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.

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Apathy and Accessory to Genocide

Women cry during the funeral for those killed in a Palm Sunday church attack in Alexandria Egypt, at the Mar Amina church, Monday, April 10, 2017. Egyptian Christians were burying their dead on Monday, a day after Islamic State suicide bombers killed at least 45 people in coordinated attacks targeting Palm Sunday services in two cities. Women wailed as caskets marked with the word “martyr” were brought into the Mar Amina church in the coastal city of Alexandria, the footage broadcast on several Egyptian channels. (AP Photo/Samer Abdallah)

NewsBusters, by Brigitte Gabriel, April 13, 2017:

The recent Palm Sunday church bombings in Egypt are part of a much larger effort to extinguish Christians from the Middle East by radical Islamists. These attacks further illustrated not only the ongoing genocide taking place, but the disgraceful efforts by the media to look the other way.

Would we do this if the religious roles were reversed? The fact is, they have never, and would never be reversed. There has never been a cohesive effort by Christians to exterminate Muslims in the name of Christ.

However, we have seen repeated efforts by those embracing Islam to commit genocide on the infidel, furthering their desire for a global Islamic caliphate.

We can go all the way back to the prophet Muhammad, who waged war as a means of spreading his message. We can look to the Crusades, the Armenian genocide, or the attempted extermination of Christians in my home country of Lebanon, which forced me to live out of a bomb shelter through much of my youth.

Still, in 2017, we see an explicit attempt by radical Islamists today to conquer by the sword, and slay the infidel in the name of Allah.

What other religion has been used to justify such organized violence against those who do not share the same faith as Islam? What other religion has been used to justify the subjugation, mutilation, and murder of women on such a massive and gruesome scale as Islam? What other religion has been used to justify the stoning of homosexuals, and tossing them off rooftops for their lifestyle choices as Islam?

Despite what radical Islamic enablers and anti-Western zealots in the mainstream media will tell you, the answer is obviously none. Spare me the idiotic and irrelevant reference to the Salem witch trials of the 17th century, we seem to have the Puritan suicide bomber threat under control.

Yet, despite reality, rather than report the news accurately and objectively, the mainstream media prefers to ignore the ongoing Christian genocide.

Why do they do this?

One can only speculate, and the answer differs based on pundit, but the most logical answer is that reality conflicts with their politically correct worldview and thus, must be hidden from the public.

The images of Syrian children who suffered horrifically, as a result of a chemical weapons attack by Assad are no doubt heartbreaking.

Why is it that a chemical weapons attack on Syrian rebels gets wall to wall coverage, when the crucifixion of Christian children by ISIS is not deemed newsworthy?

Because many in the mainstream media and anti-Western movement that engulfs it saw the chemical weapons attack as an opportunity to push their open borders narrative. They never miss an opportunity to capitalize on a crisis when it rears itself.

Yet despite the explicit extermination of Christians across the Middle East, less than one percent of all refugees taken in by the United States from Iraq and Syria have been Christian.

Think of that shameful reality. The ones who need refuge the most are shunned, yet Islamic refugees continue to pour in at an alarming rate. But apparently, this injustice isn’t nearly as appealing as one that helps paint America or its current President as “Islamophobic.”

With the way the mainstream media and politically correct politicians portray our National Security policy, you’d think the military was going around and indiscriminately rounding up Muslims for deportation.

Meanwhile in the Middle East, Christians are not only being rounded up, they’re being tortured and killed in the most gruesome fashion, regardless of age or gender. We are talking about evil being waged in the most appalling way by radical Islamists, on a mission to conquer the West by the sword of their prophet Muhammad.

Yet, our news waves are flooded with sentiments of how bigoted our President is, simply for wanting to protect our borders, and ensure proper vetting for national security purposes. Christians must band together, and stand up for those who cannot speak for themselves.

If the media refuses to cover the genocide taking place in the Middle East, it is even more incumbent upon us to spread the message, and demand action from our political leaders.

More to it, Christians must push back against this suicidal sentiment that their faith demands an open borders mentality. Instead, we must defend with great passion, the United States of America, and the Judeo-Christian values it was founded upon.

