Thursday, February 26, 2015

Egypt and "moderate" Islam

The entry for Al Azhar University in The Encyclopedia Britannica states that it is the “chief centre of Islamic and Arabic learning in the world.” Obama described Al Azhar as “a beacon of Islamic learning…that carried the light of learning through so many centuries”. The bottom line is the legitimacy of Al Azhar’s theological and legal opinions is indisputable to the majority of the Muslim world---assuming the majority follows moderate Al Azhar and not the insane minority.

Al Azhar is significant, and we should pay attention to this. Al Azhar is the oldest most prestigious center of Islamic learning in the world. It is held to be the center of Islamic modernity in its war on radicalism. It has students from every country in the world, and it is one of the main reasons Obama chose Cairo to be his podium for addressing the Muslim world in his landmark New Beginning speech in 2009.

...One does not need to look too far in order to find some evidence of the great consequential moral gap between the tradition which produced the statement of Al Azhar and the evil Western civilization. The very recent American response to the CIA torture report should serve that purpose perfectly. The American people consensus consider physical torture---which to no extent was near crucifixion or chopping of limbs---of the same monstrous terrorists to be a dark stain on American values, American honor, and the American flag. You should not search too much in Israeli public media to find the same harsh and sincere self-criticism of many of Israeli policies. It is my opinion that this huge moral gap accounts for almost all the miseries of the Middle East, regardless of what America, Israel, or the west does. Extreme application of violence is an integral part of the doctrine of those extremists as well as many of those who we label "moderates"...

For the past three months or so the government of moderate Sisi and home of enlightened Al Azhar, has systematically engaged in the business of hunting, arresting, publicly humiliating, and imprisoning homosexual Egyptians. Simultaneously, a stronger more violent state sponsored campaign was launched on atheists. Not exactly what the west had in mind regarding Sisi’s “reform of Islam” and “revolution in religion” don’t you think? 

Last week I was screamed at, cursed at, and even was successfully prevented from speaking at Swarthmore College by people who did not agree to what I was saying. Some of them fit the typical idea of the unveiled, perfect English speaking, moderate Muslim young women who live and study in the west. Similar “moderates” failed to do the same during my speech at Temple University the next day. Some of them sadly were students of journalism. 

This, along with the open call for crucifixion, chopping limbs, and Sisi’s moral policing should make one thing very clear: these people have no clue as to what constitutes civil society. Blaming ourselves and Israel for everything that goes wrong in the world, accompanied with some wishful thinking towards the “culture and religion of peace,” may make us feel better and hopeful, however it can’t stand in the face of the very obvious truth, that this major culture which is controlling huge parts of the developing world has been taken over and even dominated by some very bad ideas, and they, not us, and certainly not Israel, are the reason why we expect to see cruel and horrific deaths of multiple people the next time we look at news...

See also The problem with moderate Muslims by the same author.

See too Brendan O'Neill in Spiked: Hey, who are we to judge the Islamic State?

And Tom Stevenson on Egypt (Sisi's Way) in the London Review of Books.



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