Old-Fashioned Revolution Needed by Gil Potts

BY GILL POTTS

According to one courageous political leader in the Middle East, there may be only one effective resolution to the problems of Islamic terrorism around the world. In his speech on Jan. 1, the president of Egypt welcomed the New Year, boldly calling for revolution.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi was speaking to Muslim clerics at the 1,000-year-old al-Azhar University in Cairo, one of the most prominent centers of Sunni Muslim thought and teaching in the world.

His goal is to purge the Muslim religion of the extremist ideas of intolerance and violence that has energized groups like al-Qaeda and the Islamist State. His hope is to impose change using government religious institutions. He has called on the clerics to advocate a reading of Islamic texts with a “truly enlightened” approach to reconsider concepts “that have been made sacred over hundreds of years.”

Expressing his concern for the future of the Islamic world, el-Sisi made a strikingly dauntless statement, in his New Year’s Day speech, he  told the Islamic leaders that they must lead a re-thinking of how their religion is interpreted and eliminate such extremism.

 “We have to think hard about what we are facing,” he said. “It’s inconceivable that the thinking that we hold most sacred should cause the entire (Islamic world) to be a source of anxiety, danger, killing and destruction for the rest of the world. Impossible!     

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!” He continued with, “You cannot feel it if you remain trapped within this mindset. You need to step outside of yourselves to be able to observe it and reflect on it from a more enlightened perspective.”

Egypt’s new leader is developing a reputation of cracking down hard on Islamist extremists. The Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists groups are aggressively expressing views that he is an apostate. The speech was criticized by a number of Islamist political opponents who have wide religious followings, alleging that he is trying to corrupt Islam. 

Even those who would normally promote a more modern interpretation of the religion frowned on el-Sisi’s comments for revolution.

One disturbing fact about el-Sisi’s speech is the lack of coverage by the large American media networks. This was a speech worthy of international attention, more so than anything else reported in the New Year, other than the events in Paris.

Americans and other Westerners have been calling for this very nature of speech from leaders in the Muslim World since 2001. Now, the prominent leader of a Muslim nation has called for denouncing Islamic terrorism and there is little said about it.

In one small AP article appearing in a major news publication, the Egyptian leader’s name was repeatedly misspelled and his words were misquoted. President el-Sisi delivered a true hard-hitting reality concerning Islam’s relationship to the rest of the world.

These were words very few Western leaders dare think let alone assert. And hardly a credible word by any notable news association, although Jonah Goldberg of the American Enterprise Institute did say in USA Today: “This is a big deal. El-Sisi is doing exactly what Westerners have been crying out for since at least Sept. 11, 2001, if not before that. Whatever your own view of the man, and whether you think he’s sincere, el-Sisi’s efforts to combat Muslim extremism — militarily and rhetorically — deserve closer attention,” Goldberg resolved.

This writer also claims it’s a big deal, and here’s why. 

In Washington, Islamic terrorists are portrayed merely as criminals. Their crimes of terrorism are recounted without reference to the Islamic text or ideology driving them.  In the Islamic world, classical Islamic “thinking” divides the world into two warring halves. In this “thinking” is the basis that the Muslim World must be in a struggle with the rest of the world until, in the words of the Koran, “All religion belongs to Allah” (Koran 8:39).

It is important to recognize this, to understand how this terrorism can be combated. This is in reference to el-Sisi’s words that, “Is it possible, that 1.6 billion people should want to kill the rest of the world’s inhabitants, that is, 7 billion, so that they themselves may live?”

President el-Sisi also insisted that it is not his job as the president of Egypt to reform the thinking of the Islamic world. That role, he believes, belongs to the imams, which is precisely why he addressed them in such a straightforward manner. He was very adamant that the imam’s must lead this “religious revolution.”

It should also be considered that Muslim leaders in America are reluctant to denounce terrorism in the name of Islam. It is also very relevant that President Obama, to this day, does not publicly associate Islam to terrorism.

This speech in Cairo is indeed a big deal in the war against terrorism. President el-Sisi has very strategically advised the Muslim world to get involved in this war, but on the side of peace. Has any world leader said anything more significant to address the issue? He has given the world a blueprint to end the Islamic terrorism plaguing the world.

Meanwhile, this past Sunday in Paris, more than 1.5 million people took to the streets in a massive show of defiance in the face of terrorism. That is nearly 2.5 percent of the entire population of that nation.

President Francois Hollande and an impressive array of world leaders marched in solidarity with the victims of Islamic terror. British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas and leaders from as many as 44 nations found it important enough to stand up to those who would kill the critics of Mohammed.

Noticeably absent was a delegation from the United States. This is also a big deal, and denotes a time for President Obama to denounce “Islamic” terrorism just as his Egyptian counterpart has done, and join this call for “revolution” in the world of Islam.

The White House says now, “Yes, we should have sent a delegation.”

Note from Editor: Egypt may be taking some steps to improve the image of Islam as being perceived as a savage religion or ideology; however Egypt has imprisoned four Al-Jazeera network journalists for more than a year on murky charges of collaboration with the Muslim Brotherhood. Egypt would greatly enhance its image around the world by releasing the four journalists that have been jailed on bogus charges. A free press cannot exist as long as there are ideologues and extremists that will censor and punish journalists for doing their job: China, Egypt, Russia, Iran, to name a few. We must stand firm with France and other open societies that embrace freedom of expression and freedom of the press. And yes, we do have the right to use satire in cartoons to make an editorial point — and that includes mocking the prophet Muhammad. Editorial cartoons have a long history in American journalism dating back to the earliest New England newspapers. Politicians as well as presidents were hit hard with these cartoons, but the First Amendment loomed large during the early days of our new nation, the United States of America. Freedom of speech has its reasonable limitations. You cannot yell “fire” in a crowded theater and you cannot intentionally libel the reputation of a person in print. For more than 225 years, that system has served us well.