‘The Real Bomb Is in Islam’s Books’

Front Page Magazine, by Raymond Ibrahim, May 3, 2017:

During his visit to Egypt last week, “Pope Francis visited al-Azhar University, a globally respected institution for Sunni Islamic learning,” and “met with Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the imam of the government-run Al-Azhar mosque and an Islamic philosophy professor.”  This has been reported by several media and with much fanfare.

The problem is that Sheikh Tayeb, once voted “world’s most influential Muslim,” and Al Azhar, the important madrassa he heads, are part of the problem, not the solution.  Tayeb is a  renowned master of exhibiting one face to fellow Muslims in Egypt—one that supports the death penalty for “apostates,” calls for the totality of Sharia-rule, refuses to denounce ISIS of being un-Islamic, denounces all art as immoral, and rejects the very concept of reforming Islam—and another face to non-Muslims.

Consider, for instance, the words of Islam al-Behery—a popular Egyptian Muslim reformer who frequently runs afoul of Islamists in Egypt who accuse him of blasphemy and apostasy from Islam.  The day after the suicide bombings of two Coptic Christian churches in Egypt, the Muslim scholar was interviewed by phone on a popular Egyptian television program (Amr Adib’s kul youm, or “Every Day”).  He spent most of his time on the air blasting Al Azhar and Ahmed al-Tayeb—at one point going so far as to say that “70-80 percent of all terror in the last 5 years is a product of Al Azhar.”

The reformer knows what he speaks of; in 2015, al- Behery’s televised calls to reform Islam so irked Al Azhar that the venerable Islamic institution accused him of “blaspheming” against Islam, which led to his imprisonment.

Now Behery says that, ever since President Sisi implored Al Azhar to make reforms to how Islam is being taught in Egypt three years ago, the authoritative madrassa “has not reformed a single thing,” only offered words.  “If they were sincere about one thing, they would have protected hundreds, indeed thousands of lives from being killed in just Egypt alone, said al-Behery.

By way of examples, the scholar of Islam pointed out that Al Azhar still uses books in its curriculum which teach things like “whoever kills an infidel, his blood is safeguarded, for the blood of an infidel and believer [Muslim] are not equal.”  Similarly, he pointed to how Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb claims that ISIS members are not infidels, only deluded Muslims; but those whom they kill—such as the bombed Christians—are infidels, the worst label in Islam’s lexicon.

Debating Behery was an Al Azhar spokesman who naturally rejected the reformer’s accusations against the Islamic madrassa, adding that the source of problems in Egypt is not the medieval institution, but rather “new” ideas that came to Egypt from 20th century “radicals” like Hasan al-Bana and Sayyid Qutb, founding leaders/ideologues of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Behery’s response was refreshing; those many Western analysts who follow the same line of thinking—that “radicalism” only came after thinkers like Bana, Qutb, Mawdudi (in Pakistan) or Wahhab (in Arabia) came on the scene—would do well to listen.  After saying that “blaming radicalism on these men is very delusional,” the reformer correctly added:

The man who kills himself [Islamic suicide bomber] today doesn’t kill himself because of the words of Hasan al-Bana or Sayyid al-Qutb, or anyone else.  He kills himself because of what the consensus of the ulema, and the four schools of jurisprudence, have all agreed to.  Hasan al-Bana did not create these ideas [of jihad against infidels and apostates, destroying churches, etc.]; they’ve been around for many, many centuries….   I am talking about Islam [now], not how it is being taught in schools.

By way of example, Behery said if anyone today walks into any Egyptian mosque or bookstore and ask for a book that contains the rulings of the four schools of jurisprudence, “everything that is happening today will be found in them; killing the people of the book [Christians and Jews] is obligatory.  Let’s not start kidding each other and blaming such thoughts on Hassan al-Bana!”  Moreover, Behery said:

There is a short distance between what is written in all these old books and what happened yesterday [Coptic church bombings]—the real bomb is in the books, which repeatedly call the People of the Book “infidels,” which teach that the whole world is infidel…  Hassan al-Bana and Sayyid al-Qutb are not the source of the terror, rather they are followers of these books.  Spare me with the term Qutbism which has caused the nation to suffer terrorism for 50 years.

Behery does not blame Al Azhar for the existence of these books; rather he, like many reformers, wants the Islamic institution to break tradition, denounce the rulings of the four schools of law as the products of fallible mortals, and reform them in ways compatible to the modern world.  He said that, whereas Egypt’s former grand imam, Sheikh Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi (d. 2010), had “without even being asked removed all the old books and placed just one introductory book, when al-Tayeb [who days ago embraced Pope Francis] came, he got rid of that book and brought all the old books back, which are full of slaughter and bloodshed.”

In short, Behery called on the Egyptian government—and here the Vatican would do well to listen—not to rely on Al Azhar to make any reforms, since if anything it has taken Egypt backwards.

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). 

Al-Azhar, the foremost institution in Sunni Islam, refuses to declare the Islamic State apostate

Jihad Watch, by Robert Spencer, April 16, 2017:

In June 2009 at al-Azhar, Barack Obama said: “For over a thousand years, Al-Azhar has stood as a beacon of Islamic learning.”

In October 2001, right after 9/11, the New York Times called Al-Azhar “the revered mosque, the distinguished university, the leading voice of the Sunni Muslim establishment.” It quoted a Muslim cleric: “Al Azhar is the only institution in the world that has learned the moderate Islam and taught it in a moderate way without fanaticism, and without abiding by the teachings of a school that promotes rigidity or violence.”

So why doesn’t al-Azhar declare the Islamic State apostate? Non-Muslim authorities all over the West assume that the vast majority of Muslims reject and abhor the understanding of Islam taught by the Islamic State. Why doesn’t the foremost institution in Sunni Islam validate that assumption? Because they know that what the Islamic State is doing has ample justification in Islamic texts and teachings. The beheadings (Qur’an 47:4); the subjugation of Christians as dhimmis (Qur’an 9:29) or the massacre of Christians who refused to submit (Qur’an 9:5); the sexual enslavement of infidel women (Qur’an 4:3, 4:24, 23:1-6, 33:50, 70:30) — it’s all there.

“Why does Egypt’s largest Muslim beacon, Al-Azhar, refuse to declare IS ‘apostate’?,” by Taha Saker, Egypt Independent, April 14, 2017:

After the Islamic State (IS) militant group declared its responsibility for Palm Sunday’s deadly attacks that targeted two Coptic churches in Egypt’s Delta and Alexandria city, several media figures and organizations launched severe attack against Egypt’s largest religious institution, Al-Azhar University, considering its teachings as fostering religious extremism.

Through these outlets, Al-Azhar is now facing the backlash of taking part in supporting the IS-affiliated members through its insistance [sic] to refuse considering the IS group as ‘apostates’ and through maintaining some extremist teachings in the syllabuses that are taught to its students.

The backlash criticized the educational syllabuses that are being currently taught in Al-Azhar institution that include teachings from some prominent clerics. These teachings directly incite the brutal killing of anyone who does not follow Islam or who had been deemed to be an ‘infidel’.

The criticism, released from those figures and other media outlets, accused the aforementioned teachings of Al-Azhar by increasingly contributing to generate numerous members affiliated to IS.

Moreover, Al-Azhar’s teaching are perceived by some as the main platform that legitimizes the killing and slaughtering which are currently being practiced by IS group in different parts of the world, in the name of Islamic (Sharia) law….

Farahat: U.S. Should Designate Muslim Brotherhood a Terrorist Organization; Egyptian Government ‘Not Strong Enough’ to Combat Its Ideology

KHALIL MAZRAAWI/AFP/Getty

Breitbart, by John Hayward, April 4, 2017:

Egyptian author and political analyst Cynthia Farahat, an associate fellow at the Middle East Forum and founder of the Liberal Egyptian party, joined SiriusXM host Raheem Kassam on Tuesday’s Breitbart News Daily to discuss Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’svisit to the White House.

