamist terrorist operatives in Turkey, on the ground that they are “moderates” opposed to Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria. They either ignore or are unaware that there is no such thing as a moderate Islamist terrorist. The other name of the “moderates” opposing Assad is ISIS.

The Muslim Brotherhood, in effect, runs Turkey. According to recent rumors, Turkey is also planning to build a nuclear reactor, “for research and peaceful purposes.”

Sheikh Dr. Ahmed al-Tayyeb, the Grand Imam of Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, the seat of Sunni Islam, yesterday delivered a courageous, historic speech in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, urging reform in religious education to curb extremism in Islam. Al-Tayyeb’s address was the result of an even more courageous and historic speech, delivered a few weeks ago by Egypt’s devoutly Muslim President, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, at Al-Azhar University.

El-Sisi’s monumental statement, truly worthy of a Nobel Prize, is having a seismic result. Al-Sisi directed his remarks, about the ills of Islam to Islamic clerics in Egypt and around the world. It was enormously brave of him. He did not single out radical Islam, but he did call on all Muslims to examine themselves, carry out a religious revolution and renew their faith.

El-Sisi, a man of monumental courage, urged Muslims not to behave according to the ancient, destructive interpretations of the Qur’an and Islam that make the rest of the world hate them, destroy Islam’s reputation and put Muslim immigrants to Western countries in the position of having to fight their hosts. He claimed that it is illogical for over a billion Muslims to aspire to conquer and subdue six billion non-Muslims.

Egypt’s President, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, delivered a historic speech to top Islamic scholars and clergy at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, December 28, 2014. (Image source: MEMRI)

Islam deals in depth with uniting the Muslim nation (umma) and mutual responsibility among Muslims, as though they were one entity. The Prophet Muhammad (S.A.A.W.) said that every drop of Muslim blood is more precious than the entire Kaaba. Thus the liberty ISIS took upon itself to burn alive a Jordanian pilot and 45 Egyptians, to spread terrorism throughout Syria, Iraq and Egypt and to kill other Muslims in various locations around the globe, claiming they were “infidels,” is heresy in and of itself.

The calls for the deaths of “a million shaheeds” and the killing of Jews for the sake of Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, as was done by Arafat in the past, and is being done now by his heirs in the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, are a crime; they are extremist incitement that is opposed to the forgiving and compromising spirit of Islam. The murder and terrorism carried out by terrorist organizations such as ISIS, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad [PIJ] and other Islamist organizations against Jews, Christians and other non-Muslims is contrary to the modern Islam needed in the contemporary era.

El-Sisi was correct that the Muslim Brotherhood’s Sunni ideology, which drives most of the extremist Islamist organizations around the world, preaches forced conversion of “infidels” to Islam at any price, or death. Some of the “infidels” are supposed to join Islam of their own accord (targ’ib), out of self-serving interest, and some not of their own accord (tarhib), out of fear and death threats. Such conversions are also contrary to the original Islam, which states that no one is to be forced to convert to Islam and that a calm religious dialogue should be held.

However, a few days after President el-Sisi’s speech, which attempted to unify Muslims and Christian Copts, the Muslim Brotherhood and their affiliated terrorist organizations increased their attacks on Egyptian civilians and security forces throughout Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula, as well as murdering 21 Egyptian Christian Copts in Libya. The Muslim Brotherhood knows that behind the scenes, U.S. President Obama supports the movement, especially the branch in Egypt seeking to overthrow President Sisi. This approval from the U.S. encourages the Muslim Brotherhood to be even more determined to subvert and undermine Egypt’s stability, sabotage its economic rehabilitation and destroy the el-Sisi regime.

In this atmosphere of American support, the Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis terrorist group in the Sinai Peninsula operates under Muslim Brotherhood protection. It recently changed its name to the “Sinai Province” of the Islamic State and swore allegiance to the “Caliph,” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. It is currently working hand-in-hand with Hamas in the Gaza Strip to weaken el-Sisi’s Egyptian forces in the Sinai Peninsula.

Other Islamist terrorist organizations also kill Egyptian civilians and security forces with bombs and assault rifles. In the name of the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideology, they indiscriminately attack people on public transport, in airports and in public places, with the intent of retaking control of Egypt.

