A bare two weeks before radical Islamist terrorists calmly emptied the clips of their AK-47 assault rifles into the bodies of 12 journalists at the Paris-based Charlie Hebdo satirical weekly magazine, Egypt’s president warned clerics at the Al Azhar Islamic Center of the urgent need to combat extremist ideology.
In his speech delivered at the centuries-old worldwide center for Islamic studies, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi called on the imams to “revolutionize” Islam.
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Excerpts of the president’s address were translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) in Washington, DC.
“I would like to reiterate that we are not doing enough with regard to true religious discourse,” the president stated. “The problem has never been with our faith. Perhaps the problem lies in ideology, and this ideology is sanctified among us. I am talking about religious discourse that is in keeping with its times.
“… I am addressing the religious scholars and clerics. We must take a long, hard look at the current situation. I have talked about this several times in the past. We must take a long, hard look at the situation we are in. It is inconceivable that the ideology we sanctify should make our entire nation a source of concern, danger, killing, and destruction all over the world. It is inconceivable that this ideology…
“I am referring not to “religion,” but to “ideology” – the body of ideas and texts that we have sanctified in the course of centuries, to the point that challenging them has become very difficult. “It has reached the point that [this ideology] is hostile to the entire world. Is it conceivable that 1.6 billion [Muslims] would kill the world’s population of seven billion, so that they could live [on their own]? This is inconceivable.
“I say these things here, at Al-Azhar, before religious clerics and scholars. May Allah bear witness on Judgment Day to the truth of your intentions, regarding what I say to you today.
“You cannot see things clearly when you are locked [in this ideology]. You must emerge from it and look from outside, in order to get closer to a truly enlightened ideology. You must oppose it with resolve. Let me say it again: We need to revolutionize our religion. “Honorable Imam [the Grand Sheik of Al-Azhar], you bear responsibility before Allah. The world in its entirety awaits your words, because the Islamic nation is being torn apart, destroyed, and is heading to perdition. We ourselves are bringing it to perdition.”
For the first time ever, Coptic Christians were honored with a visit from the nation’s leader at Christmas mass, as President el-Sisi visited Cairo’s Abbasiya Cathedral on the holy day. El-Sisi congratulated the small Coptic community on the occasion of the holiday earlier this week, and said in a brief address that all Egyptians are as “one hand.”