“President Sisi is the most moderate Muslim leader to rule Egypt since the 1952 coup d’etat,” Farahat said. “He’s certainly very moderate. I don’t think he believes in theocratic forms of Islam. I think he has a very classic liberal-style narrative when it comes to understanding Islam itself.”

“But he’s still not strong enough to combat these ideologies within his country,” she added.

“On a positive note, the Muslim Brotherhood are extremely unpopular inside Egypt as a political group,” she reported. “I would say they’re the most hated group of individuals inside the country.”

Kassam found that an extraordinary declaration, given that the Muslim Brotherhood was voted into power and running the Egyptian government just a few years ago.

“It’s a little debated how they got in there to begin with,” Farahat replied wryly. “I have a serious problem believing that the Supreme Council of Armed Forces that was overseeing the elections and engaged in killing Christians on TV channels would uphold a free and fair election. If you don’t respect their lives, you don’t respect their votes.”

Farahat clarified that her assessment of Sisi’s weakness against Islamist forces in Egypt was really a judgment of the government’s overall weakness.

“The only power the Islamists have right now is in controlling Al-Azhar University in Cairo, which is basically the most important Islamic university,” she explained. “They’re the experts on Islamic jurisprudence in Sunni Islam around the world. That’s where the problem is. I would have liked to see President Trump asking el-Sisi to investigate Al-Azhar University.”

She quoted from an investigative report about what the university’s 300,000 students are being taught: “Any Muslim can kill an apostate and eat him, as well as kill infidel warriors. Even if they are young or female, they can also be eaten because they are not granted any protection.”

“High school students learn this!” she exclaimed. “That’s just one example. There are other examples where they say to preserve oneself from the evil of an infidel, any Muslim can gouge their eyes out or mutilate their hands and legs or even sever one arm and one leg.”

“I have a problem with these teachings,” Farahat said. “When Sisi claims that he wants to fight radical Islam, how about investigate what is happening in Al-Azhar? To be honest, he has called upon them numerous times to reform. But someone who goes as far as legitimizing cannibalism will not reform himself. These people need to be investigated for terrorism, specifically that they have a long history in it.”

She said the Muslim Brotherhood has taken “a severe knock” in Egypt since it was deposed by the Sisi government.

“By the way, the Muslim Brotherhood, they say that they were popular. They were never really popular,” she noted. “When you look at their history, they have been operating inside Egypt from the 1920s. Before the so-called Arab Spring, they didn’t even have a million members in a country of 90 million people. The estimates were from 600,000 to 800,000 members of the Brotherhood.”

“They are very unpopular right now. They are so unpopular that if you have the Muslim Brotherhood beard, which is a very short beard with a sign of prayer on the forehead, they’re not allowed to walk in certain areas inside of Egypt, in Alexandria,” she said.

“So they have taken a severe beating. They’re very unpopular. The United States has to designate them as a terrorist organization. I’m currently writing a book just on the terrorism within the Muslim Brotherhood. They were involved in establishing the vast majority of Sunni terrorist groups around the world today. From al-Qaeda to Islamic State to al-Jamaa al-Islamiya – you name it – you can trace it back to the Muslim Brotherhood,” Farahat said.

She estimated that her book on the Muslim Brotherhood should be finished in about six months.

“It will address issues that I talked about in my most recent article for Middle East Quarterly, so you’re welcome to check this out. It has a lot of the evidence of their involvement in terrorism,” Farahat said.

Breitbart News Daily airs on SiriusXM Patriot 125 weekdays from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. Eastern.

