Egyptian President: Muslims Must Modify Religious Discourse

Washington, DC

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi said Muslims need to reform their religious discourse and remove components from it that promote violence and extremism.

“Islam is a tolerant religion, but this wasn’t always clear to the rest of the world during the last 20 or 30 years,” Sisi said during a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “The terrible terrorist attacks, which we have seen, and this terrible image of Muslims led us to think that we must stop and think and change the religious discourse and remove from it things that have led to violence and extremism.”

He went on to say that Islam should not be judged by the acts of killers who misinterpret the religion.

“At the same time, we as Muslims must also seek reform and reevaluate our perspectives so that we do not allow a minority to distort our history, jeopardize our present, and threaten our future on the basis of a mistaken understanding or inadequate interpretations of the principles of our religion,” added Sisi.

The Egyptian president said Muslims need a religious discourse that can be adapted to the present.

“There can be no religious discourse which is in conflict with its environment and with the world,” explained the Egyptian president. “And therefore, we Muslims need to modify this religious discourse. And this has nothing to do with conviction and with religious beliefs, because those are immutable. But we are talking about the discourse. We need a new discourse that will be adapted to a new world and which will remove some of the misconceptions.”

Earlier this month, while addressing a gathering of Islamic scholars and clerics at al-Azhar University in Cairo, Sisi echoed the comments he made Thursday, saying  Muslims need a “religious revolution” and “the entire world” was waiting for it.

On Thursday, Sisi warned against provoking other people and encouraged respect and understanding between different cultures.

“I think that the whole world should stop to think and take stock and think about certain things which could provoke other people or hurt their feelings,” said the Egyptian president. “We should think about all of this. If we want to create a civilized humane environment, then we must respect each other’s cultures and beliefs.”

“Because no one can monopolize the truth,” he continued. “No one should believe that he or she has the truth with a capital ‘T.’ And no one should believe that his or her convictions or ideas are better than anyone else’s.”

As chief of the Egyptian army in 2013, Sisi led the coup that toppled former President Mohammed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood Islamist. Morsi was Egypt’s first democratically elected president.