web analytics
July 25, 2014 / 27 Tammuz, 5774
Israel at War: Operation Protective Edge
 
 
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
IDC Advocacy Room IDC Fights War on Another Front

Student Union opens ‘hasbara’ room in effort to fill public diplomacy vacuum.



The Holders of Absolute Truth

Al-Azhar University in Cairo

Al-Azhar University in Cairo
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

A few days ago, en route to the south of Italy, where the cultural climate is less influenced by Europe than it is by the Mediterranean, there was a row even before the plane took off, a heated exchange between the Italian chief steward and two Egyptian sheikhs wearing the robes of Egypt’s premier religious university, Al-Azhar. The dispute had erupted over where the two sheikhs were to sit: the steward insisted they sit in their assigned seats in the economy class, while they insisted on moving to business class seats. When, as the conscripted interpreter of last resort, I explained that they had to sit on the seats specified on their tickets, they expressed their extreme displeasure at what they called European arrogance and inflexibility. There was eventually no choice but to point out that as they had paid for economy class tickets, they had no right to business class seats. This seemed to incense them even further; their anti-European tirade grew even more ferocious. The situation was finally resolved by the captain, who explained to his enraged passengers that they had only two options: either to sit in their assigned seats or to get off the plane. Acknowledging defeat, the Azharites accepted the first, and settled into the economy class seats they had paid for.

Returning to my seat, I recalled another Azharite sheikh who had travelled to Europe in 1826 as an escort and mentor of a group of young Egyptians sent by Mohamed Ali to study in a number of French institutes of learning. A luminary of Egypt’s intellectual regeneration in the nineteenth century, Sheikh Rifaa Rafii al-Tahtawi [1801-1873] lived in France for five years. After his return in 1831, he wrote a number of books introducing Egyptian readers to the civilization and culture he had known during his five-year sojourn in Paris, the most impressive of which areTakhlis al-ibriz fi talkhis bariz, Al-murshid al amin fi tarbiyat al-banat wa al-banin and Manahij al-albab al-misriyya fi manahij al-adab al-casriyya. In addition to his own writings, Tahtawi translated more than twenty-five books from French into Arabic. This great Azharite, despite going to France not as a student but as the spiritual preceptor, orimam, of the mission, used his time to delve deeply into a variety of subjects. Blessed with a curious and contemplative mind, as well as with a wholesome personality, Tahtawi was a great admirer of the achievements of Western civilization, not only in the field of applied sciences but also in the cultural, intellectual and moral fields. He was apparently particularly impressed with the importance accorded to modern education in Europe; the respect in which men held women; the plans and cleanliness of the towns; the integrity of Europeans, and their solid work ethic. The incident on the Cairo to Rome flight underscored a serious flaw in the cultural foundation of the two Azharite sheikhs. Although apparently living in Rome for five years, neither spoke any language other than Arabic. Moreover, they could see none of the merits of Western civilization. In direct contrast to their insularity, Tahtawi learned to speak French fluently even though he could not speak a word of it before 1826. In fact, he learned the French alphabet on the ship taking the mission from Alexandria to Marseilles. What he admired most in France, he said, was democracy, respect for the individual, respect for women and the great importance accorded to education and learning. The two Azharite sheikhs on the plane, who refused to observe the rules of civilized behavior, were the antithesis of their great precursor, Rifaa Rafii al-Tahtawi, a man able to appreciate and celebrate not only his own great civilization, but also the achievements and contributions of other great civilizations, from the time of the earliest, whether it was on the banks of the Nile, or on the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates in the land now known as Iraq.

In southern Italy, at the extreme southern tip, stands the town of Brindisi (the name in Latin means the “deer’s antlers”), which overlooks the Adriatic. There you can see a portrait of the outstanding Italian scientist Galileo Galilei that should cause a pang in your heart if you compare the debased cultural environment we are living under in Egypt today and that in which the great scientist [1564-1642] lived. Known in advanced societies as the father of modern science, Galileo, in his 70s, was put on trial on charges of heresy for saying that the Earth goes around the sun — a “crime” for which his predecessor, Giordano Bruno, a few years earlier, had been burned alive at the stake. Galileo was taken to a dungeon where he was shown the instruments of torture that would be used on him unless he recanted; and spent the rest of his life not allowed to leave his house. Bruno’s and his findings had run counter to Scripture at a time when a culture of strict religious orthodoxy held sway, when not only society but scientific truths were subordinated to what the religious establishment believed to be religious truths.

In France, Tahtawi was captivated by what he saw in the way of freedom, progress and the respect in which women were held. It was there that he came to believe that allowing women to mix freely with men and their freedom and modern way of dressing did not necessarily lead to decadence and degeneracy. The enlightened sheikh liked seeing men and women dance together, and described dancing as “an art form that does not [necessarily] imply licentiousness.”

