It was a harrowing and eventful week. In the midst of the horrific killings in France, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi gave a speech which, via a translation from Raymond Ibrahim’s Web site, included this:
It’s inconceivable that the thinking that we hold most sacred should cause the entire umma [Islamic world] to be a source of anxiety, danger, killing and destruction for the rest of the world. Impossible!
That thinking—I am not saying “religion” but “thinking”—that corpus of texts and ideas that we have sacralized over the centuries, to the point that departing from them has become almost impossible, is antagonizing the entire world. It’s antagonizing the entire world!
Is it possible that 1.6 billion people [Muslims] should want to kill the rest of the world’s inhabitants—that is 7 billion—so that they themselves may live? Impossible!
I am saying these words here at Al Azhar, before this assembly of scholars and ulema—Allah Almighty be witness to your truth on Judgment Day concerning that which I’m talking about now.
All this that I am telling you, you cannot feel it if you remain trapped within this mindset. You need to step outside of yourselves to be able to observe it and reflect on it from a more enlightened perspective.
I say and repeat again that 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 … because this umma is being torn, it is being destroyed, it is being lost—and it is being lost by our own hands.
There are those in the West who deny the problem of terrorism (they don’t like the phrases “Islamic terrorism” or “jihadism”) is related at all to Islam. (President Obama famously stated that the Islamic State isn’t Islamic.) To them — the jihadist-deniers — and to those who think the problem is Islamaphobia, as well as liberal journalists who have deluded themselves into thinking their job is not to enlighten but to avoid giving offense, Sisi’s words should pierce through the fog of delusion. Sisi has many shortcomings, but lack of understanding about radical Islam is not one of them. For a critical speech at a critical time, he deserves our gratitude.