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.

Father Samir: Egypt’s Palm Sunday Terror Reflects a Sickness Within Islam

The Egyptian priest, who is an authority on Islam, discusses the factors driving the murderous attacks on Christians and what he hopes the Pope will say when he visits Egypt this month.

National Catholic Register, by Edward Pentin, April 13, 2017: (h/t Christopher Holton)

VATICAN CITY — Oil money, Wahhabi extremism and an Islam unwilling to reform itself are the principal reasons for the terrorist attacks on two Egyptian churches on Palm Sunday and the rise of Islamism over the past 100 years.

This is according to Jesuit Father Samir Khalil Samir, professor of Islamic studies at the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome, who says it is false when people say such attacks have nothing to do with Islam. “ISIS is not doing anything which is neither in the Quran nor in the Mohammedan tradition,” he says.

In this April 10 interview with the Register, Father Samir — who is Egyptian himself — discusses the main motivations behind Islamic violence, why it’s important to say exactly how things are within Islam and help reform it, and his hopes for Pope Francis’ April 28-29 visit to Egypt.

What are the primary causes of these attacks? What’s behind them? Is it primarily to do with Islam, politics or something else?

For a year or more, the Muslim Brotherhood were attacking regularly during the presidency of Mohamed Morsi (2012-2013); they were attacking Christians, for any reason. For instance, they alleged a Christian who was building a house for his two children was in fact not building a house, but a church, so they are trying to make problems for the Christians. This happens regularly, but it became much more intense.

Now this time, what we hear from Egypt is that ISIS is saying they are behind these attacks, but there’s also support from the Muslim Brotherhood because they were ejected from the political system. The feeling is that the attacks against Christians in Egypt are becoming more frequent and violent. This has never happened before, that they attack so many churches and precisely on such a great Christian feast. The last ones took place before Christmas, and now these two attacks during Holy Week. The intent is probably to attack the president indirectly, through the Christians, to say he’s not able to govern or control the situation. In north Sinai, they attacked Christians and so the government moved them. Now they’ve come back under the protection of the army. In the past month, we’ve had three big attacks, and four months ago we had the attack near the Coptic cathedral.

Is attacking Christians, therefore, really about attracting negative attention against the government more than it is against Christians per se?

It’s both because they attack Christians without reason, in different situations — this year, last year and so on. Christians and Jews are their enemies, but there are no more Jews in Egypt. Christians are 10% of the population, 9 million people. So this Islamic movement, for six years now, has simply wanted to create a new caliphate, by all means possible, because there’s a great crisis within the Islamic world, and the crisis is turning into violence.

What is precipitating this crisis?

In Islam they are not prepared nor able to renew themselves, as [Egypt’s] President [Abdel Fattah Saeed Hussein Khalil] el-Sisi said in December 2014 when he took power. He spoke to Al-Azhar University and gave a beautiful speech, in which he said we need to make a revolution in Islam, to rethink the whole system. The scholars all applauded, said, “Yes, Yes,” but they haven’t changed anything in the teaching. Many intellectuals on Egyptian television came and developed this argument and said Al-Azhar is unable to make the reform we need. Nothing has changed.

Are you of the view that Islamism is the true Islam?

ISIS is the application of what is taught. It’s not outside Islam, or something invented. No, they are applying Islam. When we hear it has nothing to do with Islam — that it means salaam; that it means peace — this is all false. It’s not true. ISIS is not doing anything which is neither in the Quran nor in the Mohammedan tradition. Everything is taken after a decision taken by an imam. A mufti and imam will say this is or is not allowed.

This isn’t just a problem in Egypt, but Egypt represents the greatest and strongest country, and also where you have the most important school of Islamic learning — just as we have Rome for the Catholic Church, Islam has Al-Azhar University.

Given this fact, what do you think about the Pope’s visit to Cairo? Should he say this hard truth about Islam, but in a diplomatic way?

Yes. He should certainly be very diplomatic. He wants to be more than diplomatic, to foster good relations with them, this is sure. He is avoiding hard words. He never said Islam is also a religion of violence — he said the opposite. He said there’s no violence in religion and so on, because this is his aim: to help Muslims, who are the second-most important group in the world, to have a dialogue and understanding.

Is that an acceptable way of approaching the issue, in your view?

Well, it’s not my way. I think it’s important to say things with charity, with friendship, but to say things as they are: that it cannot continue like this; we have to rethink Islam. This is my vision. They cannot take the texts of the seventh century literally as they are in the Quran. He [the Pope] does not dare to say something like that because he doesn’t know the Quran well enough, and so on. So I understand his position, but it would be better to have a clearer and more frank discussion — with openness, but also with some realism.

The Pope called for the hearts of the terrorists to be converted and for the conversion of the hearts of those who traffic weapons. Is that a fair point, or is that not going to the root cause?

Certainly, in Egypt everyone says the whole structure of ISIS is something elaborated by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the Wahhabi countries, against the Shia. It’s also my opinion. What does ISIS mean? It’s “Islamic State for Iraq and Syria.” This is the name they have chosen, taken from the Arabic Daesh, which means exactly that.

Now why Iraq and Syria? Because in Iraq we have a Shia government after the death of Saddam Hussein. The U.S.A. organized the country like that; they said the Shia are a small majority so the government should be led by Shia, with Sunni. In Syria the government is Alawite, which is a branch of Shia, although they are at most 15% of the population. This has been the case for 50 years now, with the father, Hafez al-Assad, and now his son, Bashar al-Assad. So the Sunni — who are 70%-75% — organized the protest against the government because they want to take power.

The question is religious, too, and supported by the rich countries of Arabia. And the rich buy the weapons from the U.S. principally, but also England, France, Italy and Germany to a smaller degree. So there is in fact an international war going on, but it is not clear. It seems to be they’re using this revolutionary Islamic State, which was partly formed by the U.S., from Iraq, after the occupation of Iraq, after the death of Saddam Hussein, because the U.S. formed a group of well-trained military. The so-called caliph, Abū Bakr al-Baghdadi, was one of these people trained by the U.S.

