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Volokh Conspiracy

"We are in need of a religious revolution"


(FILES) A picture taken on February 13, 2014 shows Egyptian army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi—and now the Egyptian president—arriving for a meeting with Russian President in Novo-Ogaryovo, outside Moscow. Sisi, then a frontrunner in a May presidential election, called on April 27, 2014 for an "unprecedented" turnout in the poll his Islamist opponents say they will boycott. AFP PHOTO / POOL / MAXIM SHEMETOVMAXIM SHEMETOV/AFP/Getty Images

The Cairo Post reports that, "On Friday, President Abdel Fata al-Sisi asked Al-Azhar scholars for a 'religious revolution' to re-examine centuries-old Islamic thoughts that 'make an enemy of the whole world.'" Egypt's State Information Service likewise mentions the speech, as a "call[] on Al-Azhar and Awqaf Ministry preachers to confront the misleading ideologies harming Islam and Muslims worldwide" and as "stress[ing] the importance of renewing the religious discourse and spreading the moderate teachings of Islam."

Raymond Ibrahim passes along a translation of part of the speech, credited to Michele Antaki, but one that he personally vouches for as well. I naturally can't vouch for it, since I don't speak Arabic, but it seems consistent with the press accounts; if any of you have alternate translations, please do pass them along (and naturally I'll be glad to correct the translation if it turns out to be erroneous):

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 and reflect on it from a more enlightened perspective.

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.

[Note from Ibrahim: It is unclear if in the last instance of umma Sisi is referring to Egypt ("the nation") or if he is using it in the pan-Islamic sense as he did initially to refer to the entire Islamic world.]

Thanks to Prof. Glenn Reynolds (InstaPundit) for the pointer.