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All Art Is “Immoral,” Says Egypt’s Top—and “Moderate”—Cleric

MEF, by Raymond Ibrahim  •  Feb 27, 2017
Cross-posted from Coptic Solidarity

Art has a largely negative impact on human morality. So says Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the grand imam of Egypt’s Al Azhar madrassa and arguably the “most influential Muslim in the world.”

In a recent televised interview, Tayeb was asked “To what degree does art influence the morals of the youth.” The sheikh responded that art—presumably all forms and expressions of art, as no particular form was specified—has a 90 percent influence rate on the morality of the youth; and all of it is bad.

What is of note here is that, once again, Tayeb responds in a way that one is hard pressed to differentiate from the “radical” response. For we are constantly hearing that it is the “radical Muslims”—the ISIS types—who condemn all forms of art. Yet here is the “moderate” making essentially the same claims.

But of course, this is nothing new. As documented here, Tayeb agrees with any number of “radical” views: he believes that Islam is not just a religion to be practiced privately but rather is a totalitarian system designed to govern the whole of society through the implementation of its (otherwise human rights abusing) Sharia; he supports one of the most inhumane laws, punishment of the Muslim who wishes to leave Islam, the “apostate”; he downplays the plight of Egypt’s persecuted Christians, that is, when he’s not inciting against them by classifying them as “infidels”—the worst category in Islam’s lexicon—even as he refuses to denounce the genocidal Islamic State likewise.

One can go on and on. Tayeb once explained with assent why Islamic law permits a Muslim man to marry a Christian woman, but forbids a Muslim woman from marrying a Christian man: since women by nature are subordinate to men, it’s fine if the woman is an “infidel,” as her superior Muslim husband will keep her in check; but if the woman is a Muslim, it is not right that she be under the authority of an infidel. Similarly, Western liberals may be especially distraught to learn that Tayeb once boasted, “You will never one day find a Muslim society that permits sexual freedom, homosexuality, etc., etc., as rights. Muslim societies see these as sicknesses that need to be resisted and opposed.”

Also not new is how important Western and Christian institutions ignore all this and continue to portray Tayeb and Al Azhar as “moderates.” Thus, despite all the above—despite the fact that Al Azhar encourages enmity for non-Muslims, and has even issued a free booklet dedicated to proving that Christianity is a “failed religion“—it was recently announced that “The Vatican and Al-Azhar University, one of Islam’s most renowned schools of Sunni thought, will be joining forces to discuss how to fight religious extremism that uses God’s name to justify violence.”

Such are the mockeries of our time as ugly reality continues marching unopposed.

Raymond Ibrahim is a Judith Friedman Rosen Fellow at the Middle East Forum

John Guandolo outlines his disagreement with Trump advisors on CT policy – plus my take

CJR: There is a fierce debate going on among counter-jihad activists right now over what the Trump administration’s official counterterrorism policy towards Islamic jihad should be. One positive development is the likely end of the disastrous Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) policy that de-linked Islam from terrorism and led to both domestic and foreign policy which placed Muslims “feelings” above the safety of our own people. Now the debate is focused on whether ISIS is Islamic. I have no doubt that both Lt General H. R. McMaster and Dr. Sebastian Gorka know that it is. I believe that they are using disinformation strategy to de-legitimize the enemy and gain Muslim allies. However, I believe that now is the time to make clear that Islamic doctrine is the enemy threat doctrine and Muslims who are not following that doctrine to the letter are technically apostates. Muslim reformers must acknowledge this. The Muslims we wish to ally with understand this very well and will not be “driven to radicalize” by an official U. S. policy that states the truth.

I would not impune the character and motives of Lt General H. R. McMaster or Dr. Sebastian Gorka as John Guandolo does in the following article but I do agree with his position that there is only one Islamic doctrine. I would just point out that Muslim belief and practice of that doctrine varies. I see no problem allying with Muslim reformers as long as we are all clear on what Islamic doctrine actually says. There needs to be a complete overhaul of CT training as well as public education on the matter so that we can begin to “orient on the enemy”.

I will continue to post opposing views on this important debate and encourage respectful comments. Perhaps Dr. Gorka should invite John Guandolo to the White House for a friendly chat over coffee like he did with that self-important, weasel attack dog Michael S. Smith II. That would probably be a much more productive meeting!

***

mcmaster-and-gorka

“Unfit for Duty” by John Guandolo at Understanding the Threat, Feb. 26, 2017:

The New York Times, Guardian, and CNN all report Lt General McMaster told members of the National Security Council Thursday he felt “radical Islamic terrorism” was an unhelpful way to describe terrorism because becoming a terrorist is actually “un-Islamic” in the first place.

In a talk he gave at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in May 2016, LtGen McMaster said, “There is a cycle going on where groups like ISIL, who use this irreligious ideology, you know, this perverted interpretation of religion to justify violence, they depend on ignorance and the ability to recruit vulnerable segments of populations to foment hatred, then use that hatred to justify violence against innocents.”

This is incoherent and factually wrong.  LtGen McMaster wrote a book entitled “Dereliction of Duty.”  He may want to look in the mirror to see if he is doing the same thing in this war he accused President Johnson of doing in Vietnam.

100% of all Islamic doctrine, from elementary, junior high, and high school Islamic text books as well as the highest authorities in Islamic jurisprudence, to include Al Azhar University in Egypt, all clearly and doctrinally state Islam is a “complete way of life (social, cultural, political, military, religious)” governed by sharia (Islamic Law).  100% of all sharia mandates jihad until the world is under Islamic rule, and 100% of sharia only defines “jihad” as warfare against non-Muslims.

“The duty of the Muslim citizen is to be loyal to the Islamic state.”

What Islam is All About  (most widely used junior high text book in U.S. Islamic schools)

The violence Al Qaeda, ISIS, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Boston bombers, the attackers in Paris, the Fort Lauderdale shooter, and all the jihadis we have faced over the past 20 years quote authoritative Islamic doctrine in support of what they do.  Al Qaeda and ISIS have never misquoted sharia in furtherance of their actions.

In the last 15 years it has been made clear – the more muslims study Islam and sharia, the more likely they are to support and participate in jihad.

So the questions remains…what the hell is Lieutenant General McMaster talking about because he is not talking truthfully about a real and present danger to these United States?  He is doing exactly what our enemy wants him to do – creating an imaginary target for us to chase while our real enemy prepares to defeat us.

Nearly 16 years after 9/11, the Global Islamic Movement has taken down nations, expanded its power, and defeated the United States in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq because leaders like McMaster decided they were too busy to stop and learn the enemy threat doctrine – Sharia – and instead have been given a counterfactual understanding of our enemy by Islamic advisors who are all batting for the other team.

The President’s Counterterrorism advisor, Sebastian Gorka, is “over the moon” LtGen McMaster is the new National Security Advisor.  However, Gorka’s lack of honesty about the Islamic threat raises much more serious questions.

Some have been lulled into believing he is on the right track because he uttered the word “jihad” but defeating this enemy takes more than pretending to know what you are talking about.

Speaking at CPAC this past weekend, Gorka stated:  “Zuhdi (Jasser) knows it better than anybody because he understands that this isn’t about poverty or lack of education. It’s about people who are fighting for the soul of Islam – not a war with Islam, but a war inside Islam; as King Abdullah, as General Sisi has said, for which version is going to win.”

Utter nonsense.  There is one version of Islam and one Sharia.  To say otherwise is to be factually wrong, but also dangerous when national strategies are being built off that utter nonsense.

When one’s duties include national security responsibilities, one has a professional duty to know the enemy or do due diligence to know the enemy.  To fail to do so makes one professionally negligent in one’s duties.  When people die (Ft Lauderdale, Boston, Orlando, Ft Hood…) because a person is unprofessional in his/her duties it is called “criminal negligence” and doctors and lawyers go to jail for such behavior.

