I had lunch yesterday with three gentlemen who are very well read, who follow the news attentively, and who would shudder to think they are victims of ideological censorship. Yet not one of them — and the trio includes a very famous former reporter (a first-class reporter at that) for one of the country’s top newspapers — had heard a word about Egyptian President Sisi’s remarkable New Year’s Day speech, in which he called upon Muslim leaders and scholars to carry out a “religious revolution.”
All three watch TV news and read the leading dailies, so they were surprised that they hadn’t heard about it. They agreed that the story warranted banner headlines. World-wide.
I don’t watch TV, but I do listen to a good deal of radio, and the Sisi story hasn’t exactly dominated the shows I listen to. Perhaps it will, but for now it’s material for the adepts, those of us who read Roger, or Raymond, or the Examiner.
It’s a huge story. And it’s been spiked, at least for the moment.
Sisi was speaking in Cairo’s most famous theological center, and his audience included the country’s leading imams. He told them that the dominant thinking of virtually all authoritative Islamic religious leaders had turned the entire world against them:
The corpus of texts and ideas that we have made sacred over the years, to the point that departing from them has become almost impossible, is antagonizing the entire world. You cannot feel it if you remain trapped within this mindset. You must step outside yourselves and reflect on it from a more enlightened perspective.
Note those last three words. He is telling the imams that they lack enlightenment, they are “trapped” in a mindset of their own creation — one that enforces a fundamentalist reading of Islamic law (sharia) and leads to violent jihad. I don’t know the Arabic word or phrase for “basta!” but that’s his message; he tells them they’ve got to change their thinking, and therefore, their actions. Enough, already:
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…
Raymond Ibrahim doesn’t give us the whole speech, but I have no doubt that his listeners got the point. They’ve seen what happens when religious thinking remains trapped in the Islamist box. They saw the Muslim Brotherhood seize power after the overthrow of Mubarak. They saw the Brothers make a mess of most everything, and then they saw Sisi’s military remove the Brothers. Sisi knew that there was no possible compromise. He knew, and knows, that this is a battle to the death. He’s either going to destroy the Islamists, or they’re going to do him in.
I’ve read some comments suggesting that he has signed his own death warrant with this speech, but the speech simply lays out his mission, about which his would-be assassins have had no doubts from the get-go. That speech says “if you don’t change, you’re doomed.”