So all the conditions were there, but no one was thinking it would be so savage, that it would be absolutely inhuman. They killed and tortured people; they took women and people as slaves and turned children into bombs.

This was unprecedented?

We had never seen something like that, so the reaction of official Islam is that this has nothing to do with Islam, but this is in fact a lie. It has 100% to do with Islam, with chosen texts from the Quran and sharia [Islamic law]. They’re not doing anything against Islamic law.

How much is Islamism primarily due to Islam rather than, perhaps, Arab culture? Why, for instance, does Islamism appear much less prominent in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country, than in the Middle East? 

Everything comes from the Middle East in Islam, this is sure, but, unfortunately, even in Indonesia, where there are 220 million people, they are now no longer as they were 15 years ago. There was a Protestant who was elected to parliament, and they wanted to put him in prison simply because he said something against Muhammad. This was once unthinkable in Indonesia.

Then you have Pakistan and Bangladesh, which are much worse than what we see in the Arab world. The propaganda coming from the Wahhabi countries is organized to go everywhere — to Asia and Africa. You have Boko Haram [in Nigeria] and others in Sudan. This is the general movement of this Wahhabi thinking and for the imams. It’s organized by Al-Azhar, whether they want it to be or not.

Do you think Al-Azhar is also partly responsible for Islamism?

I don’t think Al-Azhar has wanted to create something like that, but the teaching they are giving, as a consequence, is a radical Islam. President el-Sisi some weeks ago proposed that, from now on, a man is not allowed to say to his wife: “You are repudiated” (I divorce you). The repudiation by words, as it is practiced today, means you just had to say three times you are repudiated in the presence of two Muslim men. He said no, from now on, all should go through a tribunal, but Al-Azhar refused with the argument that this was already in force in the time of Muhammad and we cannot touch it.

So the conflict is within Islam, and the solution is within Islam. We have to reform Islam and our understanding of Islam.

Why is it that 50-60 years ago, there wasn’t this level of violence?

Through the influence of the Wahhabi. And how did this influence come? Through oil, through money. The heart of the matter is that they buy the conscience of the people. Al-Azhar is partly financed by the Wahhabi, and all the mosques they’re building, the big mosque in Rome, is funded by the Wahhabi. They put in the imam, they pay and command what to do, and so they’re creating thousands of schools for boys and girls throughout the world, everywhere, also in China. In the Islamic part of China, the Chinese government is reacting very strongly and bringing non-Muslims to this part of the country just to change the mentality. So the question is the money.

Could it, therefore, possibly be argued that it’s more to do with the money — that it is money that is perverting Islam?

Friends from Lebanon now living in Paris said they’d had enough of this Bedouin religion — by that, they meant from Arabia. They said, “We are not Bedouins, and this is not our Islam.” That’s the point: There is a conjunction between people who are very radical because they adopted, at the end of 19th century, the most radical vision of Islam, and you cannot discuss anything.

In the Middle Ages, you had discussions: The fact that the Quran is divine — this was not the teaching of the first five centuries of Islam, but there was a discussion, with part saying it was divine and another that it was human, that it is created and uncreated. The discussion went on until the 11th and 12th century, and only then it became uncreated, divine. And being divine means that every word and comma is divine, and this is what people think today — the official Islam is saying that. That means that if I find a verse — “Kill them wherever you find them” — for instance, then you have to do it. And for Christians and Jews, it’s clear they have to pay the jizya and be humiliated, says the Quran. So they say: “They can live with us, but they first have to pay and, second, to be humiliated.” This is impossible today, so what they do is attack Christians, and nobody is protesting seriously.

How are Christians currently being discriminated against in Egypt?

There’s no jizya, but you cannot have an important post in the government, not like it was until the 1960s. We didn’t have a president, but a king, until 1954, and Christians had very important positions. Egyptian radio recently broadcast a magnificent program showing that the best schools for more than a century were the Christian schools, the ecclesiastical schools, as they say in Arabic, run by the Jesuits, the Anglicans, and so on. They formed all the best people of the state, and this is true. Until today we had in our Jesuit school in Cairo at least 40% Muslims. It was another atmosphere. Christians had a very important part to play in the 19th century, what we called our renaissance in Egypt, and it was achieved through the Christians. You cannot have that now, because they don’t give them their rightful place.

How bad is daily life now for Christians compared to 20-30 years ago, and why has it gotten worse?

Because of this Wahhabi movement, the Salafists also, and the Muslim Brotherhood. It was under control in the time of Nasser and also after that, but not in the time of [Anwar] Sadat. Now they have come back, and especially with the financing of Saudi Arabia, we had the Wahhabi tendency in universities and daily life. For instance, a few years ago, during Ramadan and other periods, they started forbidding beer. It was produced in Upper Egypt, but now it’s forbidden. So they are corrupting people with their money and ideology.

Much has to do with the oil money of the past 100 years.

Yes, and maybe change will come now, because the oil price is going down, and there is a conference now with the advent of fracking [fracking is negatively affecting the price of oil]. The question is the financing. Saudi Arabia is now using up its financial reserves, and the economy is now worsening.

Should we expect Islamism to worsen?

What we expect is that the situation will be more open-minded. This is what we want, not to be against Islam, but for it, for open-mindedness. We, as Christians, have to help Muslims and say: “Look, we’ve been through something similar in other centuries.” We have a mission to work together, to find a way to come out from this. Note that, at the moment, the government says there’s only 40% literacy, but certainly it’s higher. This is Egypt in the 21st century. The education of the 60% is also almost zero.

What are your hopes for the Pope’s visit?