For this reason, an Egyptian court recently designated Hamas a terrorist organization, along with its military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, and outlawed both of them. In response, Qatar, a slippery agent in the service of America but also, treacherously, in the service of Iran, allowed armed Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades operatives to be interviewed by its Al-Jazeera TV. The operatives called the Egyptian president a traitor to the Islamic-Arab cause and to those seeking to “liberate Palestine.”

At the same time, Qatar continues to use its Al-Jazeera TV to broadcast hate propaganda targeting the el-Sisi regime, to disseminate videos and to fabricate insulting quotes intended to cause friction between el-Sisi on one side and the leaders of the Arab world and the Gulf States on the other — and to keep them from giving hungry Egyptians economic aid.

As the date for the economic conference in Sharm el-Sheikh (in the Sinai Peninsula) nears, Al-Jazeera’s propaganda machine has moved into ever-higher gear. Apparently, some of the Sunni Arabs states have not yet realized that their own national security and ability to withstand Iran depend on how strong Egypt is.

The U.S. Administration could easily halt the subversion of Egypt, but not only does it turn a blind eye, it suffers from a peculiar form of ignorance that makes it fight ISIS while at the same time supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, the hothouse of most Islamic terrorist organizations, including ISIS. The damage done to Egypt and the cracks in the weak Sunni Muslim ranks in the Middle East will eventually harm American interests and expose the Gulf States to the increasing Iranian threat.

The Muslim Brotherhood, the current American administration’s great friend, is the tree whose fruit is the Islamist terrorism embodied by ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Al-Nusra Front, Boko Haram and others. This linkage has become obvious to all the Arab states, while the U.S. and Europe steadfastly ignore the danger to their own survival, and refuse to outlaw them.

It is possible, in fact, that U.S. policy is to weaken the Sunni world that is seeking to unite under el-Sisi’s flag of modernity. With European complicity, the U.S. Administration is trying to defraud the Arabs and turn the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into a center of Middle Eastern chaos, in order to hide the nuclear deal they are concocting with Iran. That is why the West does not really want to rehabilitate the Palestinian refugees by settling them in the Arab states, and why the West continues to nourish false Palestinian hopes that perpetuate this conflict.

The treachery of the U.S. Administration is the reason why Egyptians’ faith in America, which is supposed to defend the Arabs against a nuclear Iran, has effectively evaporated.

In the meantime, Iran’s Houthi proxies have taken over Yemen, threatening the entire Persian Gulf from the south. The el-Sisi regime is currently in the market for new allies, such as Russian President Vladimir Putin. Putin recently paid a visit to Egypt to examine the possibilities of building a nuclear reactor, sounding the first chord of a regional nuclear arms race.

The problems of the Middle East begin in the United States: that was the claim of participants in the Al-Jazeera TV show, “From Washington.” They described American policy towards Egypt as hesitant, indecisive and undemocratic. They claimed that the U.S. Administration had not yet decided whether or not to support el-Sisi, who heralded change and the willingness to fight radical Islam (a fight America used to participate in) or to remain neutral and waffle, in view of Egypt’s presumed instability. The Americans seem to be putting their all money on the extreme Islamists, who they seem to think will eventually win the bloody conflict currently being waged in Egypt.

The Americans have forgotten that under Mubarak, the regime turned a blind eye to attacks against Israel that were carried out by the Muslim Brotherhood and their carefully fostered agents. Unfortunately, since el-Sisi was elected, Egypt itself has become a victim of radical Islamic terrorism. The U.S. Administration, however, appears clearly to hate el-Sisi, and seems to be doing its utmost to undermine him and see him thrown out.

Under ousted President Mohamed Morsi, Egypt was tolerant and patient toward the U.S. Administration’s best friends, the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as Islamist and Palestinian terrorist organizations such as Hamas, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, Al-Qaeda, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, all of which set up camp in the Sinai Peninsula. These terrorist groups smuggled weapons in from Iran, Sudan, Libya and Lebanon; dug smuggling and attack tunnels; developed missiles and carried out terrorist attacks “only” against Israel, the current U.S. Administration’s other apparent enemy, even though so many American Jews foolishly voted for them.

Now those same Islamist and Palestinian terrorist organizations are striking a mortal blow to the security or Egypt, and killing its civilians and security personnel.

