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Egyptian leader demands an Islamic reassessment

Pigs fly? Speaking at a religious conference on January 1, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called for a major reassessment by Islam’s religious leaders.

I am referring here to the religious clerics. We have to think hard about what we are facing—and I have, in fact, addressed this topic a couple of times before. It’s inconceivable that the thinking that we hold most sacred should cause the entire umma [Islamic world] to be a source of anxiety, danger, killing and destruction for the rest of the world. Impossible!

That thinking—I am not saying “religion” but “thinking”—that corpus of texts and ideas that we have sacralized over the years, to the point that departing from them has become almost impossible, is antagonizing the entire world. It’s antagonizing the entire world! Is it possible that 1.6 billion people [Muslims] should want to kill the rest of the world’s inhabitants—that is 7 billion—so that they themselves may live? Impossible!

I am saying these words here at Al Azhar, before this assembly of scholars and ulema—Allah Almighty be witness to your truth on Judgment Day concerning that which I’m talking about now. All this that I am telling you, you cannot feel it if you remain trapped within this mindset. You need to step outside of yourselves to be able to observe it and reflect on it it from a more enlightened perspective.

I say and repeat again that we are in need of a religious revolution. You, imams, are responsible before Allah. The entire world, I say it again, the entire world is waiting for your next move… because this umma is being torn, it is being destroyed, it is being lost—and it is being lost by our own hands.

Sisi was bluntly telling the religious leaders of Islam that their radical and violent interpretation of Islam is making the religion an object of hate and contempt and disgust by everyone else in the world, and they had better rethink that interpretation before it destroys the religion.

If only more Islamic leaders were willing to make this kind of demand.

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  • mpthompson

    I really don’t know much, if anything, about the Egyptian president, but those words are bound to ignite a lot of hate towards him from many corners of the Islamic world. The guy certainly has guts to openly discuss a reformation of Islam. I hope he takes more precautions than Anwar Sadat did with regards to fundamentalist in his midsts.

  • Tom Billings

    Al Sisi does show great courage in this.

    IMHO, to make a real impact, he will have to attach his call for reform to an outright rejection of reviving anything with the name of Caliphate. The Caliphate was an empire, modeled on its greatest rival, the Roman Empire of Constantinople. *Every* “Islamist” group has called for reviving that Caliphate. Indeed, the scriptural literalism demanded by each Islamist group is a hallmark of a religion captured to serve as the glue for an imperial hierarchy.

    Sadat was killed by the same Muslim Brotherhood that was formed by Al Banna to revive the Caliphate. However, Al Sisi threw the MB’s “one man one vote, …once” government from power. He’s already in their sights.

    The real hard part will be getting other Muslim states to back similar calls to reform Islam so that it rejects any Caliphate. There *is* some hope there. Even the head Wahhabi cleric of Saudi Arabia has denounced the ISIS Caliphate as “imperialist”. Al Sisi will have to do without overt US support for 2 more years. If his anti-imperialist attitudes still hold Egypt in January of 2017, then his hoped-for reforms may get time to take hold.

  • wodun


    Internal reform is what is needed but I don’t know how much, if any, weight he carries with religious leaders.

    While the speech is nice, this is a generational struggle. An entire religion and culture can’t change in a year or decade.

  • Jake V

    I applaud Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sis’ call to re-assess the violence within Islam. However, given that the Quaran is pretty clear in its commandment to kill all those who will not submit and become Muslim I don’t think it will get very far. The only way towards peace in Islamic countries is for there to be a total separation of mosque and state and for constitutions to find a way to focus on common morality between Jews, Christians and Muslims as the touchstone (i.e., the Ten Commandments).

  • Edward

    > I don’t think it will get very far.

    I hope that it does get far, and soon. It won’t take too much longer for the world to figure out what the 9/11 report told us, that they are at war with us but we weren’t (aren’t) at war with them.

    After this latest attack in Paris, the world is already identifying with the victims by saying, “Je Suis Charlie.”

    Glenn Beck even opened his radio show, yesterday, saying “we are all French, this morning.” (3-minutes)
    “Today, we are all Americans.”

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