Sisi blames extremism for negative perceptions of Islam
Holy Quran Radio recording interview with President Sisi - presidency office

CAIRO: Muslims’ actions have triggered a negative perception of Prophet Mohamed; thus the offense is from Muslims rather than from those who offend him, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi told the Holy Quran Radio in an interview broadcast Wednesday.

“This might be painful or harsh; I imagine that people have seen Prophet Mohamed, peace be upon him, through our own practices and behaviors. So, they did all those things that were offensive to [him,]” Sisi said on the occasion of the 51st anniversary of the radio station.

“I mean, the offense is not really coming from them; we have to stop,” he added.

“Why are you upset? What have we offered to the people so they do not do and say this to us? We offer a very negative image to the nation, to the entire world,” he continued.

Egypt’s Dar Al-Iftaa condemned the attack on Charlie Hebdo in January, whose perpetrators claimed it was in retaliation for “offensive cartoons” of Prophet Mohamed. Al-Azhar called on Muslims to ignore the new cartoons the magazine published following the incident.

Atheism in Egypt

Sisi told the Holy Quran Radio he was not worried about a “trend” of atheism in Egypt, saying “the shock was too much; our shock to see people who say there is not God but Allah and Mohamed is His Messenger, or who claims they raise this slogan, and [at the same time] doing this; killing, destroying and sabotaging.”

“Sabotaging a nation and holding it back for long years under the premise that they seek Islam,” Sisi added.

Sisi emphasized that intellectuals should talk about the mercy, generosity and the core of Islam because “some youth have been confused” after wide-spread violence in the name of Islam.

He also condemned that Muslims did not counter offenses to religion and “took sides without impartiality to misperceptions and distorted ideas” although they are “detrimental to our religion and prophet and have made youth to think there is no [God.]”

Egyptians who are open about their atheist ideas come from both Muslim and Christian backgrounds, but a few of them have born consequences and been jailed for voicing their beliefs.

Sisi calls on Muslims to reflect on their conditions

“Abstractly and objectively,” Muslims should look at their conditions in “Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Egypt, Nigeria and Somalia,” said the president.

“Look around, Muslims, what are you doing to yourselves? What are you doing to humanity and mankind? Is this the true Islam? Is this the bestowed mercy? […] Is there a nation that would bring about a renaissance this way? Is there a religion that orders this? We offend Islam,” Sisi added.

Sisi, a former general known for his religiosity, had requested a “religious revolution” from Al-Azhar in January. He clarified that the revolution would be in favor of, rather than against, religion by “criticizing ourselves.”

Underscoring that Quran and hadith, reported sayings of Prophet Mohamed, call for reflection and contemplation, Sisi said that the “very core of Islam is that people worship God willingly.”

“God would have created people Muslim if He wanted to,” and Muslims should live outside “their self-centrism” and realize that “God created people different in color, language and religion so people worship Him voluntarily,” Sisi said.

“Does the Divinity accept that people be forced to worship Him? Who says that God accepts this?” Sisi asked.

Endowment Ministry: Modernizing religious rhetoric needs boldness

A modern religious discourse should be led by Al-Azhar intellectuals, and the step needs “boldness from the scholars,” Minister of Endowment Mokhtar Gomaa said Tuesday at Al-Azhar Teachers Club ceremony, according to Youm7.

Gomaa noted that Al-Azhar is amending its curriculums, and that the political leadership has a role in renewing the way religion is tackled, as religious scholars alone cannot bear the full responsibility for the mission. He also emphasized that “intellectual security” is more important than national security.

Established in 970, Al-Azhar is the most prestigious Sunni institution in the Islamic world.

Al-Azhar’s newly formed Monitor of Infedilizing Fatwas Dept., which responds to radical Islamists’ fatwas labeling other Muslims apostates, has already issued many articles slamming the “extremist opinions” of “non-specialized” sheikhs that receive the attention of a segment of Muslims.

On Dec. 26, 2014 Dar al-Ifta launched an international campaign to introduce the “mercy” of the character of Prophet Mohamed. On Dec. 3, Egypt hosted an inter-faith conference to fight extremism. The conference was attended by 700 Islamic and Christian scholars from 120 states. It has also issued several publications refuting the Islamic State (IS) group’s ideology, especially in terms of the treatment of women and slavery.

It has also intensified its efforts to reach out to Muslims who do not speak Arabic by launching a Facebook page in English, which has 56,050 likes thus far. Dar al-Iftaa has also begun offering Islamic studies’ classes and publications in English to curb the recruitment of foreign Muslims by terrorist organizations.

“Every word you say resonates and has a big influence. Consequently, [you] will be judged on every word, whether they were good and correct words or otherwise,” Sisi said, addressing religious scholars and adding that only the efforts of the Holy Quran Radio would not be enough because “much is demanded.”

“Thus, the responsibility over you is bigger than anyone else. It is true that we are all going to be judged for our actions and sayings; but in relation to religion, the accountability is heavier because the error in this issue is much more dangerous than any other error,” he added.

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