The Muslim Brotherhood, mindful of America’s pro-Islamist policy toward it, is deliberately indulging in a wave of terrorism in Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula. Muslim Brotherhood operatives there are targeting civilians, public transport, airports and natural gas pipelines, all to undermine Egypt’s internal security and bring down el-Sisi’s regime in favor of extremist Islamists and a nuclear-threshold Iran.

In the current international situation, the U.S. Administration has apparently finally cut a deal with Turkey — which will be flimsy and ethereal — that allows Turkey to do the only thing it really cares about: to bring down the regime of Syria’s President, Bashar al-Assad.

The U.S. is also trying to cut a deal with Qatar, which along with Turkey openly supports the Muslim Brotherhood and its terrorist proxies in Egypt, Gaza, Syria and Iraq, who in general work against Western interests.

The ironic result is that Turkey plays host to both NATO and senior Hamas figures, while it deliberately ignores the slaughter by ISIS of Kurds and other ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria. The Muslim Brotherhood, in effect, actually rules Turkey. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his AKP party make it easy for foreign fighters to cross the Turkish border into Syria and join the ranks of ISIS. Meanwhile, the Turkish government wages a diversionary propaganda war against Israel. According to recent rumors, Turkey is also planning to build a nuclear reactor, “for research and peaceful purposes.”

Another surreal result is that Qatar hosts the U.S. military bases, while it finances and encourages terrorist organizations operating against Israel and the Egypt. It also panders to Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the spiritual mentor of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist terrorist who issues fatwas permitting the murder of civilians and approves death sentences for apostasy.

And now the greatest American insanity of all time: the U.S. and Turkey are arming and training Islamist terrorist operatives in Turkey, on the grounds that they are “moderates” opposed to Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria. They either ignore or are not aware that there is no such thing as a moderate Islamist terrorist.

The other name of the “moderates” opposing Bashar Assad is ISIS; Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei and Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah are now even saying that the U.S. is arming ISIS.

In the meantime, the Egyptian army continues its struggle against Islamist terrorist targets in the Sinai Peninsula and Libya, unaided, and even undermined, by the U.S.

In view of the U.S. Administration’s collaboration with the Muslim Brotherhood and terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip, I am persuaded that in the near future it will be possible to find a joint Egyptian-Israeli-Palestinian formula for eradicating the Hamas-PIJ enclave of terrorism, this time by Arabs.

Most ironically of all, in the shadow of American zigzagging, a joint Arab-Israeli front is developing against Sunni and Shi’ite radicalism, and the Palestinians can only profit from it. Thus el-Sisi, who, with towering vision and courage, dares to speak openly about the tree of radical Islam and its fruit, when others are afraid, is a truly great Islamic hero.

Bassam Tawil is a scholar based in the Middle East.

****

On the Ground in Egypt: Patrick Poole and Stephen Coughlin – US Policy and Egyptian Counter-terrorism Efforts

Published on May 13, 2014 by securefreedom

Recorded at Center for Security Policy’s National Security Group Lunch on Capitol Hill on Friday, 9 May, 2014
Patrick Poole, National Security and Terrorism Correspondent for PJ Media; and Stephen Coughlin, Senior Fellow, Center for Security Policy

Also see:

Egyptian planes pound ISIS in Libya in revenge for mass beheadings of Christians

Fox News, Feb. 16, 2015:

Egyptian warplanes struck hard at ISIS militants in neighboring Libya, killing as many as 64 militants and destroying the Islamist terror group’s training camps and weapons caches a day after a sickening video surfaced showing black-clad jihadists beheading 21 Coptic Christians.

The strikes came after Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi went on national television in the world’s most populous Arab nation and vowed revenge was coming. The address was followed by the airing of military video showing the planes taking off for the mission and an Armed Forces General Command statement saying the strikes were “to avenge the bloodshed and to seek retribution from the killers.”

“Let those far and near know that Egyptians have a shield that protects them,” it said.

The ISIS video released online showed the Egyptian victims, poor men from Egypt’s rural areas who had traveled to Libya looking for work, kneeling before Islamic State executioners. In Egypt, which by some estimates is about 10 percent Christian, the video sent shockwaves through both Muslim and Christian communities. El-Sisi, the U.S.-trained, former military leader who in a landmark New Year’s day address called on the Arab world to reject radical terror, and then took the unprecedented step of attending services at a Christian church, told his nation the deaths would be avenged.