This is the greatest country in the world, and one that I could only dream of coming to while living in a bomb shelter as a young girl, praying that the radical Islamists would not find me. We must band together in this fight for the survival of our country, our faith, and our way of life.

The stakes could not be higher.

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The NYT’s Ignores Jihad AND Protects the Muslim Brotherhood in Coverage of Egypt Palm Sunday Bombings

FILE — In this Monday, April 10, 2017 file photo, women cry during the funeral for those killed in a Palm Sunday church attack, in Alexandria Egypt. (AP Photo/Samer Abdallah, File)

PJ Media, by Benjamin Weingarten, April 13, 2017:

The lengths to which the left is willing to dissemble to protect its narratives in the face of jihadist savagery were on full display in the New York Times’ coverage of the Islamic State’s Palm Sunday church bombings in Egypt.

Primary among these narratives is the idea that Islam has nothing to do with jihadism, even when carried out by the jihadists of the Islamic State (IS) who explicitly target nonbelievers and indeed base all their actions on Islamic doctrine.

The Times gives the following context for the IS bombings that left almost 50 dead:

Routed from its stronghold on the coast of Libya, besieged in Iraq and wilting under intense pressure in Syria, the militant extremist group urgently needs to find a new battleground where it can start to proclaim victory again. The devastating suicide attacks on Sunday in the heart of the Middle East’s largest Christian community suggested it has found a solution: the cities of mainland  Egypt.

Since December, the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, has signaled its intent to wage a sectarian war in Egypt by slaughtering Christians in their homes, businesses and places of worship. Several factors lie behind the vicious campaign, experts say: a desire to weaken Egypt’s authoritarian leader, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi; a need to gain a foothold in Egypt beyond the remote Sinai deserts where jihadists have been battling the army for years; and a desire to foment a vicious sectarian conflict that would tear at Egypt’s delicate social fabric and destabilize the state.

“The Gray Lady” thus casts the Islamic State’s actions in purely political terms: With IS supposedly on the ropes, it must show it can project power and expand its sphere of influence by taking on Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

This interpretation fails to address the reality that the church bombings were aimed squarely at Egypt’s Coptic Christians, including Pope Tawadros II, who was attending services at one of the churches bombed — a fact not revealed until several paragraphs into the article.

One might think that an Islamic State attack on the leader of the Coptic church on Palm Sunday would draw more emphasis than a narrative about IS’ struggles, or later in the piece General Sisi’s crackdown on civil society in response to the attack.

Why is the ignored religious component so critical?

Islamic supremacists are persecuting Christians in the Middle East and throughout the world.

IS in particular has been engaged in a genocide against Christians and other religious minorities throughout the region, as Congress recognized in a unanimous 393-0 vote in March 2016, and even jihadist coddling then-Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledged.

IS bases these attacks on Islamic doctrine, including the imperative to kill nonbelievers who refuse to submit to Islamic rule.

IS provides the rationale for its war on Christians and others in the 15th issue of IS’ official publication, Dabiq, titled “Breaking the Cross.” It reads in part:

We hate you, first and foremost, because you are disbelievers; you reject the oneness of Allah – whether you realize it or not – by making partners for Him in worship, you blaspheme against Him, claiming that He has a son, you fabricate lies against His prophets and messengers, and you indulge in all manner of devilish practices. It is for this reason that we were commanded to openly declare our hatred for you and our enmity towards you. “There has already been for you an excellent example in Abraham and those with him, when they said to their people, ‘Indeed, we are disassociated from you and from whatever you worship other than Allah. We have rejected you, and there has arisen, between us and you, enmity and hatred forever until you believe in Allah alone’” (Al-Mumtahanah 4). Furthermore, just as your disbelief is the primary reason we hate you, your disbelief is the primary reason we fight you, as we have been commanded to fight the disbelievers until they submit to the authority of Islam, either by becoming Muslims, or by paying jizyah – for those afforded this option – and living in humiliation under the rule of the Muslims. Thus, even if you were to stop fighting us, your best-case scenario in a state of war would be that we would suspend our attacks against you – if we deemed it necessary – in order to focus on the closer and more immediate threats, before eventually resuming our campaigns against you. Apart from the option of a temporary truce, this is the only likely scenario that would bring you fleeting respite from our attacks. So in the end, you cannot bring an indefinite halt to our war against you. At most, you could only delay it temporarily. “And fight them until there is no fitnah [paganism] and [until] the religion, all of it, is for Allah” (Al-Baqarah 193). [Emphasis mine]

To neglect this context is to obscure the true nature of the attacks in Egypt.

But the Times’ sins of omission are not to be outdone by its sins of commission.

For while the Times de-emphasizes the targeting of Coptic Christians based on their religion by IS, it outright lies about the history of persecution to which these very Christians have been subjected by other Islamic supremacists in recent years:

The Christian minority [in Egypt] has long suffered from casual bigotry that, its members say, hinders their access to jobs and universities and has frequently erupted into mob violence in some rural areas. But concerted violence of the kind perpetrated by the Islamic State on Sunday was unknown. [Emphasis mine]

Perhaps the New York Times missed its own reporting.

In an article dated September 4, 2016, titled “Egypt’s Christians Say They Are at a ‘Breaking Point,’” the Times wrote:

Houses have been burned, Copts attacked on the streets and hate graffiti written on the walls of some churches. In all, Coptic officials have counted  37 attacks in the past three years, not including some 300 others right after Mr. Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood were ousted from power in 2013.

… In July in the Minya village of Tahna El-Jabal, a Christian was stabbed to death by a mob, he said. A month earlier, in Sinai, a Christian priest was killed by Islamic State extremists, making him the Islamic State’s ninth victim among Copts in the northern Sinai.

… Three years ago, the situation was much worse, after the military violently put down Muslim Brotherhood protests against its taking power, killing hundreds and possibly thousands of protesters. Islamic extremists responded by burning down an estimated 76 churches around the country, including four in this city.

In fact, a December 2016 piece co-authored by the very reporter who covered the Palm Sunday attacks notes that “…Copts [have been] a target for elements of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. Islamists attacked hundreds of Coptic churches and homes in 2013…”

Indeed, as PJ Media national security analyst Patrick Poole has diligently documented, the Coptic Christian community in Egypt – one of the oldest and largest Christian populations in the Middle East representing more than half of all Christians in the region – has been under attack at the hands of Islamic supremacists for years. The most acute attacks have come from the Muslim Brotherhood, in particular under the Obama administration-supported reign of Mohamed Morsi.

Such Muslim Brotherhood targeting actually predates the “Arab Spring.” As the 2003 U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom noted, “Coptic Christians face ongoing violence from vigilante Muslim extremists, including members of the Muslim Brotherhood, many of whom act with impunity.”

What explains the Times’ contradiction of its own reporting?

As I noted in a recent piece, the Times recently opened its pages to defenders of the Muslim Brotherhood during what appears to have been a successful concerted information operation designed to thwart the Trump administration’s plan to designate of the Brotherhood as a foreign terrorist organization.

Most brazenly, it allowed Gehad El-Haddad, the official propagandist for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, to publish an op-ed defending the group.

Instead of focusing on religious-based violence towards Christians in Egypt perpetrated by the Islamic State and Muslim Brotherhood, the Times pivots to the reaction of President Sisi, who has been waging war on these very jihadist elements.

Sisi declared a three-month state of emergency in reaction to the Palm Sunday attacks, entailing a crackdown on various freedoms.

As the Times notes:

Mr. Sisi already has  vast powers that have led to the imprisonment of his rivals, mass trials and unfettered surveillance of enemies.

This state of emergency, due to be approved by the rubber-stamp Parliament on Tuesday, will probably entrench his autocratic tendencies.

In making Sisi’s response essential to the story, while claiming that “concerted violence of the kind perpetrated by the Islamic State on Sunday was unknown,” the Times in effect provides further cover for the Muslim Brotherhood, casting it in a more favorable light than Sisi by ignoring its actions altogether.

Sisi’s actions certainly merit coverage as news. But real news also ought to provide balance in terms of a discussion of ALL players on the ground, something the Times piece appears to have been written to avoid.

Narrative trumps truth once again.

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