The visit will certainly be positive. He is supposed to speak first with President el-Sisi, which is very important, as he’s open-minded, and he wants to build a modern state and not a religious state. Then he [the Pope] will visit Al-Azhar, which is also very important, and also the Coptic Orthodox Church, which is the great Church in Egypt, with 9 million people and with an open-minded patriarch. So this is important. The second day will be for the Catholic Church, which will also involve positive decisions and orientations.

Also see:

Palm Sunday Bombing Underscores Depth of Egypt’s Anti-Christian Bigotry

by John Rossomando
IPT News
April 12, 2017

Suicide bombings of two Coptic churches in Egypt Sunday by ISIS terrorists should not be viewed in isolation. The bombings killed 44 people and injured 100 more, and mark the deadliest in a series of attacks targeting the country’s Christian minority.

ISIS warned of future attacks in December after another of its suicide bombers killed 25 worshipers in a chapel adjacent to the Coptic Pope’s cathedral in Cairo. In this case, one of the bombers struck just after the Coptic Pope finished celebrating Mass at the Coptic cathedral in Alexandria.

The attacks reflect a larger epidemic of anti-Christian bias and hate found among a sizeable portion of Egypt’s majority Muslim community. This bigotry remains entrenched despite President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi’s symbolic statements about reforming Islam and building a major Coptic church.

Many Islamists remain angry with the Coptic community for supporting al-Sisi after the 2013 ouster of President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood’s political party after a year in power.

“The Minority Copt’s (sic) Of Egypt Should Never Have joined Sisi Against The Sunni’s of Egypt Now They Are Paying The price! No End Soon Either,” an ISIS supporter identified as @HaqqRevolution wrote on Twitter.

Last month, ISIS’s Al-Naba newsletter vowed that attacks against the Copts would intensify unless they convert to Islam or pay the Quranic tax known as jizyah. Al-Naba also attacked the Copts for supporting al-Sisi.

Al-Azhar University, Sunni Islam’s most prestigious institution, spews anti-Christian statements and fatwas that label Christians as heretics. Al-Azhar distributed a free book in June 2015 describing Christianity as a “failed religion,” and suggested that the Bible contains “seeds of weakness.”

Building churches is a crime under Al-Azhar’s curriculum which also suggests that churches should be barred in Muslim countries.

“Hence, it is a mistake to say that the attacks currently taking place against Copts in Minya and elsewhere are the acts of individuals [and not part of a larger phenomenon]. [Al-Azhar] students will continue to study until they attain a certificate or a license to preach at a mosque, and then they will spread what they learned among the worshipers,” Egyptian researcher Ahmad Abdu Maher wrote last August.

Much of the anti-Coptic hatred found among Egyptian children stems from school lessons that say “Christians are infidels destined for Hell,” Al-Masry Al-Youm columnist Fathia Al-Dakhakhni wrote Feb. 26.

“Fanaticism in Egypt is a matter of education, so there is need to reform the education received by [the members of our] society, who are raised on the concept of discrimination against the other,” Al-Dakhakhni wrote. “[The change] must start in school – because fanaticism begins with religion classes that separate Muslims from Christians, so that the child discovers in his earliest formative years that there is an ‘other’ who is different and who must be shunned.”

Government forces either are unable or unwilling to protect civilians, especially Christians, from ISIS in Sinai.

A Human Rights Watch (HRW) report issued last month criticized Egyptian security forces’ response to ISIS attacks against the Copts. Over the past two months, 355 families have fled the northern Sinai city of Al-Arish, located near the border with Gaza and Israel. Of those, only 59 Coptic families have received housing.

After ISIS murdered seven Christians in northern Sinai, Coptic families who fled their homes described security forces as “apathetic,” the HRW report said.

Egyptian troops did nothing when ISIS established checkpoints hunting for Christians, according to a Daily Beast report. In one instance, ISIS fighters demanded to see a Christian man’s ID card to check his religion and to see if he had a wrist tattoo common among Coptic Christians.

“Convert, infidel, and we will spare your life,” the ISIS fighters said as they dragged him out of his vehicle. He refused. They shot him 14 times.

Christians in the Minya governorate, about three hours south of Cairo, face intimidation from terrorists, civil society and government alike, according to numerous news reports. Christians account for one-third of the 5 million people living in the Minya governorate. They have faced at least 77 sectarian attacks since the 2011 revolution that toppled former President Hosni Mubarak.

Radical Muslims known as Salafists burned several Christian homes in Minya on July 16.

Police arrested several suspects, but the court declined to prosecute them. Instead, they were let go after reconciling with their victims. HRW notes that such enforced reconciliations deprive the Christians of their rights and allow their attackers to evade justice.

While al-Sisi promises to build Egypt’s largest church, he ratified a church construction law in September giving governors latitude to deny building permits without the chance for appeal. HRW slammed the law, partly because it contains security provisions that could subject permitting decisions to the whims of violent mobs.

Muslim mobs destroyed four Coptic homes and six buildings including a nursery in the village of Koum al-Loufi, near Minya, in late June and mid-July, after Muslim neighbors claimed Christians intended to use them as churches, HRW notes.

In March 2016, an Egyptian court convicted four Christian teenagers and their teacher of contempt for making a video mocking ISIS that also appeared to mimic Muslim prayers. Three were sentenced to prison terms ranging from three to five years, while the fourth was sent to a juvenile detention facility.

In January, an Egyptian court dropped charges against Muslim men accused of beating 70-year-old Christian grandmother Soad Thabet and ripping her clothes off during a sectarian riot. Instead, the court prosecuted her son, Ashraf Abdo Attia, for adultery for an alleged affair with a Muslim neighbor’s wife. Mob anger over the alleged affair led to the assault against Thabet last May.

A Muslim mob burned and looted at least 80 Christian-owned buildings in Al-Beida, south of Cairo, last June. A rumor that a building under construction could be a church sparked the rampage. Al-Beida police were unwilling or unable to stop the violence.

