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.”
As Roger says, no Western leader (save Pope Benedict, only once, followed by a hasty retreat) has had the courage to pronounce similar words, which reject the false nostrums that “it’s not about Islam,” and that “Islam is a religion of peace.” It has always been about Islam and jihad, and yet before Sisi, the misnamed leaders of the West have fled from these basic truths, even though they, and we along with them, face the same life-or-death war in which Sisi is so fully engaged. It’s jihad, all the way down.
Jihad defines the war, and its outcome will have immense weight in determining the future of Islam. As I have said countless times, the jihadists compose a messianic mass movement. They believe their war is blessed by Allah, and therefore they are certain of victory.
So what happens if they lose?
The answer: you hear a great sucking sound as the air leaves the apocalyptic balloon. Defeated messiahs rarely do well, once their followers see that the Almighty abandoned them, or, even worse, changed sides. You can see this in Iraq, where Al Qaeda and its Iranian allies suffered a clear defeat at the hands of the Americans. The jihadis faced a reversal of fortune, with recruitments sharply down, and they pulled in their horns all over the region. Libya hastened to come to terms, and the Iranians purported to have cut back on their nuclear program. They had more serious things to tend to, as millions of Iranians took to the streets in an effort to bring down the defeated regime.
The new American president wasn’t interested. Indeed, he sided with the regime, retreated from a winning position next door in Iraq, and laid the groundwork for our withdrawal from Afghanistan. With our most dangerous enemies at our mercy, President Obama rescued and embraced them.
We all know what happened thereafter: our enemies rebuilt their forces, Iran now dominates Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, Al Qaeda is as lethal as ever, and now we’ve got Daesh to contend with.
Now President Sisi is in a position similar to ours in Iraq after the defeat of Al Qaeda and Iran. He has defeated the Muslim Brotherhood, and he is pressing his advantage, liquidating the leaders the Brothers had elevated over the course of eighty-odd years, and in the last week he delivered the blockbuster speech and became the first president in Egyptian history to attend Coptic Christmas celebrations in Cairo.
It’s a very big deal. If he wins, the jihadis, and, along with them, the ideological mass movement Sisi has challenged will be gravely damaged. If he loses, we face very grave consequences indeed.
The newsies and pundits should pay attention.
UPDATE: Thanks to Glenn Reynolds for pointing this other big story, along similar lines, that got left out of the national narrative: http://www.danielpipes.org/15286/bahrain-islamists