The following highlights an assortment of research and translations from MEMRI's Reform Project in 2020 on a variety of topics. Producing such content is very costly, and your help allows us to continue our vital work of supporting counterterrorism efforts in the U.S. and throughout the West. We are very grateful to those of our valued readers who have already donated this year, and ask those who have not yet done so to please consider making a tax-deductible donation now.
The MEMRI Reform Project broadens the audience of those promoting reform in the Arab and Muslim world, while highlighting the obstacles that they face in advancing such reforms. The goal of this project is to provide reformists a much-needed platform that will enable them to reach out to their societies and to religious, political, and educational leaders while also providing cogent suggestions to Western policy makers constructing long-term strategic plans in support of the reform effort.
The following are selected MEMRI TV clips from the Reform Project in 2020.
Former Saudi Minister of Justice Sheikh Muhammad Issa, who currently serves as the Secretary-General of the Muslim World League, said in a June 17, 2020 interview on Al-Arabiya Network (Saudi Arabia) that some people misunderstand the Quranic verse that says that Jews and Christians will never be pleased with the Muslims until they follow their religion. He clarified that this was referring to the direction of prayer or other matters of faith. In addition, he explained that Muslims, Jews, and Christians are "brothers" because all of humanity comes from the same source and he emphasized that Muslims have never benefited from having a hateful or provocative approach. Saying that there are Jews who have stood alongside the Muslims against Islamophobia, Sheikh Issa added: "We do not deal with extremists, fanatics, or haters, [but] people should not bear the consequences of mistakes committed by some of them."
Saudi Arabia's Al-Arabiya Network aired a report on a visit to Auschwitz by a delegation of the Muslim World Leagues on January 23, 2020. The delegation of senior Islamic scholars was led by Secretary-General of the Muslim World League Dr. Muhammad Issa. According to the report, the purpose of the visit was to express the Muslim World League's message against violence, hatred, and extremism. Dr. Ahmad Abadi, Secretary-General of the Mohammadia League of Scholars in Morocco, who was a member of the delegation, was interviewed from Auschwitz. He said that no one in the "extended human family" is immune to the "virus of hate," which penetrated into the scholarly German nation. Dr. Abadi added: "We should learn this lesson […] so that we do not repeat such a tragedy anywhere on our planet." Dr. Abadi stated that this visit can refute the "widespread belief that Muslims can accept crimes against humanity." The visit took place in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the camp's liberation.
#7880 - Qatari Women's Rights Activist And Dissident Aisha Al-Qahtani: Women Are Fleeing The Gulf Countries Because Violence Against Them Is Not Criminalized; Only A State Of Its Citizens Can Guarantee Justice For Women
On March 5, 2020, Qatari women's rights activist and dissident Aisha Al-Qahtani gave an interview to Al-Hurra TV (U.S.), in which she spoke about the discrimination against women in Gulf states. In the interview Al-Qahtani points out that there is no law protecting women from domestic violence, saying that "we cannot ask for other rights so long as there is no law that protects women's dignity."
Egyptian researcher Ahmad Abdou Maher said in a November 16, 2020 interview on Al-Hadath Al-Youm TV (Egypt) that young people are becoming atheists because they see unscientific facts in religious texts, such as claims that the sun hides under God's throne when it sets or that a woman’s pregnancy can last as long as four years. He also said that the proportion of the religious texts that such statements comprise is irrelevant, much the same way the proportional weight of coronavirus in a person's body is irrelevant. For more about Ahmad Abdou Maher, see MEMRI TV clips No. 5999, 5669, 5409, and 5234.
In a November 5, 2020 show on Al-Hurra TV (U.S.), Syrian-American human rights activist Ammar Abdulhamid and Egyptian-American researcher Samuel Tadros discussed the Charlie Hebdo cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad and the recent beheading of French schoolteacher Samuel Paty. Tadros pointed out that Charlie Hebdo and other media sources have mocked Christianity and Judaism on many occasions, but that there have been no protests or beheadings in response. The show cut briefly to an excerpt from MEMRI TV Clip No. 8404 in which a Miami-based imam claims that the murder of Samuel Paty was staged in order to frame Muslims, and Tadros expressed criticism of Muslims for refusing to take any responsibility for anything and for insisting that they are innocent victims of a conspiracy. For more about Ammar Abdulhamid and Samuel Tadros, see MEMRI TV clips No. 8263, 7899, 7818, and 7438.