Following Mohamed Morsi’s forced removal as Egypt’s president in 2013, Muslim Brotherhood supporters conducted a reign of terror against the Coptic community, burning at least 58 churches.

A mob of 1,000 Muslim Brotherhood supporters set fire to two churches in Minya after Egyptian security forces cleared Cairo’s Rabia Square in August 2013.

Muslim Brotherhood members torched the main Coptic church in the southern Egyptian city of Sohag. “And for the Church to adopt a war against Islam and Muslims is the worst crime. For every action is a reaction,” a memo posted on Facebook by a local branch of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) in Egypt’s Helwan governorate said.

Islamists previously raised an al-Qaida flag over the church.

Sunday’s attacks mark the continuation of a violence spree targeting Egypt’s minority Copts. Al-Sisi needs to bring the full power of the Egyptian state to bear in the cause of reforming society to end it and end the Copts’ second-class status.

***

Also see:

Forty-Four Dead Christians: Islam’s Latest Victims

The real driving force behind Sunday’s church bombings in Egypt.

Front Page Magazine, by Raymond Ibrahim, April 10, 2017:

Egypt’s Christians started Holy Week celebrations by being blown up yesterday.  Two Coptic Christian Orthodox churches packed with worshippers for Palm Sunday mass were attacked by Islamic suicide bombers; a total of 44 were killed and 126 wounded and mutilated.

Horrific scenes of carnage—limbs and blood splattered on altars and pews—are being reported from both churches.   Twenty-seven people—initial reports indicate mostly children—were killed in St. George’s in Tanta, north Egypt.  “Where is the government?” yelled an angry Christian there to AP reporters. “There is no government! There was a clear lapse in security, which must be tightened from now on to save lives.”

Less than two hours later, 17 people were killed in St. Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria, which—since the original church building founded by the Evangelist Mark in the first century was burned to the ground during the 7th  century Muslim invasions of Egypt—has been the historic seat of Coptic Christendom.  Pope Tawadros, who was present—and apparently targeted—evaded the carnage.

In death toll and severity, Sunday’s bombings surpass what was formerly considered the deadliest church attack in Egypt: less than four months ago, on Sunday, December 11, 2016, an Islamic suicide bomber entered the St. Peter Cathedral in Cairo during mass, detonated himself and killed at least 27 worshippers—mostly women and children—and wounded nearly 70.  Descriptions of scenes from that bombing are virtually identical to those coming from Egypt now: “I found bodies, many of them women, lying on the pews. It was a horrible scene.  I saw a headless woman being carried away.  Everyone was in a state of shock. We were scooping up people’s flesh off the floor.  There were children. What have they done to deserve this? I wish I had died with them instead of seeing these scenes.”

Before the December 11 attack, the deadliest church bombing occurred on January 1, 2011.  Then, while ushering in the New Year, 23 Christians were blown to bits.

The Islamic state claims both December 11’s and yesterday’s bombings. (Because there was no “Islamic State” around in 2011, only generic “Islamics” can claim that one.)  This uptick in Christian persecution is believed to be in response to a video recently released by the Islamic State in Sinai.  In it, masked militants promised more attacks on the “worshipers of the cross,” a reference to the Copts of Egypt, whom they also referred to as their “favorite prey” and—in a bit of classic Muslim projection—as the “infidels who are empowering the West against Muslim nations.”

It should be remembered that for every successful church bomb attack in Egypt, there are numerous failed or “too-insignificant-to-report” ones.   Thus, in the week before yesterday’s bombings, an explosive device was found by St. George’s in Tanta and dismantled in time.  Before that, another bomb was found planted at the Collège Saint Marc, an all-boys school in downtown Alexandria.  Similarly, a couple of weeks before December 11’s church bombing, a man hurled an improvised explosive at another church in Samalout.  Had that bomb detonated—it too was dismantled in time—casualties would likely have been very high, as the church was packed with thousands of worshippers congregating for a special holiday service.  In a separate December incident, Islamic slogans and messages of hate—including “you will die Christians”—were painted on the floor of yet another church, that of the Virgin Mary in Damietta.

Yesterday’s church bombings also follow a spate of murderous hate crimes against Christians throughout Egypt in recent weeks and month—crimes that saw Copts burned alive and slaughtered on busy streets and in broad daylight and displaced from the Sinai.  In a video of these destitute Copts, one man can be heard saying “They are burning us alive! They seek to exterminate Christians altogether!  Where’s the [Egyptian] military?”  Another woman yells at the camera, “Tell the whole world, look—we’ve left our homes, and why? Because they kill our children, they kill our women, they kill our innocent people!  Why? Our children are terrified to go to schools.  Why? Why all this injustice?!  Why doesn’t the president move and do something for us?  We can’t even answer our doors without being terrified!” (Note: Donations that go directly to Egypt’s persecuted and displaced Copts can be made here).

In response to yesterday’s church bombings, President Sisi declared a three-month state of emergency, adding in a statement that such attacks will only strengthen the resolve of Egyptians against “evil forces.” For his part, President Trump tweeted that he is “so sad to hear of the terrorist attack” but that he has “great confidence” that Sisi “will handle the situation properly.”

Sisi further said in his statement that “Egyptians have foiled plots and efforts by countries and fascist, terrorist organizations that tried to control Egypt.”

But what of what happens right inside of Egypt?  Is Sisi “handl[ing] the situation properly” there?  Whether those terrorizing Coptic Christians are truly card-holding members of ISIS or are mere sympathizers, the fact is they are all homegrown in Egypt—all taught to hate “infidels” in the mosques and schools of Egypt.

