Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Man Who Could Save Egypt


Can this man save Egypt?

El-Sisi Boldly Calls For Islamic Reformation -Ryan Mauro

General El-Sisi, the commander of the Egyptian Armed Forces and current head of state, is calling for a reformation in Islam. His bold declaration comes as the Egyptian people approved a constitution in a vote that the Muslim Brotherhood boycotted.

The speech, which went unnoticed in the Western media, took place at the Armed Forces’ Department of Moral Affairs. In the speech, El-Sisi said:

Religious discourse is the greatest battle and challenge facing the Egyptian people, pointing to the need for a new vision and a modern, comprehensive understanding of the religion of Islam—rather than relying on a discourse that has not changed for 800 years.”

Notice what El-Sisi did not say. He did not say Zionism or Western oppression is the greatest threat to Egypt, nor did he point to a specific group like Al-Qaeda or the Muslim Brotherhood. He accurately framed the struggle as an ideological one within Islam.

When he refers to the “discourse that has not changed for 800 years,” he’s referring to when the most qualified Islamic scholars of that time ruled that all questions about interpretation had been settled. The “gates” of ijtihad, the independent interpretation of Islam, ended by the year 1258. He wants the “gates” reopened, allowing for the critical examination that an Islamic reformation needs.

Elsewhere in the speech, Sisi “called on all who follow the true Islam to improve the image of this religion in front of the world, after Islam has been for decades convicted of violence and destruction around the world, due to the crimes falsely committed in the name of Islam.”

This is another important declaration. He attributes Islamic extremism to this lack of discourse. He doesn’t blame it on a Jewish conspiracy to defame Islam or describe it as an overreaction to non-Muslim aggression.

The next question is whether El-Sisi has the standing in Muslim opinion to be listened to. For now, the answer is yes. The Egyptian military that he leads has a 70% favorability rating, while the Muslim Brotherhood’s rating is at 34%. He is almost certain to run for president and, at this stage, is likely to win.

When the military toppled President Morsi and El-Sisi announced the suspension of the Islamist-written constitution, he was joined by the Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar University, an institution that is basically the equivalent of the Vatican for Sunni Islam. To date, Al-Azhar has not broken with El-Sisi or condemned his remarks.

General El-Sisi and the overall backlash against the Islamists may spark what the world needs most: An Islamic reformation. It is not enough to topple Islamists. Their ideological underpinning must be debated and defeated. The determinations of scholars from 800 years can no longer be treated as eternal truth, but for what they really are—opinions influenced by the times in which they were made.
[Clarion Project]
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UPDATE: 

Sisi's Incompetent Anti-Islamist Campaign -Daniel Pipes, PhD

An Egyptian court in short order sentenced some 529 people to death today [March 24, 2014] for the killing of a single police officer. News like this gives one pause.

Very tough treatment of Islamists is needed to repress this totalitarian movement, including rejection of their efforts to apply Islamic law, keeping them out of mainstream institutions, even excluding their parties from the democratic process. But Field Marshall Abdel Fattah el-Sisi's extra-legal crackdown on Islamists will likely backfire and help the Islamist cause by winning them broad sympathy. Even if today's absurd judgment gets reversed on appeal, it and others like it are doing real damage.

Sisi is riding high now, with out-of-sight popularity ratings, but he appears as unprepared to rule Egypt...

Two factors in particular – the dismal economy and the hostility between pro- and anti-Islamists – will likely bring Sisi down fast and hard. When that happens, Islamists will benefit from his incompetence no less than Sisi exploited the failures of Mohamed Morsi. The cycle continues, the country falls further behind, and the precipice looms.

More broadly, because the expected Egyptian failure in suppressing Islamism will have global ramifications, Sisi's mistakes damage the anti-Islamist cause not just in his own country but internationally. The stakes in Egypt these days are high indeed.
[National Review Online]
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4 comments:

LHwrites said...

This truly is a wonderful thing and perhaps a defining moment. If it works out, and the people of Egypt are happy, this could be a stronger force against the extremist governments of the MidEast, and more effective than anything we have yet seen.

Bruce said...

Yep. It may be premature of me to compare general Sisi with Ataturk, but the potential is certainly there. May it be God's will.

John Vagabond said...

When I was at theological college, someone once remarked that "Islam hasn't had a Reformation yet". In truth, I don't see the day coming soon when the stranglehold of ignorance, illiteracy and mindless obedience will be relaxed. If these people aren't afraid of violent death, it'll take more than the equivalent of a German monk's protest on a church door to convince the masses that many of their literalist views have no place in modern, thoughtful democratic societies. What is almost certain is that there will be blood and many will die trying.

Bruce said...

Indeed. How the Islamic Reformation will unfold, no one knows yet. But it will be interesting to watch it.

As Barry Rubin, PhD [of blessed memory] once said: "I want to see how the story ends." Unfortunately, Barry will be watching from heaven.