Several years ago at a town hall presentation hosted by Washington, D.C. radio station WMAL, Sebastian Gorka stated “99.9% of muslims do not support terrorism (jihad)” despite a mountain of evidence and polling data proving this comment untrue, and the fact the entire purpose of Islam is to wage jihad until the world is dominated by Islamic rule (sharia).

Dr. Gorka also writes in his book, Defeating Jihad, we are not at war with Islam (p.129) but our enemy is “the ideology of takfiri jihad” (p.123).

No muslim jihadi who fought on the battlefields of Afghanistan, Iraq or anywhere else, nor any of the jihadis who have died in Europe in the United States attacking us nor the jihadis we have arrested have said they are “takfiri jihadis.”  They have said they are “Muslims” waging “Jihad in the cause of Allah” to “establish a caliphate under sharia.”

This is what Islamic doctrine commands them to do.

erdogan-moderate-islam-capture

On page 144 of his book, Gorka ends with the call for the United States to spend billions of dollars supporting “Muslim reformers” in their “ideological war to delegitimize the message of holy war against the infidel and bolster modern interpretations of Islam.”  This demonstrates Sebastian Gorka is either completely free of any clue of Islamic doctrine or is intentionally lying about what Islam actually teaches.
Since these ideas and strategies to use “moderate Muslims” to ensure the “other version” of Islam wins are based in fantasy not reality, these policies will necessarily fail – and have failed the United States for 15 years.
Is that Dr. Gorka’s intention?  Does he not know that strategies to win a war must be based in the reality of who the enemy is?  Why would Sebastian Gorka put forth such and idea when he knows what he is saying is untrue?
Is it possible Dr. Gorka has remained strategically incoherent for 15 years during this global war?  Is he working on behalf of some outside entity to intentionally mislead the President of the United States, or is he is simply putting his paycheck ahead of the American people and his duty.
The United States will lose this war against the Global Islamic Movement if we do not clearly define the enemy and target the enemy.  We cannot hit a target we do not identify and cannot defeat an enemy we do not target.
Our warfighting doctrine calls for an analysis of our enemy based on how the enemy defines itself.  We begin our analysis there.  Something we have not done since 9/11/01.  If we did, our entire national security apparatus, including our military, would have been studying and teaching authoritative sharia and more of our soldiers, Marines, sailors, and airmen would be alive today because of it.
Keeping LtGen McMaster and Sebastian Gorka in their current positions will ensure America remains strategically incoherent and will guarantee our defeat in this war against the Global Islamic Movement.
As always, this war will be won or lost at the local level because our federal government is still failing us.

Sharia Commands Muslims To Lie To Non-Muslims

Understanding the Threat, by John Guandolo, February 5, 2017:

KORAN  98:6

The Koran says non-Muslims are the worst of all creatures (98:6), so it should be no surprise the Koran and the Sunna (example of the Islamic prophet Mohammad) allow and oblige Muslims to lie to non-Muslims.

screen-shot-2017-02-05-at-11-07-16-pm-768x507

All authoritative Islamic law (sharia) obliges jihad until the world is under Islamic rule.

Therefore, when Muslim leaders are speaking to non-Muslims about Islam, there is a high probability they are lying.

It is not just a few “radicalized” Muslims who want sharia and all that goes with it.

At the Norway Peace Conference, the founder of Islam.net and host of the conference Fahad Qureshi polled the audience of hundreds of Muslims who unanimously raised their hands indicating they want sharia to be the law of the land to include stoning for adultery, death penalty for homosexuals, and everything that comes with it because their law comes from Allah in the Koran and the example of their prophet Mohammad.

Qureshi stated, “These are general views that every Muslim actually has.  Every Muslim believes in these things.  Just because they’re not telling you about it or just because they’re not out there in the media doesn’t mean they don’t believe in that.”