Sisi himself openly acknowledged this in 2015 when he stood before Egypt’s Islamic clerics of Al Azhar and implored them to do something about how Islam is taught to Muslims.  Among other things, Sisi said that the “corpus of [Islamic] texts and ideas that we have sacralized over the centuries” are  “antagonizing the entire world” and that Egypt (or the Islamic world in its entirety) “is being torn, it is being destroyed, it is being lost—and it is being lost by our own hands.”

Just how seriously his words were taken was revealed last November when Egypt’s highest Islamic authority, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb—who appeared sitting in the front row during Sisi’s 2015 speech—defended Al Azhar’s reliance on that very same “corpus of [Islamic] texts and ideas … sacralized over the centuries” which many reformers are eager to see eliminated from Egypt’s curriculum because they support the most “radical” expressions of Islam—including killing apostates, burning infidels, persecuting Christians and destroying churches.

Egypt’s Grand Imam went so far as to flippantly dismiss the call to reform as quixotic at best:

When they [Sisi and reformers] say that Al Azhar must change the religious discourse, change the religious discourse, this too is, I mean, I don’t know—a new windmill that just appeared, this “change religious discourse”—what change religious discourse?  Al Azhar doesn’t change religious discourse—Al Azhar proclaims the true religious discourse, which we learned from our elders.

And the law that the elders of Islam, the ulema, bequeathed to Muslims preaches hate for “infidels”—which, in Egypt, means Christians.  This is Egypt’s ultimate problem, not, to quote Sisi, foreign “countries and fascist, terrorist organizations,” which are symptoms of the problem.

Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, a Judith Friedman Rosen Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum and a CBN News contributor. He is the author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians (2013) and The Al Qaeda Reader (2007). 

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Also  see:

UTT: Real Truth About Real Threats

guandolo3Understanding theThreat, by John Guandolo, March 6, 2016:

Last week’s UTT article entitled “Unfit for Duty” makes the point that two of the men professionally responsible to the President of the United States for speaking truthfully about national security threats – LtGen HR McMaster and Sebastian Gorka – are not doing so, specifically as it relates to the Islamic threat.

In response to the article, UTT received numerous communications from individuals, groups, and the media.  Many of the comments came from people with a clear understanding of the threat to the United States from the Global Islamic Movement, and the article was referenced and republished in several places including here and here.

Some, however, are still having a hard time understanding the true nature of the threat from Islam.  Many are simply not capable of believing such a grave threat exists in such a real and immediate way.  Some people are still ignorant about what Islam actually teaches because they have been subject to years of Islamic leaders and elected officials in the West telling them Islam is not part of the problem, but is part of the solution.  See the UTT video on this HERE.

Many media outlets appear disinterested in the truth.  Despite the fact Islam – at the doctrinal level at Al-Azhar University in Egypt to Islamic elementary schools – teaches jihad is an obligation until the world is under Islamic rule, the media continues to gobble up whatever the Muslim Brotherhood/Hamas leaders tell them and dutifully regurgitate it.

So when organizations like UTT speak factually about Islam and what Muslims are taught at Islamic schools across the globe, the media stands with terrorists and anti-American terrorist supporters like the Souther Poverty Law Center (SPLC), and levels personal attacks without ever discussing the facts of the matter.  This is because they cannot win the argument on the facts.

SPLC’s President Richard Cohen must remember he sat next to UTT’s Vice President Chris Gaubatz in the summer of 2016 while Mr. Gaubatz – who went undercover at CAIR for six months and retrieved over 12,000 documents from their headquarters revealing Hamas (doing business as CAIR) is involved in fraud, sedition, terrorism, and other offenses – testified before Senator Cruz’s hearing.  Mr. Cohen cannot honestly say he is not aware CAIR is a Hamas/Muslim Brotherhood entity.  We do have photographic and video evidence Mr. Cohen was seated approximately 18 inches away from Mr. Gaubatz as he testified.

gaubatz-testifying

See the coverage of UTT’s rebuttal of SPLC’s attempt to slander UTT and its founder John Guandolo here and Chris Gaubatz’s testimony in front of a U.S. Senate hearing detailing the Muslim Brotherhood/Islamic threat while seated next to SPLC President Richard Cohen here.

A day is fast coming where attorneys and leaders at SPLC, as well as members of the media, will have to account for their direct and material support for terrorist groups, especially since it is a violation of federal law.

So what is it UTT teaches that causes such spasms among hard-left marxists and jihadists?

Its called “The Truth.”  Here is a small taste of it.

“An Introduction to Hadith and Fiqh” published in Uganda for children and adults new to Islam states: “Sharia basically means Islamic Law…Therefore the law is basically a users’ manual (for Muslims)…The Sharia is composite in that Islam is a complete way of life.  In an Islamic state ideology, law and religious faith are interrelated…Sharia is the ideal code of conduct.”

What Islam is All About is a widely used text book for junior high school students in Islamic schools in America.  It says “The law of the land is the sharia of Allah” and also says “The duty of the Muslim citizen is to be loyal to the Islamic state.”

Reliance of the Traveller, a 14th century book of Islamic Law certified as good law by Al Azhar and the Muslim Brotherhood (IIIT & Fiqh Council of North America) states:  “The good is not what reason considers good, nor the bad what reason considers bad.  The measure of good and bad according to this school of thought is the Sacred Law, not reason.”

Reliance of the Traveller is the book of sharia the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) says should be in the home of every Muslim in America, and was widely available at the Muslim Brotherhood’s last few national MAS-ICNA conferences.  It defines jihad as:  “Jihad means to war against non-Muslims” and is “obligatory” until the world is under sharia.  Reliance also includes “There is no indemnity for killing an apostate since it is killing someone who deserves to die.”

