I’ve been burned by these Muslim leaders before. They call for peace and understanding but then later resume their support for violent jihadists. So I’m not ready to cheer this guy on just yet… but… in the corners of my mind there is a glimmer of hopefulness.
Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is the current President of Egypt. On New Years Day he gave a speech denouncing terrorism and violent jihad, while saying that Islam needed its own “religious revolution” to root out those elements… and he did it all from the most important Sunni Muslim seminary in the world!
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“We have to think hard about what we are facing,” he said. “It’s inconceivable that the thinking that we hold most sacred should cause the entire Islamic world to be a source of anxiety, danger, killing, and destruction for the rest of the world. Impossible.”
“Is it possible that 1.6 billion people (Muslims worldwide) should want to kill the rest of the world’s population—that is, 7 billion people—so that they themselves may live?” he asked. “Impossible.”
Speaking to an audience of religious scholars celebrating the birth of Islam’s prophet, Mohammed, he called on the religious establishment to lead the fight for moderation in the Muslim world. “You imams (prayer leaders) are responsible before Allah. The entire world—I say it again, the entire world—is waiting for your next move because this umma (a word that can refer either to the Egyptian nation or the entire Muslim world) is being torn, it is being destroyed, it is being lost—and it is being lost by our own hands.”
He was speaking in Al-Azhar University in Cairo, widely regarded as the leading world center for Islamic learning.
“The corpus of texts and ideas that we have made sacred over the years, to the point that departing from them has become almost impossible, is antagonizing the entire world. You cannot feel it if you remain trapped within this mindset. You must step outside yourselves and reflect on it from a more enlightened perspective.”
Al-Sisi is a former general who was installed into office after a military coup – so his connections to Islamists will not be as strong as other Egyptian politicians. He was then legally elected by the people of Egypt before going on to ban the Muslim Brotherhood from Egyptian politics. All of that to say, he has some credibility as a man who does not cheer on Islamic jihadism and terrorism. He earned some more credibility with this speech.
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