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:

Islamic State seeking alliance with al Qaeda, Iraqi vice president says

A member of the Iraqi rapid response forces walks past a wall painted with the black flag commonly used by Islamic State militants, at a hospital damaged by clashes during a battle between Iraqi forces and Islamic State militants in the Wahda district of eastern Mosul, Iraq, January 8, 2017. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani

Reuters, by Babak Dehghanpisheh, April 17, 2017:

Islamic State is talking to al Qaeda about a possible alliance as Iraqi troops close in on IS fighters in Mosul, Iraqi Vice President Ayad Allawi said in an interview on Monday.

Allawi said he got the information on Monday from Iraqi and regional contacts knowledgeable about Iraq.

“The discussion has started now,” Allawi said. “There are discussions and dialogue between messengers representing Baghdadi and representing Zawahiri,” referring to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi and Ayman al Zawahiri, the head of al Qaeda.

Islamic State split from al Qaeda in 2014 and the two groups have since waged an acrimonious battle for recruits, funding and the mantle of global jihad. Zawahiri has publicly criticized Islamic State for its brutal methods, which have included beheadings, drownings and immolation.

It is unclear how exactly the two group may work together, Allawi said.

Islamic State blazed across large swathes of northern Iraq in 2014, leaving the Iraqi central government reeling. Baghdadi declared a caliphate over the territory the group controlled from the al-Nuri mosque in Mosul the same year, which also became a point of contention with al Qaeda.

Last October, Iraqi security forces and Shi’ite volunteer fighters, commonly referred to as the Popular Mobilization Units teamed up with an international coalition, including the United States, to drive Islamic State from of Mosul and the areas surrounding the city.

The group has been pushed out of the half of Mosul that lies east of the Tigris River, but Iraqi soldiers and their allies are now bogged down in tough fighting in the narrow streets of the Old City of Mosul, west of the river, according to Iraqi security officials .

Islamic State has used suicide bombers, snipers and armed drones to defend the territory under their control. The group has also repeatedly targeted civilians or used them as human shields during the fighting, according to Iraqi and American security officials.

The militant group has lost ground in Mosul but still controls the towns of Qaim, Hawija and Tal Afar in Iraq as well as Raqqa, their de facto capital in Syria.

Even if Islamic State loses its territory in Iraq, Allawi said, it will not simply go away.

“I can’t see ISIS disappearing into thin air,” Allawi said, referring to the group by a commonly used acronym. “They will remain covertly in sleeping cells, spreading their venom all over the world.”

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Erdogan Claims Victory in Referendum Making Him Dictator

Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (AP Photo)

PJ Media, by Rick Moran, April 16, 2017:

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan is claiming victory in a referendum that will greatly expand his powers, changing the country from a nominal parliamentary democracy into a presidential dictatorship.

But opposition groups are protesting the vote, which resulted in a closer outcome than expected.

Erdogan will apparently be denied the decisive victory he sought, despite his crackdown on the opposition since the failed military coup last year.

Reuters:

Nearly all ballots had been opened for counting, state-run Anadolu news agency said, although a lag between opening and counting them could see the lead tighten even further.

Erdogan called Prime Minister Binali Yildirim and the leader of the nationalist MHP party, which supported the “Yes” vote, to congratulate them, presidential sources said. They quoted Erdogan as saying the referendum result was clear.

The result appeared short of the decisive victory that Erdogan and the ruling AK Party had campaigned aggressively for. In Turkey’s three biggest cities – Istanbul, Izmir and the capital Ankara – the “No” camp appeared set to prevail narrowly, according to Turkish television stations.

Addressing a crowd outside the AKP’s headquarters in Ankara, Yildirim said unofficial tallies showed the “Yes” camp ahead.

“A new page has been opened in our democratic history,” Yildirim said. “We are brothers, one body, one nation.”

Convoys of cars honking horns in celebration, their passengers waving flags from the windows, clogged a main avenue in Ankara as they headed towards the AKP’s headquarters to celebrate. A chant of Erdogan’s name rang out from loud speakers and campaign buses.

A “Yes” vote would replace Turkey’s parliamentary democracy with an all-powerful presidency and may see Erdogan in office until at least 2029, in the most radical change to the country’s political system in its modern history.

The outcome will also shape Turkey’s strained relations with the European Union. The NATO member state has curbed the flow of migrants – mainly refugees from wars in Syria and Iraq – into the bloc but Erdogan says he may review the deal after the vote.

The opposition People’s Republican Party (CHP) said it would demand a recount of up to 60 percent of the votes, protesting against a last-minute decision by the electoral board to accept unstamped ballots as valid votes.

If you’re wondering how people could freely vote for dictatorship, this voter explains:

“I don’t think one-man rule is such a scary thing. Turkey has been ruled in the past by one man,” he said, referring to modern Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

Opponents say it is a step towards greater authoritarianism in a country where some 47,000 people have been jailed pending trial and 120,000 sacked or suspended from their jobs in a crackdown following a failed coup last July, drawing criticism from Turkey’s Western allies and rights groups.

