The following highlights an assortment of research and translations from MEMRI's Reform Project in 2021 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 2021.
Egyptian intellectual Dr. Khaled Montaser said that such terms as "the jizya poll tax," "Jihad," "Islamic raids," "loyalty and disavowal," and "Infidel" belong in a museum and must be erased from the discourse of the Arabs, because they contradict the foundations of a secular civil state. He made these remarks in an interview that aired on Sky News Arabia (UAE) on August 1, 2021. When asked by the interviewer why Arabs fear secularism more than they fear the coronavirus, he said that this is because they are terrified of losing their rule. For more information about Dr. Khaled Montaser, see MEMRI TV clips nos. 6552 and 5849.
#8984 - Tunisian Professor Muhammad Hneid: We Have Destroyed Our Revolutions With Our Own Hands; If We Do Not Assume Our Historic Responsibility, We Will Remain On The Margins Of History, Like Apes Fighting Each Other On Trees
In a TV discussion about the reasons for the failure of the Arab Spring, Tunisian professor Muhammad Hneid of the Sorbonne University said that the Arabs destroyed their revolutions with their own hands. The discussion was aired on Al-Jazeera Network (Qatar) on July 14, 2021. Hneid continued to say that the Arabs have become "addicted" to occupation and colonization and they are killing and slaughtering one another. He added that that the Syrian shabiha militia, the PA security services, and the Iraqi PMU, all treat their people worse than the Russians, Americans, or the Israelis. Hneid said that if the Arabs do not assume their historic responsibility, then they will remain on the margins of history and they will reach the state of apes, "fighting each other on trees." Syrian journalist Ahmad Kamel said that the Syrian revolution failed because of foreign intervention that caused Hizbullah, Iran, and the Russians to invade Syria. To this Hneid replied that anyone who blames foreign powers is just trying to escape facing the problem. He added that only when the Arabs admit they are the problem will they begin their revival.
Moroccan writer Said Nachid told Sky News Arabia (UAE) that since the Arab Spring, he has noticed a "spiritual desolation" and a "disease" plaguing the Arab and Muslim world. He made his remarks in an interview that aired on October 24, 2021. He blamed this on political Islam and on religious discourse that he said causes people to feel failure, anger, bitterness, inferiority, guilt, fear, and hatred, rather than peace of mind and spiritual balance. Nachid went on to say that as a result of this religious discourse, which views the world through a lens of war and jihad, people are unequipped to properly contend with their human nature, and the negative emotions they feel are liable to "explode" at any moment. When asked what the differences are between Muslims and Islamists, Nachid said that while Muslims think about paradise, God, salvation, and self-scrutiny, Islamists think about the political conquest of Islam, about their political parties, about Allah's punishments, and about blaming others for their failures.
#8804 - First French Female Imam Kahina Bahloul: Islam Has Been Relegated To Superficial Rules Of What Is Halal And Haram; Economic, Social Problems In Arab Countries Prevent A Meaningful, Spiritual Understanding Of Religion
The first French female imam, Kahina Bahloul, said that regrettably, Sufi thinking and philosophical approaches to Islam have no place in Arab countries and societies. She made these remarks in an interview with France 24 TV that aired on April 17, 2021. Bahloul said that while there are political reasons for this, the economic and social problems in Arab countries prevent Arab societies from having the freedom necessary to develop a spiritual and meaningful understanding of religion. She elaborated that people are limited by a "superficial" understanding of the Quran as a set of rules that state what is halal and what is haram. Bahloul asked: "How can we be satisfied by this superficial reading of the Quran?"
Egyptian TV host Ibrahim Eissa said in a December 16, 2020 show on Al-Kahera Wal-Nas TV (Egypt) that children in Egypt are being taught to idolize men of war as heroes, and that Jihad, conquest, and spreading Islam are ideals. Expressing criticism, he said that religion has been turned into nothing but Jihad and that history has been turned into nothing but confrontation with colonialists. Eissa argued that instead, children should be taught that science and innovation are forms of victory. For more about Ibrahim Eissa, see MEMRI TV clips No. 8568, 7852, 7295, 7172, 6767, 6530, 6416, and 5150.
Emirati scholar Mansour Al-Nogaidan said that in the Abrahamic faiths, social and economic reforms have always been led by politicians and not religious institutions. He made these remarks in an interview that aired on MBC TV (Saudi Arabia) on March 26, 2021. Al-Nogaidan added that "luckily," in the Sunni Muslim countries, it is the politicians and the governments who lead the religious institutions. He said that the "wrathful and punishing God" will have no place in the future of humanity, and all creeds and religions seek a compassionate God. Al-Nogaidan lamented that it is only the Muslim religion whose followers kill each other in mosques and places of worship. In his youth, the Saudi-born Al-Nogaidan was involved in jihadi activity.
Former Lebanese MP Mustapha Allouch said that Hizbullah constitutes an existential threat to Lebanon because it is a "militant party," which considers itself to be a legion in the IRGC. Allouch, Deputy Chairman of the Future Movement, made his remarks in an interview that aired on Jadeed TV (Lebanon) on July 3, 2021. He said that unlike his disagreement with the Free Patriotic Movement which is only about local issues, Hizbullah's interests lie beyond Lebanon. Allouch said that Hizbullah is loyal to the concept of the Rule of the Jurisprudent, it has destroyed Lebanon by going to fight in Syria, and that it is using the people of Lebanon for Iranian interests against Lebanon. He further said that Hizbullah's Secretary-General should stand trial for "leading an armed militia that belongs to a foreign country." For more information about Mustapha Allouch, see MEMRI TV clips nos. 7455, 6189, and 3200.
#8978 - Moroccan Researcher Mohamed Abdelwahhab Al-Rafiki: In Prison, I Resolved To Fight Against Islamic Extremism; Modern Islam Ignores The Fact That Its Problems Are Internal - It Is Rife With Arrogance, Conspiracy Theories, Deflection Of Blame
Former Salafi Moroccan researcher Mohamed Abdelwahhab Al-Rafiki said that while he was in prison, he resolved to fight Islamic extremism and extremist discourse. He made these remarks in an interview that aired on Sky News Arabiya (UAE) on July 3, 2021. Al-Rafiki said that his generation deserves compensation in the form of preventing other generations from falling prey to this extremist ideology. He said that the doors should be open to a discourse that levels criticism against this extremism. Al-Rafiki added that Islam's modern religious discourse is rife with arrogance, conspiracy theories, and casting blame on others, while ignoring the fact that Islam’s problems are internal. Al-Rafiki was a Salafi scholar who was imprisoned in 2002 for his inflammatory sermons.
#8937 - Lebanese Journalist Nadim Koteich: A Single Bashar Al-Assad Barrel Bombs Kills As Many People As Were Killed In 11 Days Of Fighting In Gaza – Why Does No One Condemn Crimes Perpetrated By Arabs Against Arabs?
Lebanese journalist Nadim Koteich said that 200 Palestinians were killed in the recent war in Gaza, but that a single barrel bomb, dropped by Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, kills just as many people, yet no one condemns these crimes. He made these remarks in an interview that aired on Al-Kahera Wal –Nas TV (Egypt) on June 20, 2021. Koteich said that Israel is "an established fact," and it cannot be wiped out in an attack. He added that the Lebanese economy, the future of its people, its currency, and the savings of its people have been hijacked under the pretext of resistance against Israel, and yet no one is fighting against it. Koteich asked why Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser is considered a hero by his people although he lost the Sinai Peninsula, while President Anwar Sadat is considered a traitor, despite regaining the Sinai Peninsula. For more about Nadim Koteich see MEMRI TV clips nos. 8382, 8001, 7769, 7668, 7221, 7140 and 5675.
#9082 - Egyptian TV Host Ibrahim Eissa: The Taliban Is The Essence And Culmination Of All Islamic Ideas; Given The Opportunity, The Muslim Brotherhood Would Implement The Same Version Of Islam As Afghanistan
Egyptian TV host Ibrahim Eissa said that given the opportunity, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamists would implement the same version of Islam as the Taliban, because this is the culmination and essence of "all the Islamic ideas." He made his remarks on his show that aired on Al-Kahera Wal-Nas TV (Egypt) on September 1, 2021. Eissa said that all attempts by Qatar, Turkey and others to present the Taliban as though they have changed are meaningless, because if the Taliban had changed, they would no longer be the Taliban. He also said that the claim that "terrorism has no religion" is false, because when a terrorist says that he wants to implement the shari'a, he does so on the basis of the Quran and hadiths. Eissa went on to say that the Muslim Brotherhood is in fact the Taliban, but under another name. For more about Ibrahim Eissa, see MEMRI TV clips nos. 8621, 8568, 7852, 7295, 7172, 6767, 6530, 6416, and 5150.
Protesters chanted: "Cannons, tanks, rockets, the mullahs should get lost" in a protest staged in Tehran, video of which was posted on Kian Sharif's Twitter account on July 26, 2021. Protesters also chanted: "Not Gaza, not Lebanon, I will give my life only for Iran" in another video posted on the same day on the Twitter account of Iran News Wire. In the video, protesters further chanted: "Death to the dictator!" and "From Tehran to Khuzestan, unite, unite!" On July 31, 2021, videos of another protest were posted on the Irankargar YouTube channel, in which protesters burned tires and blocked a road. Protesters also chanted: "Death to the Rule of the Jurisprudent!" and "The country has no water, the massacre continues!" The protests in Tehran come following protests in Khuzestan and elsewhere, for more information, see MEMRI TV clip no 8989.
Saudi Islamic scholar Ahmed Al-Ghamdi, the former head of the Mecca chapter of the Authority for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice said that he supports women becoming judges and judges in shari'a courts. He made these remarks in an interview that aired on Al-Arabiya Network (Dubai/Saudi Arabia) on May 28, 2021. Al-Ghamdi said that nothing in Islam prohibits this, and he thinks that women should become muftis and lawyers as well. He said that this would serve the public interest. Al-Ghamdi also said that he supports women being part of the Shura Authority in Saudi Arabia. In 2014, Al-Ghamdi faced criticism in Saudi Arabia for saying that women do not have to wear a veil. For more information on Ahmed Al-Ghamdi, see MEMRI TV clip no. 4689.
#9109 - French-Tunisian Imam Hassen Chalghoumi: French People Of Algerian, Moroccan, And Tunisian Descent Should Look Beyond France's Colonialist Past And Follow The Example Of France's Relations With Germany Despite WWII History
French-Tunisian imam Hassen Chalghoumi said that French people of Algerian, Moroccan, and Tunisian descent should follow the example of France's good relations with Germany despite their history during World War II, and look beyond France's colonialist past. He made his remarks in an interview that aired on Sky News Arabia (UAE) on September 26, 2021. Chalghoumi said that the Muslim Brotherhood and the movement of political Islam use the language of victimhood to exploit and radicalize Muslim youth in France, even though Muslims in France do not suffer injustice and enjoy the same rights as other French people. Chalghoumi also said that he supports the move to revoke citizenship of French Muslims who practice polygamy because this contradicts the law in France. For more about Hassen Chalghoumi, see MEMRI TV Clips nos. 8824, 8425, 8386, 6439, 5518, 5204, 5164, 4538, 4241, 3792, 3562, 3561, 2775, and 2572.
#8955 - Egyptian-German Scholar Hamed Abdel-Samad: The Founder Of The Muslim Brotherhood Admired Hitler, Modeled It On The Nazi Party; In The West, MB Presents Itself As Moderate, Allies With Feminists, LGBT – But It Also Calls For Jihad, Shari'a Law
Egyptian-German scholar Hamed Abdel-Samad said that the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hassan Al-Banna, admired Hitler, and modeled the Muslim Brotherhood on the Nazi Party. He made these remarks in an interview that aired on Al-Hurra TV (U.S.) on June 20, 2021. Abdel-Samad said that the ties between the Mufti of Jerusalem Hajj Amin Al-Husseini and Hitler, Al-Banna spread pro-Hitler propaganda, and followed his example in forming the Muslim Brotherhood. He explained that the Muslim Brotherhood, like the Nazi Party, is a political party that relies on an armed militia, has an "ideology of an inspiring leader-savior," and the term used to describe Al-Banna, "guide" was borrowed from the German term Führer.
Kuwaiti journalist Abd Al-Aziz Alqenaei said that women in the Gulf and Arab societies lack appropriate roles and fear being branded prostitutes and dishonorable, so they forgo liberation, and they wither away, remaining shut up at home or in some workplace. He made these remarks in an interview that aired on Sky News Arabiya (UAE) on June 13, 2021. Alqnenaei added that children avoid asking "too many questions" in school because they are afraid they will go to the Hellfire as well as being scolded, beaten, and bullied. He said that such methods should be abolished. Alqnenaei added that religious extremism comes from people seeking to blow themselves up for the sake of dining with the Prophet Muhammad and fulfilling their sexual urges in Paradise. He explained that this is the concept of sexual repression, which is exploited for religious purposes. Alqenaei concluded: "We have to embrace modern secular values." For more about Abd Al-Aziz Alqenaei, see MEMRI TV clips nos. 6182, 6042, and 6015.
#9203 - Egyptian Researcher Ahmed Abdou Maher, Sentenced To Prison For Criticizing Islamic Jurisprudents: I Am Criticizing Their Blood-Soaked Ideology, Not Islam Itself; I Do Not Want Presidential Amnesty – I Demand To Be Declared Innocent
On November 25, 2021, BBC Arabic (U.K.) aired an interview with Egyptian lawyer, researcher, and writer Ahmed Abdou Maher, who was recently sentenced to five years in Egyptian prison for criticizing Islam in his book, "How the Imams' Jurisprudence Is Leading the Nation Astray." Maher told the interviewer that his book doesn't include a single word of extremism, blasphemy, or incitement against Islam, and that it only criticizes Islam's jurisprudents for their "blood-soaked ideology."
Tunisian journalist Nizar Jlidi spoke about the state of the Tunisian revolution and the role of the Muslim Brotherhood in the country in a show that aired on Sky News Arabia (UAE) on January 14, 2021. He said that the cause for all the destruction in Tunisia is the Muslim Brotherhood and that the Ennahda movement is plotting against the Tunisian people. He said that they destroyed Tunisia's relations with the rest of the world and that the Muslim Brotherhood "traitors" "lie in the name of religion." Jlidi said that soon the oppressed class in Tunisia will take to the streets.
Kuwaiti writer Ahmad Sarraf said that Palestinian rights will only be restored once Arabs start respecting human rights. He made his remarks in an interview that aired on Al-Arabiya Network (Saudi Arabia) on June 4, 2021. Sarraf added that there have been numerous cases of Palestinians who were suspected of collaborating with Israel, who were beaten to death in the streets or executed without due process. He said that this is part of the "general backwardness" of the Arabs, and even if Palestine would be returned to the Arabs, they would continue to fight one another. Sarraf also said that Arabs do not value human rights and that in every Arab and Muslim there is a "little ISIS," that is waiting to come out. For more about Ahmad Sarraf, see MEMRI TV clips nos. 5349, 2062, and 134.
#8889 - Bahrain-Based Researcher Amjad Taha: Iran Is Using Palestine As A Bargaining Chip In Vienna Negotiations; Hamas 'Militias' Peddle The Blood Of Innocent Women And Children Of Gaza – Is Using Women And Children As Human Shields Considered A Victory?
Bahrain-based researcher Amjad Taha, Regional Director of the British Middle East Centre for Studies and Research said that Hamas's "militias" in Gaza are serving the IRGC. He made these remarks in an interview that aired on Diwan Al-Mulla Online (Kuwait) on May 26, 2021. Taha explained that Tehran is using the Palestinian cause as a bargaining chip in the Vienna negotiations, in order to lift the sanctions placed on it. He went on to say that the money and weapons that Hamas receives from Iran go towards destruction and not construction. Taha said that Hamas is the Muslim Brotherhood's military wing and that "peddling the Palestinian cause" has become its only hope to save its political presence. He added that Hamas wants funds in order to expand its tunnels and drug trafficking activities. He questioned claims that Hamas has been victorious, saying it used women and children as human shields, and that thousands of Palestinians were wounded and hundreds killed. He added that some of these casualties were a result of Hamas rockets. Taha sarcastically congratulated Hamas leader Haniyeh for his "Mercedes, his Rolex watch, his 300 million dollars, and his Armani suit." He said: "Congratulations to Hamas for all its rewards for peddling in the blood of innocents." For more about Amjad Taha, see MEMRI TV Clips No. 8284, 8248, 7358, and 6843.
Ömer Dağ, a Turkish refugee in France spoke about his welcome by French authorities on Ten TV (Egypt), in an interview that aired on December 28, 2020. He detailed how his family was treated with "the utmost graciousness and humanity" by French authorities even though France is considered a "Crusader" country by Muslims. Dağ shared with Ten TV that he and his wife, who wears a hijab, were treated with respect and that the French authorities made sure his son would receive school food that was permitted according to Islam. He said that the French do not discriminate against Muslims and that "they are thousands of miles ahead of us in terms of moral values." Ömer Dağ was the director of programming at a Turkish TV station, and he fled the country after he was accused of ties to the Gülen movement.
#8962 - Saudi Journalist Dr. Amal Al-Hazzani: The Palestinians Should Be More Appreciative Of Saudi Support; Instead, They Supported Saddam, The Houthis, Iran; Palestine Is One Of My Causes, Not My Main Cause
Saudi journalist Dr. Amal Al-Hazzani, who is a professor of molecular genetics, said that the Palestinians are incapable of doing anything to further their cause, and all they do is fight among themselves. She made her remarks on Al-Arabiya Network (Saudi Arabia) on June 18, 2021. Dr. Al-Hazzani explained that the Palestinians are like a family member with health problems, who receives his family's help to such an extent that he is incapable of doing anything for himself. She continued to say that Yasser Arafat supported Saddam Hussein when he invaded Kuwait and Hamas identifies with the Houthis, who have attacked Saudi Arabia. Dr. Al-Hazzani said that even if Hamas needs Iran or the Houthis, they should show more appreciation for Saudi Arabia and specified that this applies to both Fatah and Hamas. She said that Hamas launched rockets against Israel from residential buildings and Israel retaliated. Al-Hazzani added: "We must recognize who was in the wrong. We should not be blinded by our hatred toward Israel."
Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Raï, Maronite Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, said that Hizbullah does not serve the interests of its own people. He made these remarks in a video posted on YouTube on April 1. Cardinal Raï, who was speaking to a group of American Lebanese, said that Hizbullah did not seek his permission before it joined the wars in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, as it did not seek the permission of the government before forming its position on war and peace with Israel. He said that he has been approached by "people from Hizbullah," who say that Hizbullah's weapons are "working against them," and they cannot take it any longer, because they are starving just like the Christians are starving. For more about Cardinal Bechara Raï, see MEMRI TV clip no. 8724.
Kuwaiti journalist and author Najm Abd Al-Karim said that ignorance has become a commodity in the Arab world, "peddled by fools and idiots." He spoke in an interview that aired on Rotana Khalijiya TV (Saudi Arabia) on April 19, 2021. Abd Al-Karim continued to say: "Most of our backwardness is a result of the extremism, which adopted political Islam as a mode of operation." He asked what Arabs have invented and what have they contributed to humanity. Abd Al-Karim continued to say that Muslims claim to have "educated the world," while Muslims persecuted the great Muslim philosophers such as Averroes, Ibn Khaldun, Al-Farabi, Al-Kindi, and others.
Mauritanian professor of philosophy at Nouakchott University Dr. Abdullah al-Sayyid Ould Abah said that the European colonialist political engineering of the Middle East served the best interest of the Arab world. He made his remarks in an interview that aired on Rotana Khalijiya TV (Saudi Arabia) on March 7, 2021. Dr. Ould Abah said that although the Sykes-Picot agreement was never implemented, it gave rise to the establishment of political unity and modern states in the Arab world. He explained that there was "no real Arab unity" before the agreement. Dr. Ould Abah continued to say that it was Western colonialism that created national identity in the Arab world. He said that be believes that the military revolutionary governments that were formed in the Arab world were the first to "strike a blow against civil states in the Arab world."
Iraqi Shi'ite scholar Asaad Al-Naseri said that "Iraq is under Iranian occupation," and it controls Iraq in terms of security, politics, and economy. Al-Naseri made these remarks in an interview with UTV (Iraq) that aired on February 18, 2021. He said that the Rule of the Jurisprudent has destroyed not only the Iranian people, but other countries in the region as well, such as Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, and Iraq. Al-Naseri asked how the people of Iran, who had experienced openness under the Shah's rule, could possibly have become so religious in such a short period of time. He said that many religious scholars and thinkers have been placed under house arrest, sent to prison, or executed by the "tyrannical" Rule of the Jurisprudent.
Egyptian-American political analyst Magdi Khalil said that America was right to enter Afghanistan to fight Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, but it stayed on for unrealistic and naïve missions of nation-building. He made these remarks in an interview that aired on Russia Today TV (Russia) on August 17, 2021. Khalil said explained that George W. Bush, the U.S. President at the time, naively thought he could bring democracy, human dignity, and human rights to Afghanistan, but he did not know that this is "impossible." He further said that Afghanistan is an "extremist Islamic wasteland" and it is not a candidate for nation-building like Japan, Germany, or South-Korea. Khalil added explained that this is because "these Islamic dumps" breed poverty, backwardness, corruption, and all kinds of religious extremism.
#8824 - French-Tunisian Imam Hassen Chalghoumi: The Muslim Brotherhood Should Be Called The Devil's Brotherhood, Hassan Al-Bana Is A Monster; Political Islam Promotes A Vision Of Hatred, Barbarism, Savagery
French-Tunisian Imam Hassen Chalghoumi, president of the Conference of Imams of France lampoons political Islam in an interview that aired on i24 News (Israel) on February 28, 2021. He said that while political Islam has been around for a century, it is on the rise owing to the Muslim Brotherhood. Chalghoumi continued to say that the Muslim Brotherhood should be called the Devil's Brotherhood and that the organization's founder Hassan Al-Bana is a "monster." He said that the Muslim Brotherhood uses sacred ideas and causes such as the Palestinian cause to manipulate ignorant people. Chalghoumi added that "if it weren't for the Muslim Brotherhood, all Muslims would be brothers," because they sow division and civil war in the Muslim world. He then continued to say that the Iranian mullah regime is a Shiite form of political Islam. Chalghoumi stated that political Islam is promoting hatred, barbarism, and savagery. For more about Hassen Chalghoumi, see MEMRI TV Clips Nos. 8425, 8386, 6439, 5518, 5204, 5164, 4538, 4241, 3792, 3562, 3561, 2775, and 2572.
#9163 - Saad Al-Arifi, Head Of Saudi Mission To EU: Some European Parliament Members Demand Things That Are Incompatible With Our Values; It Took The West 200 Years, And We Are Taking The Time We Need To Generate Change
Ambassador Saad Al-Arifi, the leader of the Saudi mission/n to the EU, said in an October 29, 2021 interview on Alsharq TV (Saudi Arabia) that Saudi Arabia will allow no interferences in its sovereignty, and he criticized some members of the European Parliament for having personal agendas or of being influenced by lobbies and NGOs. He said that human rights are important to Saudi Arabia, that Saudi Arabia is taking the time that it needs to make changes in its society, and that some of the demands made by some MEPs are incompatible with Saudi values and society. Later in the interview, he said that the war in Afghanistan and its aftermath is proof that values cannot be imposed by force.