#8425 - Imam Hassen Chalghoumi, President Of The Conference Of Imams Of France: Political Islam Is The Cancer Of This Nation; The Muslim Brotherhood Should Be Outlawed, Affiliated Organizations Dissolved
French-Tunisian Islamic scholar Hassen Chalghoumi, President of the Conference of Imams of France, said in a November 2, 2020 interview on Sky News Arabia (UAE) that political Islam is a cancer in France and that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Qatar's Al-Jazeera Network are behind a planned campaign that promotes a "discourse of victimhood." Chalghoumi said that political Islam and the far left have instilled a sense of victimhood in Muslim youth and caused them to believe that they really are the victims of colonialism, Freemasonry, and Zionism. He argued that this mentality creates an "internal impulse for revenge" against France. In addition, Chalghoumi said that the Muslim Brotherhood-led countries and organizations, which he referred to as the "leaders of the devils," send innocent youth to do their bidding and carry out attacks. Furthermore, he said that the Muslim Brotherhood must be outlawed in France and that its affiliated organizations must be dissolved.
Syrian writer Nidhal Naisa was interviewed on Al-Jazeera Network (Qatar) on July 14, 2020. Naisa said that the Arab Spring was merely an "Islamist enterprise" that caused nothing but destruction in the Arab countries. He said that the regimes in the Arab countries are incapable of managing their own affairs and supplying their citizens with education, health, food, and other basic needs, and he elaborated that today, the Arabs are nostalgic for the times of the colonialists, who he said came to the Middle East in order to bring advancements to the people. He went on to say that people in the region still regard human rights and equality with disdain, and that the Muslim Brotherhood-backed revolutions have advanced the opposite of these values. In addition, Naisa said that colonialism is a "cure" for the Arabs’ backwardness, since it teaches them how to use the toilet and brings them electricity and medicine. He added that for people in Arab countries, luxuries like cooking gas, electricity, and water are merely a dream. For more about Nidhal Naisa, see MEMRI TV Clips No. 1448 and No. 2482.
Mauritanian anti-slavery activist Maryam Bint Al-Sheikh of the Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement (IRA) said in a June 18, 2020 interview on BBC Arabic (U.K.) that there is still slavery in Mauritania, and that ownership of other people can even be passed from generation to generation. She said that 20% of people in Mauritania still suffer from slavery, and she named the Beydanes cast, which she said constitutes 10 percent of the Mauritanian population, as the caste of "masters" that controls Mauritania, its economy, and its people. Explaining that the Beydanes caste arrests and tortures people who speak out against it, Al-Sheikh said that in the past, she herself had been arrested, tortured, and forcibly separated from her child and her family. In addition, Al-Sheikh listed the Haratins, the Fulanis, the Wolofs, and Soninkes, the Bambaras, and Lamalmins, and the Igaouen as the persecuted ethnic groups in Mauritania. Furthermore, she said that the IRA has created awareness surrounding slavery in Mauritania, and that it gives people the courage to protest slavery and racism. She added that slavery and racism can only be abolished through protest. For more about slavery in Mauritania see MEMRI TV clip no. 3429.
Hamadi Ben Jaballah, a professor of philosophy and philosophy of science at Tunis University, said in a May 9, 2010 interview on France 24 TV that the strength of America and the West lies in science, democracy, and freedom. He said that Arab societies consider their "glorious past" to be their source of strength and that they rely on “fables and myths” as sources of Arab history without actually studying history. He added that Arabs are quick to rely on modern medicine when they are ill, yet they reject the scientific sources of modern medicine, such as Darwinism. Similarly, he said that Arab society regards freedom as anarchy.
Egyptian actor Hesham Selim revealed in a May 3, 2020 interview on Al-Qahera Wal-Nas TV (Egypt) that his daughter Nour is in the process of transitioning from female to male. He said that from the first time he had held Nour and saw she had the body of a boy, he had suspected that this would happen, and he explained that he views his daughter's transition as an act of courage, particularly in a society where such things are difficult. Selim said that Nour's brothers have started treating Nour as a man and that he hopes for Allah to help transgender people and their families.