Erdogan will be no ordinary dictator. He is, first and foremost, an Islamist in the heart of democratic Europe. He will control a large, well-trained army equipped with the latest NATO weapons in one of the most strategically located countries in the world. It will be very difficult to fight ISIS and blunt Iran’s ambitions without Erdogan’s cooperation.

That’s why criticism from NATO and the U.S. for this power grab will be muted. As noted above, Turkey is also a key player in the refugee crisis. Erdogan could make the lives of EU leaders miserable if he opens the floodgates of migrants and allows passage through Turkey into the west.

In other words, Erdogan enjoys a considerable amount of leverage. How he uses it will impact the security of NATO and the U.S.

Also see:

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….

FBI Sting Nets Two Chicago Area ISIS Supporters

IPT, by John Rossomando  •  Apr 13, 2017

Two Chicago area men face up to 20 years in prison if convicted of providing material support to ISIS Joseph D. Jones and Edward Schimenti, both 35, were arrested Wednesday morning. They tried to provided ISIS cellphones and personnel, an FBI affidavit alleges.

The supplies were given instead to an FBI informant. Jones, aka “Yusuf Abdulhaqq,” and Schimenti, aka “Abdul Wali,” thought the phones would be used to detonate improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Jones told an undercover FBI employee he declared his allegiance – or bayah – to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

They also worked to help the informant travel overseas to fight for ISIS and encouraged him to get into fighting shape, the affidavit said. Jones and Schimenti told the informant to be careful and avoid law enforcement detection.

The sting began in September 2015, when Jones met an undercover FBI employee. The meeting took place inside the Zion Police Department, where Jones was being interviewed about a friend’s recent murder. Both Jones and Schimenti expressed support when the undercover later said he wanted to join ISIS.

Other undercover agents tricked Jones and Schimenti into thinking their new friend did make it to Syria.

A year ago, Jones and Schimenti posed for pictures holding an ISIS flag at the entrance to the Illinois Beach State Park in Zion, Ill. Jones sent the picture to another undercover FBI agent with whom he communicated online. ISIS supporters also posted the image after a fourth undercover FBI employee asked Jones’ permission to share it via social media.

Jones also made numerous statements endorsing violent jihad on his Google+ account under the name “Yusuf Abdulahad,” the complaint said. Among other things, Jones called moderate Muslims “weak minded material loving sellouts.” He also called jihad the “best deed” and praised martyrdom.

Schimenti made similar posts using the Google + account “Ed Schimenti.” “Kuffar [unbelievers], we are coming to slay you,” Schimenti wrote in an April 2015 post.

In February, Schimenti and Jones met the informant for a workout at a Zion gym. When the informant said the workout would help prepare for fighting, Schimenti responded, “Right, right, right…it’s about that strength and that endurance.”

Jones and Schimenti worked with the informant last month to collect cellphones.  They believed the phones would be sent to ISIS and used as bomb detonators.  Last week, the two drove the informant to O’Hare Airport, thinking he was traveling to Syria to fight for ISIS.

Jones said he was ashamed not to be going, too. Schimenti said he wanted the informant to “drench that land with they, they blood.”

US military drops MOAB on Islamic State in Afghanistan

AP

Long War Journal, by Bill Roggio, April 13, 2017:

The US military dropped the “MOAB,” the GBU-34 Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb which is better known as the “Mother of all Bombs,” on Islamic State fighters in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar. The strike took place in Achin, the same district where a US special forces solider was killed last week.

From the US Forces Afghanistan press release:

At 7:32 pm local time today, U.S. Forces – Afghanistan conducted a strike on an ISIS-K tunnel complex in Achin district, Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, as part of ongoing efforts to defeat ISIS-K in Afghanistan in 2017.

The strike used a GBU-43 bomb dropped from a U.S. aircraft. The strike was designed to minimize the risk to Afghan and U.S. Forces conducting clearing operations in the area while maximizing the destruction of ISIS-K fighters and facilities.

“As ISIS-K’s losses have mounted, they are using IEDs, bunkers and tunnels to thicken their defense,” said General John W. Nicholson, Commander, U.S. Forces – Afghanistan. “This is the right munition to reduce these obstacles and maintain the momentum of our offensive against ISIS-K.”

U.S. Forces took every precaution to avoid civilian casualties with this strike. U.S. Forces will continue offensive operations until ISIS-K is destroyed in Afghanistan.

US and Afghan forces have been attempting to clear the Islamic State’s so-called Khorasan province from Achin and several other districts in eastern Afghanistan for nearly two years, but like the Taliban in other areas of Afghanistan, the group remains entrenched. The deployment of the MOAB may indicate a degree of desperation in the fight against the Islamic State in Achin district. This is the first use of such a weapon, which is described as the largest bomb next to a nuke, in Afghanistan.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.

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