The last fatwa issued by a sitting Caliph was clear about the duties of Muslims with regard to jihad and fighting non-Muslims:  “Those who, at a time when all Moslems are summoned to fight, avoid the struggle and refuse to join in the Holy War, are they exposed to the wrath of God, to great misfortunes, and to the deserved punishment?  Yes.”  (Caliph Mehmed V, November 15, 1914)

The Muslim community voted the Grand Sheikh of Al Azhar the number 1 most influential Muslim on the planet demonstrating how Muslims view the authority of Al Azhar.  The Chairman of Al Azhar, Dr. Abdul Fatah Idris states:  “This is jihad, when a Muslim fights an infidel without treaty to make the word of Allah Most High supreme, forcing him to fight or invading his land, this is a permissible matter according to the consensus of the jurists.  Indeed, it is an obligation for all Muslims.  Now, if the deeds of jihad — including fighting the infidels and breaking their spine through all possible means — are permissible according to the Sharia, then it is impossible to define those acts as terrorism.”

Islamic scholars identify Sura (chapter) 9, verse 5 of the Koran as “the verse of the sword” and it reads: “Fight the unbelievers wherever you find them and capture them and besiege them, and lie in wait for them in each and every ambush.”  The Tafsir, which legally defines every verse in the Koran (because this is a LEGAL system), defines the phrase “and besiege them, and lie in wait for them in each and every ambush” to mean:  “Do not wait until you find them.  Rather, seek and besiege them in their areas and forts, gather intelligence about them in the various roads and fairways so that what is made wide looks even smaller to them.  This way, they will have no choice but to die or embrace Islam.

The most authoritative hadith scholar in Islam is Bukhari who quotes the Islamic prophet Mohammad as saying (2926, Book 56, Hadith 139):  “The hour of judgment will not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them.”

This would naturally lead to Islamic schools in America teaching:  “Jihad in the path of God – which consists of battling against unbelief, oppression, injustice, and those who perpetrate it – is the summit of Islam. This religion arose through jihad and through jihad was its banner raised high. It is one of the noblest acts, which brings one closer to God, and one of the most magnificent acts of obedience to God.” (Hadith and Islamic Culture: Management, Social Studies, Natural History, and Technical Studies)

The question is not “Why would they teach this in Islamic schools in America?”  The question is “Why wouldn’t they teach this?”  It is what Islam is.

Why are Anwar al Awlaki’s CDs and books sold in mosque bookstores across America?  Why was Omar Abdel Rahman (the “Blind Sheikh”) a revered Islamic scholar around the world?  Why did a prominent scholar and teacher at Al Azhar, Abdullah Azzam, join Osama bin Laden to create Al Qaeda?  These men were teaching and acting on authentic and authoritative Islamic doctrine.

The Law of Apostasy states acts that entail leaving Islam include:  “to be sarcastic about any ruling of the Sacred Law” and carries the death penalty. [Reliance, o8.7 (19)]

It is a capital crime in Islam for a Muslim to teach another Muslim something about Islam that is not true, and it is obligatory for Muslims to lie to non-Muslims when the goal is obligatory (Reliance, r8.0) – like in jihad.

So, for national security strategists, intelligence professionals, media people, elected officials, university presidents, and others – if you want to learn about Islam, and your path to learning includes talking to the local Imam or your friend who is a Muslim, that is unprofessional.  Read books written for Muslim audiences by Islamic authorities and you will always get the “version” of Islam ISIS and Al Qaeda teach and propagate.

There is one Islam and one Sharia.

Come take a class with UTT and learn the truth.

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Go to UTT YouTube channel for more of the truth

“Nothing to do with Islam”?

Gatestone Institute, by Judith Bergman, December 3, 2016:

  • “Until religious leaders stand up and take responsibility for the actions of those who do things in the name of their religion, we will see no resolution.” — The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.
  • “The Islamic State is a byproduct of Al Azhar’s programs… Al Azhar says there must be a caliphate and that it is an obligation for the Muslim world. Al Azhar teaches the law of apostasy and killing the apostate. Al Azhar is hostile towards religious minorities, and teaches things like not building churches… Al Azhar teaches stoning people. So can Al Azhar denounce itself as un-Islamic?” — Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah Nasr, a scholar of Islamic law and graduate of Egypt’s Al Azhar University.
  • The jihadists who carry out terrorist attacks in the service of ISIS, for example, are merely following the commands in the Quran, both 9:5, “Fight and kill the disbelievers wherever you find them…” and Quran 8:39, “So fight them until there is no more fitna [strife] and all submit to the religion of Allah.”
  • Archbishop Welby — and Egypt’s extraordinary President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi — has finally had the courage to say in public that if one insists on remaining “religiously illiterate,” it is impossible to solve the problem of religiously motivated violence.

For the first time, a European establishment figure from the Church has spoken out against an argument exonerating ISIS and frequently peddled by Western political and cultural elites. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, speaking in France on November 17, said that dealing with the religiously-motivated violence in Europe

“requires a move away from the argument that has become increasingly popular, which is to say that ISIS is ‘nothing to do with Islam’… Until religious leaders stand up and take responsibility for the actions of those who do things in the name of their religion, we will see no resolution.”

Archbishop Welby also said that, “It’s very difficult to understand the things that impel people to some of the dreadful actions that we have seen over the last few years unless you have some sense of religious literacy”.

“Religious literacy” has indeed been in short supply, especially on the European continent. Nevertheless, all over the West, people with little-to-no knowledge of Islam, including political leaders, journalists and opinion makers, have all suddenly become “experts” on Islam and the Quran, assuring everybody that ISIS and other similarly genocidal terrorist groups have nothing to do with the purported “religion of peace,” Islam.

It is therefore striking finally to hear a voice from the establishment, especially a man of the Church, oppose, however cautiously, this curiously uniform (and stupefyingly uninformed) view of Islam. Until now, establishment Churches, despite the atrocities committed against Christians by Muslims, have been exceedingly busy only with so-called “inter-faith dialogue.” Pope Francis has even castigated Europeans for not being even more accommodating towards the migrants who have overwhelmed the continent, asking Europeans:

“What has happened to you, the Europe of humanism, the champion of human rights, democracy and freedom?… the mother of great men and women who upheld, and even sacrificed their lives for, the dignity of their brothers and sisters?”