“These cowardly actions will not undermine our determination” said el-Sissi, who also banned all travel to Libya by Egyptian citizens. “Egypt and the whole world are in a fierce battle with extremist groups carrying extremist ideology and sharing the same goals.”

On Monday, el-Sissi visited the main Coptic Cathedral of St. Mark in Cairo to offer his condolences on the Egyptians killed in Libya, according to state TV.

Egyptian state-run news service Al-Ahram, citing a Libyan military spokesman, reported that the strikes, which were coordinated with Libyan officials, killed 64 Islamic State fighters and left dozens wounded. Egyptian officials told the news service the strikes were the first of several to come.

Egypt is already battling a burgeoning Islamist insurgency centered in the strategic Sinai Peninsula, where militants have recently declared their allegiance to ISIS and rely heavily on arms smuggled across the porous desert border between Egypt and Libya.

The strikes also come just a month before Egypt is scheduled to host a major donor’s conference at a Sinai resort to attract foreign investment needed to revive the economy after more than four years of turmoil.

The Egyptian government had previously declared a seven-day period of mourning and President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi addressed the nation late Sunday night, saying that his government reserved the right to seek retaliation for the killings.

“These cowardly actions will not undermine our determination” said el-Sissi, who also banned all travel to Libya by Egyptian citizens. “Egypt and the whole world are in a fierce battle with extremist groups carrying extremist ideology and sharing the same goals.”

Libya’s air force commander, Saqr al-Joroushi, told Egyptian state TV that the airstrikes were coordinated with the Libyan side and that they killed about 50 militants. Libya’s air force also announced it had launched strikes in the eastern city of Darna, which was taken over by an ISIS affiliate last year. The announcement, on the Facebook page of the Air Force Chief of Staff, did not provide further details. Two Libyan security officials told the Associated Press civilians, including three children and two women, were killed in the strikes. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

The video was released late Sunday by militants in Libya affiliated with the Islamic State group. The militants had been holding 21 Egyptian Coptic Christian laborers rounded up from the city of Sirte in December and January. The killings raise the possibility that the extremist group — which controls about a third of Syria and Iraq in a self-declared caliphate — has established a direct affiliate less than 500 miles from the southern tip of Italy, Libya’s former colonial master. One of the militants in the video makes direct reference to that possibility, saying the group now plans to “conquer Rome.”

In Washington, the White House released a statement calling the beheadings “despicable” and “cowardly”, but made no mention of the victims’ religion, referring to them only as “Egyptian citizens” or “innocents.” White House press secretary Josh Earnest added in the statement that the terror group’s “barbarity knows no bounds.”

Also Sunday, Secretary of State John Kerry called Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry. He offered his condolences on behalf of the American people and strongly condemned the killings. Kerry and the foreign minister agreed to keep in close touch as Egyptians deliberated on a response, according to a release from the State Department.

The U.N. Security Council meanwhile strongly condemned what it called “the heinous and cowardly apparent murder in Libya of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians by an affiliate of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant,” using another name for the terror group.

The foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, also condemned the mass killing, calling it an “ugly crime.”

“The United Arab Emirates is devoting all its resources to support the efforts of Egypt to eradicate terrorism and the violence directed against its citizens,” he said.

Sheikh Abdullah added that the killing highlights the need to help the Libyan government “extend its sovereign authority over all of Libya’s territory.”

The oil-rich Emirates, along with Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, has given billions of dollars in aid to Egypt since el-Sissi, who was then military chief, overthrew Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in July 2013 amid massive protests against his yearlong rule.

Egypt has since waged a sweeping crackdown against Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood group, which it has officially branded a terrorist organization. El-Sissi has insisted the crackdown in Egypt, as well as support for the government in Libya, is part of a larger war on terror.

Libya in recent months has seen the worst unrest since the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, which will complicate any efforts to combat the country’s many Islamic extremist groups.

The internationally recognized government has been confined to the country’s far east since Islamist-allied militias seized the capital Tripoli last year, and Islamist politicians have reconstituted a previous government and parliament.

Egypt has strongly backed the internationally recognized government, and U.S. officials have said both Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have taken part in a series of mysterious airstrikes targeting Islamist-allied forces.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Also see: