In a December 22 speech at Al-Azhar University, on the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, Egyptian President Al-Sisi addressed an audience of Al-Azhar clerics, calling them to teach respect for others from the mosque pulpits. President Al-Sisi congratulated the Christians on Christmas, stating: “We are all Egyptians,” “What divides us destroys us.”
In the photo above, President al-Sisi warmly greets Coptic Pope Tawadros II at Cairos St. Marks Cathedral, seat of the Coptic Orthodox Pope, in Cairo. Al-Sisi is very well liked by Christians and has received nearly unanimous support from the Coptic Christian community for his outreach and protection.
In a speech delivered at Al-Azhar on December 28, 2014, Egyptian President Abd Al-Fattah Al-Sisi called on Muslim clerics to combat extremist ideology and said: “We need to revolutionize our religion.” Calling for “religious discourse that is in keeping with its times,” Al-Sisi warned that “the Islamic nation is being torn apart and destroyed” by extremism.
Al-Sisi challenged the very core beliefs of those scholars when he implied it was a ridiculous notion that 1.6 billion Muslims should murder 5.4 billion non-Muslims. While al-Sisi drew a line of distinction between religion and ideology when it comes to Islam, his speech was a diplomatic assault on Muslim fundamentalism from the heart of his country’s source of such thinking.