Egyptian President: It’s Time to Reform Islam, Combat Extremist Clerics


Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi delivered a speech on New Year’s Day 2015, in anticipation for the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, which ended Saturday evening. In his address, Sisi highlighted the necessity for reformation within the ummah, or Islamic nation.

He warned that Islam’s radical clerics were taking the religion to a place where killing and destruction is encouraged, and it is up to the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims to reject such extremism.

The following excerpt from Sisi’s speech regarding Islam and its radical clerics has been translated by

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 entireumma [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.”

This wasn’t the first time Sisi has addressed the radical elements within his religion. Last January, the Egyptian President stated, “Religious discourse is the greatest battle and challenge facing the Egyptian people,” urging fellow Egyptians to stop “relying on a discourse that has not changed for 800 years.” Sisi said that it was the responsibility of those “who follow the true Islam to improve the image of this religion in front of the world,” reminding his citizens that many perceive Islam as a religion that has been responsible for “violence and destruction around the world.”


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