On January 18, 2020, a Syrian woman named Umm Muhammad called in to a show on Abu Dhabi TV (UAE) hosted by Jordanian-born UAE Islamic scholar Sheikh Waseem Yousef. She said that she is a refugee in Norway along with her family, and that she sends her six children to public schools in Norway, where they are being taught about Judaism, Christianity, atheism, and other non-Islamic religions. She said that the curriculum includes a visit to a church during the holidays, and she asked what she should do to prevent her children from leaving Islam. Sheikh Yousef responded that she should raise her children as Muslims and that she should teach them to integrate and coexist with members of other religions. Harshly criticizing Muslims who believe that saying "Merry Christmas" or "Happy New Year" to non-Muslims is heresy, Sheikh Yousef elaborated that since Norway is welcoming Umm Muhammad's family as refugees and providing them with education, healthcare, housing, protection, and financial support, her family is obligated to be grateful and to integrate and live in brotherly coexistence with the Christians and Jews who are welcoming them. He argued that the Muslims are the real infidels because they allowed sectarianism to destroy countries such as Syria in the name of God, and he instructed Umm Muhammad to not sow the seeds of sectarianism in the very country that is keeping her safe and providing for her family. Sheikh Yousef also said that Umm Muhammad should view the non-Muslims in Norway as her friends, compatriots, and brothers. He added: "Heresy is denying the grace you have been given."
Egyptian writer Adel Noman said in a February 12, 2020 interview on Ten TV (Egypt) that when clerics have a monopoly on theology, it is an insult to people's intelligence, because the Prophet Muhammad's message had been to conveyed to the people and not the clerics. In a February 19, 2020 debate about religion, Noman criticized religious rulings such as those that enable one to marry pre-teen girls and he said that the Islamic heritage clashes with human nature and contradicts medical, social, and political sciences. He said that the solution to this problem is the total separation of religion from the state and political rule and he argued that Europe, the United States, Japan, and other countries had advanced by adopting secular and reason-based alternatives to their religious heritage. He added that this is the only way for the Islamic nation to advance and that straying from the path of Allah cannot be the only explanation for poverty in society.
In a December 28, 2019 interview on ATV (Kuwait), former Kuwaiti Minister Ali Al-Baghli, who has also been a member of Kuwait's parliament, was asked regarding whether a certain Kuwaiti man who converted to Judaism should be stripped of his Kuwaiti citizenship or not. Al-Baghli answered that there should be no punishment for this person because Kuwait is a country governed by laws that do not infringe upon people's personal liberty to convert to different religions. He pointed out that if it had been a Jew that converted to Islam, everybody would have applauded this man, and that Judaism has been around for longer than Islam. Al-Baghli added: "If he is wrong, Allah will punish him. Why should we, as humans, interfere?"
Lebanese journalist and activist Naufal Daou said in a November 16, 2020 interview on Al-Arabiya Network (Saudi Arabia) that Lebanon is under an Iranian occupation that is similar to Germany's occupation of France in World War II. He elaborated that Hizbullah serves Iran much like Marshal Pétain served the Germans in Vichy France. Daou also said that the corruption and lack of political life and democracy in Lebanon all stem from the Iranian occupation. He argued and that the only way to save Lebanon is to remove the Iranian occupation, which is manifest in Hizbullah's weapons. For more about Naufal Daou, see MEMRI TV clips No. 7405 and No. 6116.
Lebanese politician Ahmed Fatfat said in a July 4, 2020 interview on MTV (Lebanon) that all the militias in Lebanon, first and foremost of which he said is Hizbullah, should be dismantled in accordance with the Taif Agreement and the Lebanese constitution. He said that in his view, Hizbullah has carried out acts of terrorism, is Lebanon's main problem, and is preventing any reforms from taking place. Furthermore, he said that Hizbullah is not a legitimate political party, that it is occupying Lebanon and its political decision-making process, that it believes in Iran's Rule of the Jurisprudent rather than the Lebanese constitution, and that its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, is effectively the person ruling Lebanon.
Syrian journalist Ahmad Kamel said in a January 23, 2020 interview on Channel 9 (Turkey) that America, Iran, and Israel are all Syria's enemies and that he is very happy they are fighting each other. He said that Iran and Israel are "100% one and the same" and that Iranian hatred of Arabs is "primitive, bloody, and pathological" while Jewish hatred of the Arabs is calculated and in line with Jewish interests. In addition, Kamel said that what Iran has done to Syria is worse than anything the Crusaders, the Mongols, the Tatars, or the Jews have done to it.
In a video of a parliamentary session that was uploaded to the Tunisian Parliament's YouTube channel on June 3, 2020, Tunisian MP Abir Moussi, the President of the Free Destourian Party, said that it is time to expose the "bitter truth" about parliamentary speaker Rached Ghannouchi. She sharply criticized Ghannouchi for being a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, she questioned how he has managed to evade the law, and she accused him of falsifying Tunisia's history and of spreading strife between Muslims and non-Muslims. She also said that political assassinations have started taking place again since Ghannouchi's return to the country and she accused him of sanctioning the killings of Tunisian people and security personnel. Moussi further criticized him for referring to women as vessels for sex and declared that women in Tunisia will remain free. Moussi said that Ghannouchi will be removed from his position in the Tunisian parliament through legal means. Further emphasizing that Tunisia will remain a modern and secular state in the moderate style of Habib Bourguiba, Moussi said: "We will never let you toy with the fate of this country... Let history record this!" She then pushed away her microphone, stood up, and walked out of the parliamentary session.
#8507 - Egyptian Writer Adel Noman: Islamic Extremism Stems Directly From Our Religious Heritage; Macron Should Deal With Islamic Extremism With Resolve, Expel Islamists Who Challenge France's Civil Liberties System
Egyptian writer Adel Noman said in a November 26, 2020 interview on Ten TV (Egypt) that Islamic extremism stems directly from the books of Islamic heritage. He specified that this includes the extremism of ISIS, of the people who carried out the Charlie Hebdo attack in 2015, and of the terrorist who recently murdered an elderly woman in a church in Nice, France, which he said has been turned into a Salafi state comparable to Tora Bora or Peshawar. Noman said that man-made laws must be used to properly regulate life, and he argued that this is impossible if people remain "captive" to what religious jurists said 1,400 years ago. He elaborated that people should address their problems to experts, such as doctors and scientists, rather than to religious clerics.
Lebanese MP Ziad Aswad of the Free Patriotic movement said in a May 18, 2020 interview on OTV (Lebanon) that Lebanon cannot hold on to its guns since its people are hungry. He said that without national support, Hizbullah and the resistance movement cannot survive. He also criticized the corruption in the Lebanese government.
#7899 - Egyptian-American Researcher Samuel Tadros: There Is An Increase In Atheism In The Middle East Because Of Groups Like ISIS, The Muslim Brotherhood; Religious Discourse Is Failing To Answer People's Questions
Egyptian-American researcher Samuel Tadros said in a March 13, 2020 show on Al-Hurra TV (U.S.) that there is an increase in atheism in the Middle East because the religious discourse is failing to give people answers that are compatible with science and that are satisfactory for the 21st century, because the conduct of organizations like ISIS and the Muslim Brotherhood has been causing people to doubt religious beliefs, and because the widespread availability of information through mediums such as the Internet is opening people's eyes to new ideas. Criticizing Middle Eastern regimes that believe that the spread of atheism is the result of a Western conspiracy, Tadros said that it is the problems in Middle Eastern society that are driving people towards atheism.
Saudi cleric Muhammad bin Abdul Karim Issa, the Secretary-General of the Muslim World League, said in a March 4, 2020 interview on France 24 TV's Arabic-language channel that there is no place for political Islam in France or anywhere else because it does not abide by the values of Islam or by the national values of any country. He said that people must respect the constitution, laws, and culture of the country they are living in, and that they should move somewhere else if they don't like them. He criticized Muslims who want to separate from the countries they are living in for wanting to destroy the social contract on the basis of which they entered those countries, and he explained that his recent visit to Auschwitz with 60 other Islamic scholars was meant to deliver the message that there are no double standards in Islam when it comes to confronting all forms of injustice.
Egyptian TV host Ibrahim Eissa said in the opening monologue of an episode of his show on Al-Hurra TV (U.S.) that aired on February 10, 2020 that Islam is a religion that is appropriate for every time and place. He added that Christianity and Judaism are similarly appropriate for every time and place, and that a change in time or location only changes one's understanding of religion.