A 2013 Pew poll reveals most Muslims want sharia to be the law of the land, and most of the Muslim world believes there is only ONE version of sharia – not the “thousands of interpretations” Islamic advisors to the U.S. government have lied about for the last 15 years (and beyond).

Specifically, a sampling of 10 countries/areas of all the Muslim areas polled – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, Pakistan, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Morocco, Nigeria, and the Palestinian Territories – reveals out of 785 million Muslims living in these areas, 617 million told the Pew pollsters they want to live under sharia (Islamic law).

For those of you without calculators handy, that is 79% of the Muslim world.  That is a big number.  So is 617 million Muslims, and that’s just a sampling of the world’s Muslims.

The majority of the Muslim world wants the sharia that:  commands pagans to convert to Islam or die; commands Christians and Jews to convert to Islam, submit to sharia and pay the non-Muslim poll tax, or die; calls for apostates to be killed; identifies woman as property; and commands jihad as perpetual warfare until sharia is the law of the land over the entire world.

This is also the sharia that obliges Muslims to lie to non-Muslims.

As UTT’s own Chris Gaubatz experienced in his recent encounter with a sharia scholar and Imam from Texas, they will lie to your face and then feign offense when you call them out on their lies.

See the video HERE.

screen-shot-2017-02-05-at-11-20-54-pm-768x473

Think about this the next time an Islamic scholar, leader of an Islamic organization, the local Imam, or any prominent Muslims are talking to you about Islam.

Top Muslim University Rejects Reform, Stands by ‘Terrorist Curriculum’

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Al Azhar refuses to stop using radical texts used by ISIS.

Front Page Magazine, by Raymond Ibrahim, December 1, 2016:

Much of the curriculum of Al Azhar—the Islamic world’s most prestigious university, located in Cairo—is based on Islamic books written in the medieval era or earlier.  These books—histories, biographies of Muhammad, hadith (words and deeds of the latter), tafsirs (Koran exegeses), etc.—are often criticized by more reform-minded Muslims for being too backwards, teaching things such as unrelenting jihad and hatred for non-Muslims.

During a recent televised interview, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, Egypt’s highest authority on Islam and Grand Imam of Al Azhar, was asked about his university’s reliance on these books.  His responses left many reformers disappointed.

Tayeb insisted that all books used by Al Azhar are fine: “Our heritage books are innocent and being abused by those ignorant or indecent among us—and that’s all they can be: either ignorant or indecent.”

Settling the question in such black and white terms completely overlooks the fact that many of these books are indeed loaded with problematic teachings.  It is from these books—in this case, one of the histories of the prophet—that ISIS justifies burning people alive.

He continued his apologia: “Some say, do away with the other, ancillary books of Al Azhar.  Okay, but then how can I understand the Koran and Sunna?”  He explained that if Al Azhar got rid of the other books, every Muslim would be free to interpret the Koran any which way they want—claiming that that’s what ISIS does.  Tayeb even attacked using one’s brain, or reason, to understand the Koran, claiming again that that is what ISIS does.

This was another strange assertion: it is ISIS that most criticizes the free use of the brain, and insists on slavishly following the teachings of those ancillary books—which teach anything from eating the flesh of infidel captives to selling women and children on slave markets.

But the most telling portion of the interview came when Al Azhar’s Grand Imam said:

When they [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.

As all Egyptians know, the one man that made the phrase “change religious discourse” famous is President Sisi.  He too has publicly called on Al Azhar to reconsider its usage of ancillary books—most notably on New Year’s Day, 2015—in an effort to change the international image of Islam, from one of war and enmity, to something more tolerant.

Now the highest Muslim authority in Egypt has made clear that Al Azhar never had any intention of changing anything, that the “religious discourse” articulated in the Medieval era—one of hostility and violence for the other, in a word, jihad—is the only “discourse” Muslims can accept.

Anything else is apparently quixotic—“tilting at windmills.”