(Perhaps the Pope, before rhetorically asking Europeans to sacrifice their lives for their migrant “brothers and sisters” should ask himself whether many of the Muslim migrants in Europe consider Europeans their “brothers and sisters”?)

A statement on Islam is especially significant coming from the Archbishop of Canterbury, the senior bishop and principal leader of the Anglican Church and the symbolic head of the Anglican Communion, which stands at around 85 million members worldwide, the third-largest communion in the world.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby (left), recently said that dealing with the religiously-motivated violence in Europe “requires a move away from the argument that has become increasingly popular, which is to say that ISIS is ‘nothing to do with Islam’… Until religious leaders stand up and take responsibility for the actions of those who do things in the name of their religion, we will see no resolution.” (Image source: Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

Only a year ago, commenting on the Paris massacres, the Archbishop followed conventional politically correct orthodoxy, pontificating that, “The perversion of faith is one of the most desperate aspects of our world today.” He explained that Islamic State terrorists have distorted their faith to the extent that they believe they are glorifying their God. Since then, he has clearly changed his mind.

Can one expect other Church leaders and political figures to heed Archbishop Welby’s words, or will they be conveniently overlooked? Western leaders have noticeably practiced selective hearing for many years and ignored truths that did not fit the “narrative” politicians apparently wished to imagine, especially when spoken by actual experts on Islam. When, in November 2015, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah Nasr, a scholar of Islamic law and graduate of Egypt’s Al Azhar University, explained why the prestigious institution, which educates mainstream Islamic scholars, refused to denounce ISIS as un-Islamic, none of them was listening:

“The Islamic State is a byproduct of Al Azhar’s programs. So can Al Azhar denounce itself as un-Islamic? Al Azhar says there must be a caliphate and that it is an obligation for the Muslim world. Al Azhar teaches the law of apostasy and killing the apostate. Al Azhar is hostile towards religious minorities, and teaches things like not building churches, etc. Al Azhar upholds the institution of jizya [extracting tribute from non-Muslims]. Al Azhar teaches stoning people. So can Al Azhar denounce itself as un-Islamic?”

Nor did Western leaders listen when The Atlantic, hardly an anti-establishment periodical, published a study by Graeme Wood, who researched the Islamic State and its ideology in depth. He spoke to members of the Islamic State and Islamic State recruiters and concluded:

“The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe. But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam”.

In the United States, another establishment figure, Reince Priebus, Chairman of the Republican National Committee and Donald Trump’s incoming White House Chief of Staff, recently made statements to the same effect as the Archbishop of Canterbury. “Clearly there are some aspects of that faith that are problematic and we know them; we’ve seen it,” Priebus said when asked to comment on incoming National Security Adviser former Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn’s view that Islam is a political ideology that hides behind being a religion.

In much of American society, Flynn’s view that Islam is a political ideology is considered controversial, despite the fact that the political and military doctrines of Islam, succinctly summarized in the concept of jihad, are codified in Islamic law, sharia, as found in the Quran and the hadiths. The jihadists who carry out terrorist attacks in the service of ISIS, for example, are merely following the commands in the Quran, both 9:5, “Fight and kill the disbelievers wherever you find them…” and Quran 8:39, “So fight them until there is no more fitna [strife] and all submit to the religion of Allah.”

The question becomes, then, whether other establishment figures will also acknowledge what someone like Archbishop Welby — and Egypt’s extraordinary President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi — has finally had the courage to say in public: that if one insists on remaining “religiously illiterate,” it is impossible to solve the problem of religiously motivated violence.

Judith Bergman is a writer, columnist, lawyer and political analyst.

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Understanding the  Threat:

The oldest and most prestigious school of Islamic jurisprudence is Al Azhar University, founded in Egypt in approximately 970 AD.

Al Azhar and its leadership continue to affirm “Jihad,” which it defines as war-fighting against unbelievers (non-Muslims), is obligatory until the world is under Islamic rule.

Oddly enough, this is exactly what Al Qaeda, ISIS, the Muslim Brotherhood, and all of the other jihadi organizations in the world teach, and what is taught in Islamic elementary schools around the world, including the United States.

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The Doctrine of Cowards

Why are so many Muslim refugees coming to the US? Why do so few persecuted Christians come? The answer is the position of the churches. The biggest door into US society is the church door. The Christians and Jews love to attend interfaith gatherings where they sit and nod their heads yes to all that the Muslims say.

But the Christian and Jewish leaders are ignorant about Islam. They know nothing about the Islamic doctrine of Christian and Jew hatred. But what is worse is that they refuse to learn.

Christian leaders have developed a doctrine of the coward to justify their pious ignorance and fear. They are all about turning the other cheek, loving their enemies, and doing nothing while waiting for Jesus to return. They are incapable of boldness and courage. Wimps all (well, about 95% of them).

And if you are not a Christian, why aren’t you concerned with the greatest human rights tragedy happening today—the killing of religious minorities in Islamic lands? Why can’t persecuted Christians come as refugees to America? When will Christians care about the persecution of their own brothers and sisters?

What has happened to us (Christians, Jews, Buddhists, atheists and all others) that we are no longer able to have moral outrage? Righteous anger?

Brotherhood Members Gather in D.C. to Blast Egyptian Government

mb-theaterby John Rossomando
IPT News
September 21, 2016

Roughly two dozen Egyptians opposed to President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, some with Muslim Brotherhood connections, signed a declaration last week in Washington endorsing a civil constitution that separates mosque and state. Three of the declaration’s points involve prosecuting current Egyptian officials.

Sisi, a former general, assumed power in July 2013 after his military forces ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, who led the Muslim Brotherhood’s political party. Sisi was elected president with an overwhelming 96 percent of the vote in 2014.

