Speaking before Al-Azhar and the Awqaf Ministry on New Year’s Day, 2015, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, a vocal supporter for a renewed vision of Islam, made what must be his most forceful and impassioned plea to date on the subject.
Raymond Ibrahim (h/t Jim Y) Among other things, Sisi said that the “corpus of [Islamic] texts and ideas that we have sacralized over the years” are “antagonizing the entire world”; that it is not “possible that 1.6 billion people [reference to the world’s Muslims] should want to kill the rest of the world’s inhabitants—that is 7 billion—so that they themselves may live”; and that Egypt (and the Islamic world) “is being torn, it is being destroyed, it is being lost—and it is being lost by our own hands.”
The relevant excerpt from Sisi’s speech follows (translation by Michele Antaki):
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 from the outside, to root it out and replace it with a more enlightened vision of the world.
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.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the former Egyptian army chief who deposed the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi, is very popular with the Egyptian people as well as the Coptic Christians there.
Legal Insurrection His popularity has increased enormously during his successful battle against Egypt’s religious extremists who threatened to enact a wide array of “reforms” while they were in power, everything from enacting laws repressing religious freedom to calling for the destruction of the Great Pyramid and the Sphinx.
Now, he offered an intriguing new plank on his presidential platform (for which he was condemned by Barack Hussein Obama) by “casting himself as a defender of religion and taking aim at the doctrinal foundations of Islamist groups the state is seeking to crush.”
Striking a pious tone that sets him apart from former president Hosni Mubarak, Sisi also appears to be taking on the mantle of a religious reformer. He has blamed outdated “religious discourse” for holding back Egypt.
“I see that the religious discourse in the entire Islamic world has cost Islam its humanity,” Sisi said in an interview televised on May 5. “This requires us, and for that matter all leaders, to review their positions.”
With references to God and morality, Sisi may turn out to be the most outwardly pious of any of the military men to have governed Egypt since the republic was founded in 1953.
Al-Sisi’s secular approach also is reaping results. Egypt has just seized the funds of 30 Brotherhood leaders as well as those of 12 NGOs and six companies allegedly affiliated to the outlawed group. Additionally, Egyptian security forces have uncovered at least 44 alleged terror cells with Muslim Brotherhood links and apprehended 225 cells members for targeting the private police positions.
This is not the first time al-Sisi has publicly called for a reformation of Islam: