June 13, 2005 Special Dispatch No. 922

Reformist Egyptian Writer Critiques Islamist Education and Propaganda

June 13, 2005
Egypt | Special Dispatch No. 922

In the wake of the recent wave of terrorist bombings in Egypt, the reformist Egyptian writer Sayyid Al-Qimni published an essay in the weekly Roz Al-Yousuf in which he argues that the responsibility for terrorism in Egypt lies not just with the terrorists themselves but also with those who create a cultural atmosphere conducive to terrorism. Thus, in Al-Qimni’s opinion, the fight against terrorism requires combating extremist trends among Muslim clerics and in the Arab media.

At the end of his essay, Al-Qimni presents a famous episode in early Muslim history to support his argument. When 'Ali Ibn Abi Talib became caliph in 656, he was opposed by a number of the Prophet Muhammad’s closest companions, including Muhammad’s wife 'Aisha. In the first intra-Muslim fighting (fitna) in history, these opponents met 'Ali at what is known as the Battle of the Camel, in December 656. Although killing animals in war is generally forbidden in Muslim law, and despite the aura of sanctity attached to 'Aisha, Muslim tradition relates that 'Ali ordered his followers to bring down the camel on which 'Aisha rode, as he considered this necessary in order to win the battle for the caliphate. Al-Qimni uses this episode to urge Egyptians to oppose those who threaten society, even if they speak in the name of religion: [1]

A Barrier Separates the Muslim's Mind from the Real World, Making Him Lose the Capacity to Distinguish Good from Evil

"This suicide bomber was not a lone drop-out from society. He was certainly part of a cell... Nonetheless, it is now possible that an isolated individual can carry out a bombing, as indeed occurred when an [Egyptian] citizen stabbed a tourist who was kissing his [own] wife, one week prior to the recent explosion. It is taught by the schools, on television, in the mosques, and within the family that this scene [of a husband kissing his wife] – which touches the hearts of people all over the world, and makes them overflow with feelings of humanity – is yugly, promiscuous, and immodest. Thus, the terrorist act of that citizen was merely a result of what we planted in him. He was unable to resist the generator of hate and repugnance within him, so he stabbed the couple with a switchblade...

"The generator of hatred, revulsion, and cruelty is like a generator of energy; it explodes if internal pressure rises. That is what happens to the poor Muslim when he is exposed to the enormous pressure of the religious people in our country, which is far greater than that to which people of other religions in the world are exposed. While for the Christian it is enough to make the sign of the cross, which only takes one second, the Muslim is required to be a mechanical instrument, performing the same action every day. He is required to go to the mosque five times a day, and is required to constantly read the Koran, and to force himself to weep if he cannot weep, and to spend an entire work day in the mosque. No one can make him work so long as he is reading the Koran and reciting endless supplications and devotions. [Such recitations] accompany his every motion and position, from the moment he gets up at dawn to the moment he retires to the conjugal bed...

"There is a barrier separating the [Muslim's] mind from the real world around him, so that he falls into a state of constant hallucination and, as a result, loses the capacity to distinguish between good and evil. He only recognizes the value of halal and haram [i.e., permissible vs. prohibited] according to the Islamic point of view. Muslims are burdened with many repressive restrictions… Freedom of thought and expression are fenced in by Islamic restrictions…"

"The Muslim Is Fenced In to the Point Where His Mind Is Paralyzed"

"There are stipulations and rules concerning clothing, such as the veil (hijab)…

"Muslims are forbidden to participate in carnivals which bring together all fellow citizens of the homeland to meet each other in the streets in an atmosphere of mutual love and love for the homeland…

"Muslims are forbidden to enjoy refined dance… forbidden to enjoy cinema, novels, theater, and music…

"The Muslim is fenced in to the point where his mind is paralyzed, and thus he surrenders his mind to the deputies of Islam upon Earth, because there is someone [else] to think for him…

"As for the Muslim woman, she is consigned to wretched slavery. According to the foremost of [Koranic] exegetes Al-Razi[2]…she is like a prisoner in a man's possession.

"[Sheikh Yousef] Al-Qaradhawi explained on Al-Jazeera [TV]… 'The woman is subject to more restrictions [than the man]...because the man is not a [source of] temptation as is the woman, who is required to cover her hair, bosom, and neck and to wear [clothing] that is neither transparent nor tight-fitting...'

"[Muslim] women have surrendered their minds and spirits and believe that these are religious duties that are obligatory for them, to such an extent that women academics from Al-Azhar [University] accused the author of these lines of apostasy when I spoke about the rights to which they are entitled by virtue of their being full-fledged citizens just like men.

"Through the media, education, mosques, and [voluntary] religious associations, they have been able to take control of peoples' minds, and thus direct them however they wished. We have become their instruments, which they use however they want. If they want, they make us fight for their glory, and if they want, they turn some of us into walking explosive devices.

"[Among them] there is a group engaged in preaching and guidance, and it is the most dangerous of all, because it prepares the intellectual ground for terrorism. [Another] group [is responsible for] justifying terrorist acts through the media. [This group] mouths condemnation of [terrorist acts] while finding the worst sort of excuses for them... but when they are hard-pressed, they claim that they [i.e. the terrorists] are a minority who have nothing to do with Muslims and that Islam is not to blame for them, and that they blow themselves up around us and amongst us... because they have been deprived of freedom.

"Now do you see the achievements of the Blessed Islamic Awakening? Do you see that we have now reached a record level of backwardness among the nations, and we have earned the height of the world's contempt?

"They have deluded our youth into believing that despotism is of recent advent, invented by the current [Arab] governments with the support of the infidel countries, headed by the American Satan. They have deluded [the youth] into believing that the values of freedom, justice, and equality once prevailed in Muslim societies, before the advent of colonialism..."

Qaradhawi and His Followers Have Appointed Themselves the Deputies of Allah

"When we ask ourselves who is the [real] criminal murderer in the [terrorist] incident at Al-Azhar, and in those that occurred before it and after it, we are at a loss [to answer].[3]

"Is it Sheikh Al-Qaradhawi, the [religious] authority for the Muslim Brotherhood and for their brethren of various sorts? It is he who took a stand against tourism, which is the most secure source of financial income for Egypt...

"[Qaradhawi] said in a television broadcast on Al-Jazeera...: 'They [the reformists] claim that it is in the people's interest to permit prostitution and to permit [the selling of] alcohol so as to encourage tourism.' First of all, this – prostitution and alcohol – is his pretext for declaring tourism to be contrary to Islam.

"[Al-Qaradhawi continued,] 'Mecca was also like this [i.e., with prostitution and alcohol], but the Prophet forbade this kind of income and replaced it with another kind of income – jihad for the sake of Allah, in order to gain an income which is greater and better, by conquering other countries. And Allah said: "If you fear poverty, then know that Allah will enrich you from his bounty [Koran 9:28],' meaning that if you are afraid of suffering dire [financial] straits, the Lord will deliver you from these straits – and in fact, Allah enriched them through conquest and spoils.'

"Consider [how Qaradhawi] brazenly attempts to deceive the Muslims and Allah. The substitute [for income from tourism according to Qaradhawi], then, is jihad in order to conquer the entire world, after tourism is banned from our country...

"Qaradhawi’s position against Egypt is certainly not [merely] his own personal position... because he is part of a whole band, mostly in Egypt, that constantly repeats the same message. Qaradhawi opines: 'There are [people] who strive to break Islam into pieces. They want it to be an Islam without jihad... principles of faith without Shari'a... and the Koran without the sword. [Islam, however,] is a calling that encompasses all aspects of life, from toilet etiquette to the structure of the state. It provides laws [to govern] man's [life] from birth to death.'

"Naturally, Qaradhawi does not tell us that there is no legal Islamic statement on political matters or on the nature of the regime… However, Qaradhawi and his followers say that political affairs should be under Allah's rule and not under human rule, and since Allah does not rule in person, they have appointed themselves to rule as His deputies.

"Qaradhawi has misled our youth with this idea of Islam's shumuliyya [i.e., the notion that Islamic law covers every aspect of life] and that this is the essential principle of Islam, [so that] if you do not accept it, you commit outright apostasy. But then reformist thinkers forced him to admit that it had never been an essential principle of Islam… and that the idea of Islam's shumuliyya was in fact introduced in 1928 by Hasan Al-Bana [the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood] and that the concept of hakimiyya [i.e., the idea that Allah is the sole sovereign] appeared relatively late, in the writings of Sayyid Qutb [a Muslim Brotherhood leader executed by the Nasser regime in 1966]… These concepts [of shumuliyya – the totality of Islamic law – and hakimiyya – Allah's rule] are nothing more than ideas and beliefs of an outlawed group that is soiled with blood…[4]

"[According to these concepts] we should refer to the seventh century in all our affairs…"

We Let Terrorism Grow When We Allowed Islamist Thought to Infiltrate] Our Media and Schools

"Who is responsible [for the terrorist acts]?… We let terrorism grow and flourish when we allowed Islamist thought to infiltrate our media and schools… Terrorism grew when we allowed the Islamists to plant in the minds of Egyptian Muslims [the concept] that citizenship and patriotism are reprehensible innovations, and this is because the Islamists do not recognize [individual] countries, for they are the Islamic nation of la ilaha illa 'llah ['There is no God but Allah'], wherever they may be. The issue of the ideology of hatred got out of hand when we allowed the [Egyptian] Fatwa Authority to decide in matters outside its jurisdiction…

"This cancer spread when we allowed them to steal the souls of our children… The virus thrived when we allowed the current of hatred to be directed against the very interests of the people, when we charged the souls with the current of hatred for the advanced Western countries– to the point where our peoples now hate everything associated with the West – even freedom, dignity and democracy – instead of hating those Islamic sheikhs and armed militias who have dragged our honor in the mud for the whole world to see."

The Arab Media Has Given the Islamists Legitimacy to Kill Innocent People

"We have once again given them [i.e. the Islamists] legitimacy… to kill innocent people, because all [the Arab media]… have been using the term 'resistance' to refer to what the Arab infiltrators and the remnants of the bloody Ba'th in Iraq are doing against our own people, while 'resistance' is a laudatory term suggesting legitimate national resistance. Thus the Islamists compare [the 'resistance' in Iraq] with the French resistance against the Nazi occupation...

"[The Arab media] supported the Sunnis in Iraq when they refused to participate in the elections – even if some [media outlets] did not say so explicitly, but this was implied...

"We know that the Sunnis do not want partners in ruling Iraq – not Kurds, nor Shi'ites, nor Christians, nor Assyrians, nor Chaldeans, nor Mandeans... They are striking at the majority of the [Iraqi] people, who courageously went to the polls while saying to [the Sunnis], 'No! Your time and the time of your monopoly on rule is over.' However, the Sunnis aren't giving up, because they are convinced that rule over Iraq is theirs and theirs alone by right...

"On one of his programs on Al-Jazeera, Al-Qaradhawi declared: 'One should sacrifice one's life and one's country for Islam, because Islam takes precedence over human life'... [In one of his books,] Al-Qaradhawi states: '[Our goal is] to establish a Muslim state that will be governed by Allah's Shari'a. The Islamist activists need to exert their best efforts to prepare public opinion to accept their ideas and to [pave the way for] their state.' In another book,] he says: 'Fighting apostasy, heresy, secularism, and immorality, and [fighting] their foreign and domestic supporters, is the religious duty of these times and the order of the day.'

"Proper education and teaching create an individual who loves life – not one who hates life and thus destroys himself and others. However, our universities have turned into religious associations that discuss what is halal [permissible] and what is haram [prohibited], and they research religious commentaries instead of researching the laws of physics and mathematics. Our universities now research the issue of the head covering, the veil, modesty, virtue, and the pillars of Islam... The universities have forgotten their role as the primary place for scientific research – that is, to examine the country's ills, whether in medicine or in culture, in order to fight against them... The universities have abandoned their field of expertise and have assumed the role of the mosque...

"To be specific, when you visit the University of Zaqaziq - which is where the suicide bomber from the Al-Azhar incident studied and was an outstanding student – you will find slogans everywhere, none of which have anything to do with science. They are all about hatred, the veil, and jihad.

"We nurtured the seed of terrorism when we allowed our laws, our media, and our schools[5]to divide our people into two camps, with the country belonging to only one of them. This one group is in possession of the absolute truth, and is obligated to correct the others, or, if it can't correct them, to destroy them...

"This is [the same] trial which Muslims faced at the beginning of their history, at the Battle of the Camel... 'Aisha's camel was the symbol of a culture of rebellion against the caliphate, its legitimacy, and its law. This is the culture of armed Muslim opposition in the name of religion. Therefore, 'Ali called out: 'Bring down the camel! As long as the camel lives, people will die.'

"My dear countrymen: bring down your camel! Bring down the camel, even if it be sacred, to keep Egyptians from dying."


[1]Roz Al-Yousuf (Egypt), April29, 2005.

[2]Fakhr Al-Din Al-Razi, d. 1209.

[3]The bombing at the Khan Al-Halili, on April 7, 2005.

[4]These two concepts – shumuliyya and hakimiyya – are closely related. Shumuliyya states that all aspects of life fall under the jurisdiction of Islamic law. Hakimiyya states that the only legitimate government is Allah’s government, which in practical terms means government according to Islamic law.

[5]The specific mention of the schools is probably a reference to Egypt’s two-track educational system; one track is more religious (or, in the author's opinion, radical Islamic) than the other.

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