He has cracked down on dissent, especially by the Muslim Brotherhood, imprisoning 29,000 Brotherhood members, mainly on terrorism charges.

They, in turn, have organized campaigns against the government, calling it the product of a coup.

In a Facebook post, one participant explained the statement was issued from Washington after “all other places rejected the meeting.”

The fourth point of their 10-point “Washington Initiative” endorses the creation of a civil state. It calls for “[d]rafting a civil constitution which expressly stipulates no state interference in religious institutions or vice versa, and no military intervention in the political process. It will establish rights and freedoms according to the basis of international human rights declarations and global covenants.”

This declaration also endorsed pluralism, freedom of expression, press freedom, and full equality of all Egyptian citizens. It also calls for releasing political prisoners.

Many of these positions are inconsistent with the Brotherhood’s policies during its year in power. Muslim Brotherhood leaders had promised to bring about democratic reforms once in office. Instead, they resorted to the same sort of repression found during Hosni Mubarak’s nearly 30-year reign. This became clear after Morsi asserted emergency powers in November 2012.

“It was clear from President Morsi’s first day in office that his program for the first 100 days of his term paid little attention to addressing human rights issues and realizing Egyptians’ aspirations for democratization,” the Cairo Institute for Human Rights said in a new report issued in June.

Morsi created the underpinnings of an authoritarian regime in place of Mubarak, the institute said.

Military trials for civilians continued under Muslim Brotherhood rule and accusations of defamation of religion frequently were used to stifle freedom of expression, the institute reported. Press freedom also suffered during Morsi’s presidency.

The delegation in Washington last week included Abdul Mawgoud Dardery, foreign affairs chairman for the Muslim Brotherhood’s banned Freedom and Justice Party, and a frequent participant in pro-Brotherhood lobbying efforts in the nation’s capital.

Dardery previously rejected the separation of mosque and state.

“The issue of the separation of religion from politics is a church issue and it does not apply to Islam,” Dardery said in a Feb. 15, 2014 speech he gave at the Islamic Society of Milwaukee, and translated by the Investigative Project on Terrorism. “Democracy is the rule of people [for] the people by the people within the limit of what God allows. Islam is a choice, is a contract between me and God.”

Dardery’s statement at the Islamic Society of Milwaukee more closely resembles the International Muslim Brotherhood’s bylaws, which ultimately envisions an Islamic state.

“The need to work on establishing the Islamic State, which seeks to effectively implement the provisions of Islam and its teachings. Defend the nation against the internal enemies, try to present the true teachings of Islam and communicate its ideas to the world,” Article 2, Paragraph E of the bylaws say.

In contrast, Dardery claimed in a more public setting a year later that the Muslim Brotherhood did not want a religious state.

“We’re not calling for a religious law, we’re not calling for a theocracy; we’re standing against theocracy, period. What we are calling for is a democracy that can bring the liberals, the leftists, the nationalists, or the Muslim Brotherhood, because they’re all equal,” Dardery told a University of California, Berkeley audience.

He also affirmed in the speech the idea of a civil state with Islamic principles, meaning that the state would be governed by laypersons under a constitution and that laws would be made within the boundaries of Islamic shariah. This concept contrasts with the Iranian model where clerics rule directly over the people.

The 2012 Egyptian constitution drafted under Morsi’s rule had created a civil state butmade laws subject to review by Al-Azhar University, Sunni Islam’s most important institution.

Amnesty International faulted the Muslim Brotherhood’s last attempt to write a constitution for blocking women’s path to full equality and failing to protect minorities.

“It is therefore no wonder that the constitution, drafted solely by political Islamists, further entrenches both political and religious despotism and paves the way for a Sunni theocracy similar to the Iranian model,” the Cairo Institute for Human Rights wrote.

Michael Meunier, a Coptic Christian who helped organize and coordinate factions involved in the 2011 revolt that toppled Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak, dismissed the D.C. gathering and its resulting declaration as smoke and mirrors.

“All the [people in] attendance are members of the MB disguised under different banners. I know several of them and definitely they don’t speak for [a] civil state and did not support the creation of a civil state in 2011. [Their] insistence on Jan 25th as the official revolution gives away their motive. They don’t want to acknowledge June 30th as a Revolution since it was against the MB,” Meunier said in an email.

The declaration had more to do with persuading American policymakers to support the Muslim Brotherhood against the Egyptian government, Meunier said. The Brotherhood used similar rhetoric before it came to power in Egypt but failed to deliver after Morsi’s inauguration.

“They love playing under different umbrellas,” Meunier said. “They say one thing in English and another in Arabic.”

Dardery’s contradictory statements support Meunier’s point that Muslim Brotherhood members vary their message depending on their audience.

Egypt’s Youm 7 newspaper identified other Brotherhood-linked figures who participated in the recent conference. In addition to Dardery, participants included former Morsi adviser Seif El-Din Abdel Fattah; Ayman Nour, head of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Sharq Channel; Muhammad Mahsoub of the Wasat Party; and Brotherhood analyst Essam Hajji.

The declaration triggered “earthquakes inside the Brotherhood camp” after its signing,Youm 7 reported.

The Muslim Brotherhood disavowed any formal participation in the conference and said any Brotherhood members who participated did so on their own.

“Media reports announcing the outcome of the ‘dialogue’ workshop held recently in Washington, attended by some political activists, also claimed representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood were present. This is not true. The group had no knowledge of anyone representing it in that workshop,” Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Talat Fahmy said in a statement posted on the Brotherhood’s own website, Ikhwanweb. “The Muslim Brotherhood reiterates that any views, opinion, stances or attitudes attributed to it must be so expressed through its own institutions and spokespersons.”

Other Islamists denounced the document as a “farce” because it does not recognize the Islamic nature of Egypt.