July 15, 2009 Special Dispatch No. 2444

Egyptian Preacher Attacks Intellectuals and Reformists in Egypt and Calls for Baha'i to be Brought to Trial

July 15, 2009
Egypt | Special Dispatch No. 2444

In a May 9, 2009 interview with the Kuwaiti daily Al-Nahar, Egyptian preacher Sheikh Yousef Al-Badri addressed some of the contentious issues in the Arab and Muslim world, including nuclear weapons, Iran and the Arab world, religious police, the Baha'i, Islamic reform, and others. In the interview, Al-Badri elaborated on his campaign against Egyptian intellectuals, poets, and writers, against whom he had filed numerous lawsuits due to their liberal positions vis-à-vis Islam.

Following are excerpts from the interview: [1]

Possession of Nuclear Weapons Is a Religious Commandment

Interviewer: "Is our struggle against Israel political or religious?"

Al-Badri: "Our struggle and our war against Israel are first and foremost on religious grounds. The Jews are preparing the ground for the advent of [their] Messiah - since Jews believe in a 'Jewish Messiah.'"

Interviewer: "What is your ruling regarding Islamic countries having nuclear weapons?"

Al-Badri: "Possessing and producing [nuclear weapons] is a religious commandment [2] incumbent on each and every Islamic state. This is because the enemies of the Muslims and of Islam, [i.e.] Israel and its allies, such as the U.S., Western Europe, and India, have nuclear weapons. This [commandment] derives from [Allah's] words, be He extolled: 'Make ready against them all the power that you can, including steeds of war, to strike terror into (the hearts of) the enemies, of Allah and your enemies. [Koran, 8:60]'"

Interviewer: "Some maintain that it is forbidden according to Islam to possess or use [nuclear weapons], since they [can] destroy the environment and mosques, and kill Muslim children, women, and the elderly. [What is your opinion on this issue?]"

Al-Badri: "Why don't they mention this to the U.S., Israel, and Europe, since they possess hundreds of these bombs, and also produce and sell them? I am afraid that this was said to ensure that Muslim armies remain weak…"

Iran Wants to Annex Iraq

Interviewer: "What can you say about Iran's growing activity in the Arab region, the Persian Gulf, and particularly in Iraq - is it trying to spread the Shi'a?"

Al-Badri: "There is no need to spread the Shi'a in Iraq, since over 50% of [Iraqis] are Shi'ites. However, Iran wants to annex Iraq. If this were to happen, the Sunnis in Iraq would suffer greatly, since they [i.e. the Iranians] have deprived [the Iranian Sunni] of their rights.

"I will say very openly that Iran's nuclear bomb is not intended against Israel, and that this is why Israel prefers not to talk about it. In reality, Iran is trying to expand its influence in the Arab region. It must stop making such attempts, and coexist peacefully with its Arab neighbors…"

"I Hate Heretics, the Secular, and Apostates"

Interviewer: "Do you harbor hostility towards the educated, as [some of them] claim, such as Gamal Al-Ghitani, [3] Hilmi Salem, [4] Ahmad 'Abd Al-Mu'ti Higazi, [5] and 'Izzat Al-Qamhawi [6] ?"

Al-Badri: "To answer this question, we must first define what constitutes 'educated.' It is not right for someone to call himself 'educated' and deny others this designation. A doctor is educated; an engineer is educated; an imam in a mosque is educated. So why do they reserve this term exclusively for themselves, and [not apply it] to others as well? Because as far as they are concerned, the educated are those who deny Allah and reject religion.

"This is proven by what one of these people wrote - namely, that freedom is incompatible with religious principles, and that an educated [person] cannot exercise freedom of thought and creativity as long as he follows religious laws. He also wrote that our country would not attain freedom or progress unless we trampled this book [i.e. the Koran] underfoot.

"This is my response to those who accuse me of fighting the educated. I ask them, Aren't I educated?... I am the only one certified by the state as educated… So how can it be claimed that I hate the educated if I am one of them?

"It would be correct to say that I hate heretics, the secular, and those who have renounced Islam. Yes, a thousand times yes: I do hate those who have deviated from the religion. Yes, a thousand times yes. Every Muslim must hate and loathe them, including those who love them…"

The Reason for Backwardness Is Disconnection from Religion

Interviewer: "Let us narrow down our question. You have sued many poets, writers, and philosophers who are considered enlightened… over their literary work and their ideas. Could you elaborate on this issue?"

Al-Badri: "The enlightened use the term 'enlightenment' in order to accuse the Muslims and proponents of Islam of wishing to bring humanity back to the dark ages, the era of backwardness, and the time of the donkey and the camel. They maintain that religion is darkness, and that Europe made progress only when it discarded Christianity, the rule of the Church, and the confessional. They are right: This disconnection had to take place, and when it did, progress followed.

"However, when we disconnected ourselves from the religion, we regressed. This is because Islam encourages, and stipulates, exploration in different scientific areas. Therefore, it was our abandonment of the religion that brought about backwardness and retardation…

"Those who call to abandon Islam are defeatists… [and] slaves [of the West]. The first to discuss this [issue] was the Christian writer and philosopher Salama Mussa, who said: 'Every time I come to Europe, I rejoice in enlightenment, and every time I come to an Eastern country, I experience ignorance and darkness.' Sheikh Al-Ghazali… refuted these ideas."

Interviewer: "[All this is relevant] to ideas and faith, but for technology and technical knowhow we depend on the West."

Al-Badri: "Technology is not sufficient to meet human needs. No one suggests renouncing technology or ceasing to use it - but the West has lost its spiritual dimension. In order for us to participate in material and spiritual human progress… we must provide [such progress] with a spiritual dimension."

Disagreement with Intellectuals - On Personal Grounds

Interviewer: "So how do you explain the many diverse lawsuits that you have filed against writers and poets such as Ahmad 'Abd Al-Mu'ti Higazi, Hilmi Salem, 'Izzat Al-Qamhawi, Gamal Al-Ghitani, and others?

Al-Badri: "[I filed these lawsuits] because these [people] reviled me. Gamal Al-Ghitani assigned the task of cursing and reviling me to five [journalists working for] Akhbar Al-Adab, where he is editor in chief…"

Interviewer: "Was this [on the personal level], or did it take the form of ideological polemics?"

Al-Badri: "…They are entitled to argue with me. But this was not a debate - it was abuse and vituperation. The first to do this was Ahmad 'Abd Al-Mu'ti Higazi. Up to that point, there had been no hostility or rivalry between me and them…"

Interviewer: "Why did only you, of all the Al-Azhar ulama, file lawsuits against these poets and writers?"

Al-Badri: "Because they did not curse them [i.e. other Al-Azhar ulama] or call them names, as they did me."

Interviewer: "…Why were you the only one to sue them for heresy?"

Al-Badri: "I don't care why others [didn't]. My concern is my religion, which prompted me to file these lawsuits. Moreover, when they reviled Al-Azhar Sheikh, and when a newspaper published a degrading and insulting cartoon [portraying him] garbed as the pope, it was I who sued this paper and the cartoonist, and won. [As for] Al-Azhar Sheikh, he also sued them some time later, and won…"

Dr. Abu Zayd Is an Apostate and Should Be Executed

Interviewer: "What about Dr. [Nasr] Hamid Abu Zayd [7] - your court case against him and his forced divorce?"

Al-Badri: "There is not the shadow of a doubt that this man is an apostate. There was no choice but to bring this case to court, to purge Cairo University of his heresy. It was the court, [not I,] that accused him of apostasy… People should read the verdict… which states that he clearly and unambiguously committed apostasy against Allah, and that there was no option but to force him to divorce his wife…"

Interviewer: "Why? Is it because of what he said or wrote that this verdict was issued?"

Al-Badri: "This man said that our faith in a god who has a throne, a notepad, angels, a celestial host, and messengers on Earth transports us into a world of legends and fairytales… [He also called] the Koran a cultural artifact containing stories and legends… What is strange is that [Abu Zayd's] book was printed at the expense of the Egyptian people, and published by the Egyptian Culture Ministry…

"The appeals court ruled that Abu Zayd had committed apostasy against Islam with [this book]. The court assigned him great lawyers, who were paid by Germany. They presented 400-page documents, and supported [their arguments] with statements by Al-Azhar Sheikh, who issued a ruling retracting the verdict against Abu Zayd. They also quoted Dr. Nasr [Hamid Abu Zayd himself], who had sent a letter to the court stating that he was a Muslim and testifying that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is His Messenger. But this did not eradicate [his transgression], and his testimony was not accepted."

Interviewer: "Why wasn't his testimony accepted?"

Al-Badri: "Because if someone breaks wind or passes urine after ablutions… it invalidates his ablutions. This is the best parallel to what Nasr Abu Zayd did. His testimony that there is no God other than Allah is invalid, because he has committed a deed that contradicted it, and there is no doubt that the ruler must execute him. I reiterate: the ruler, and not a private person.

"This is something I warn against, lest anyone act rashly and harm him. I am categorically against [such an outcome]… My demand is addressed to the state, not to anyone else…"

Monitoring Public Morality Is Nothing New for Muslim Society

Interviewer: "You have stated in the past that the authorities promised you that a bureau for monitoring public morality would be established. Is this true? What would be the definition, legitimacy, and function [of such an bureau]?"

Al-Badri: "I have indeed been given such a promise. But the promise has not been fulfilled, and I don't know why.

"Such a bureau is not new in Muslim society. It would replace, and incorporate, [those in charge of] taxes and provision of goods, as well as the religious police and mosque imams. It would monitor people's activities and conduct in public, such as buying and selling, public morality…"

Interviewer: "How would [this bureau] operate?"

Al-Badri: "I have proposed that a city or village be divided into quarters. Each quarter will have a central mosque, with a committee comprising imams, a police officer, 10 soldiers, and someone in charge of taxes. The committee will be a body that monitors [people's behavior] and prevents transgressions - including strikes and disruptions of [public] order…"

"In Islam, There Is No Such Thing As the Right to Strike"

Interviewer: "Are you referring to disruptions during strikes? Or do you intend to abolish the right to strike altogether?"

Al-Badri: "In Islam there is no such thing as the right to strike. This is an imported product and an imported culture. Islam commands people to work - and if they have demands, they must be directed to the legislative authority. Everyone is entitled to sue…"

There Should Be a Law Against Apostates; Baha'is Should Stand Trial

Interviewer: "What is your position on Baha'is' right to fill in the 'religious affiliation' designation [in official documents] with a dash? [8] Is this tantamount to recognizing [the Baha'i religion]?"

Al-Badri: "Baha'i is an errant sect that grew from the Islamic nation… It renounced Islam, and is [therefore] traitorous. We maintain that Baha'ism is not a religion, an ethnicity, or a faith…

"[A dash in official documents] distinguishes them from others… I will demand that a law be urgently enacted to define apostasy, so that they [the Baha'i] stand trail and receive their punishment…"


[1] Al-Nahar (Kuwait), May 9, 2009.

[2] Al-Badri used the term fardh 'ayn, which denotes a commandment incumbent on the individual, not the state.

[3] Gamal Al-Ghitani is an Egyptian writer and editor of the Egyptian literary weekly Akhbar Al-Adab.

[4] Hilmi Salem is an Egyptian poet who was convicted in Egypt on the strength of the Al-Azhar Research Center's conclusion that he had "harmed the Divine Entity" in a qasida that he published in the Egyptian Cultural Ministry's literary journal Ibda'. As a result, a recent fatwa revoked the journal's license, and the Egyptian administrative court overrode the cultural minister's decision to grant Hilmi Salem a literary award.

[5] Ahmad 'Abd Al-Mu'ti Higazi is an Egyptian poet and director of the Ibda' executive committee. For Higazi's criticism of Al-Azhar, see MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 436, "An Egyptian Intellectual Campaigns to Change the Religious Discourse Led by Al-Azhar," November 3, 2002, An Egyptian Intellectual Campaigns to Change the Religious Discourse Led by Al-Azhar

[6] 'Izzat Al-Qamhawi is an Egyptian writer.

[7] Nasr Hamed Abu Zayd is an Egyptian intellectual, Koran researcher, and a leading liberal theologist in Islam, famous for his project of a humanistic Koranic hermeneutics. He was accused of apostasy by the Egyptian Shari'a Court, and forced to divorce his wife. He left Egypt following death threats.

[8] In March 2009, the Egyptian Supreme Court ruled that the Baha'i could have a dash in the "religious affiliation" designation in official documents, because the constitution upholds freedom of religion.

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