One of the most profound observations he made about Europeans in his book, Takhlis al-ibriz fi talkhis bariz, reads as follows: “Their minds [and not a religious text] determined that justice and equity are among the reasons for the prosperity of kingdoms and the comfort of humans.” There is no doubt that Tahtawi was a product of the brilliant modernization project launched by Mohamed Ali.

As for the two Azharite sheikhs on the plane, they are clearly products of an altogether different evolutionary stage, one marked by intellectual sterility, superficiality of knowledge, mental stagnation, cultural regression and mentalities mired in the Dark Ages. The thought processes of those infected with this mindset are full of serious defects, the most dangerous being that they do not believe in diversity or in the acceptance of the Other, and they are intolerant of any opinion that differs from their own, inasmuch as they believe they are the holders of Absolute Truth.

Then there is their antiquated attitude towards women, who are denied any margin of religious or cultural tolerance. The mentality of these sheikhs is one of submission and conformity that does not celebrate, indeed, that suppresses, critical thinking and creativity. Deep down, they do not subscribe to the notion of common humanity: the world in their eyes is divided into “us” (the world of Islam) and “them” (the world of war). It is a division that is inimical not only to the notion of humanity but to any notion of world peace.
Originally published by Gatestone Institute http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org

About the Author: Tarek Heggy is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute, and is both a leading liberal political thinker in the Arab world and International Petroleum Strategist.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “The Holders of Absolute Truth”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Hamas terrorists often misfire their rockets that explode in Gaza civilians areas.
‘Hamas Fired from UN School Area and Prevented Evacuation’ Says IDF
Latest Indepth Stories
Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett

Because let’s face it: Hamas obviously can’t defeat the IDF in the field, soldier against soldier

IDF soldier injured in Gaza is evacuated by helicopter to Soroka hospital.

The residents of Gaza were not occupied by the Hamas; they voted for the terror organization in democratic elections, by a huge majority, by virtue of its uncompromising struggle against Israel. For this reason, the separation between the armed Hamas terrorists and those ‘not involved’ or ‘innocents’ is false. The Gazans are now paying for […]

Shimon Peres meets with the family of fallen IDF soldier Max Steinberg.

As Peres retires, Israel fights sour legacy: Insistence on setting policy in line with hopes, rather than with reality.

Keeping-Jerusalem

Our capital was not arbitrarily chosen, as capitals of some other nations were.

UNHRC High Commissioner Navi Pillay accuses the IDF of possible war crimes in Gaza again, cutting slack to Hamas.

There is much I can write you about what is going here, but I am wondering what I should not write. I will start by imagining that I am you, sitting at home in the Los Angeles area and flipping back and forth between the weather, traffic reports, the Ukraine, Mexican illegals and Gaza. No […]

Should Jews in Europe take more responsibility in self-defense of community and property?

Germany’s The Jewish Faith newspaper ominously noted, “We Jews are in for a war after the war.”

The truth is we seldom explore with kids what prayer is supposed to be about.

Almost as one, Jews around the world are acknowledging the day-to-day peril facing ordinary Jews in Israel and the extraordinary service of the IDF in protecting them.

So on the one hand Secretary Kerry makes no bones about who is at fault for the current hostilities: he clearly blames Hamas.

King Solomon said it long ago: “Cast your bread upon the waters” because you don’t know when you’ll hit something. Our job is to do.

The anti-Israel camp does not need to win America fully to its side. Merely to neutralize it would radically alter the balance of power and put Israel in great jeopardy.

We mourn the dead, wish a speedy recovery to the wounded, and pray that God guides the government.

More Articles from Tarek Heggy
Al-Azhar University in Cairo

A few days ago, en route to the south of Italy, there was a heated exchange between an Italian chief steward and two Egyptian sheikhs wearing the robes of the Egyptian religious university, Al-Azhar. The dispute erupted over where the sheikhs were to sit on the plane: the steward insisted they sit in their assigned seats in economy class, while they insisted on moving to business class. They relayed their extreme displeasure at what they called European arrogance & inflexibility.

Muslim girls read the Qur'an in mosque at a Summer Camp

There are those who claim that the Islamization of Egyptian society reflects “the will of the people.” But history teaches us that the will of the people is not always beneficial. Eight decades ago, the will of the German people brought Adolf Hitler to power, plunging mankind into genocidal wars and massacres that claimed more than fifty million lives. This example allows us to criticize the current cultural wave sweeping over Egypt.

The Obama administration’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood emanates from an extremely flawed understanding of its agenda, which has been unchanged since its inception in 1928. The two pillars of this project have been: First, abolishing the entire judicial and juridical system that was introduced in Egypt in 1883 and was based on the Napoleonic Code. Second, reviving the political vision of a Caliphate, which aims at uniting all Muslim societies under a single ruler.

    Latest Poll

    Do you think the FAA ban on US flights to Israel is political?






    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/the-holders-of-absolute-truth/2012/07/19/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: