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With All Due Respect, The Sheikh Of Azhar Is Wrong: Repressive Dictatorship Is The Original Sin

07 February 2015

By Khalid Amayreh

The Rector of al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, has blamed the spread of extremist militant groups in parts of the Arab world on the misinterpretation of religious teachings.

"The most striking reason, that I see, is the historical accumulation of extremist tendencies… that grew out of corrupt interpretations of some texts in the Holy Quran and Sunnah [Prophet Mohamed's teachings]," Ahmed el-Tayeb, was quoted as saying this week in anti-terrorism conference in Makkah.

El-Tayeb, Egypt's top cleric, represents the Egyptian government and is often expected to rubber stamp the decisions and policies of whatever government in power, regardless of whether these decisions and policies are compatible with the teachings of Islam.

He is widely believed to have played a key role in bestowing religious "legitimacy" on the bloody coup, carried out two years ago by Abdul Fattah el Sissi against Egypt's only democratically-elected President Muhammad Mursi.

He also sanctioned, without any hesitation, the genocidal massacres of thousands of innocent protesters at Rabaa at the hands of Sissi's men.

More to the point, the Sheikh of al-Azhar looked on passively as the murderous coup-mongers crushed human rights and civil liberties in Egypt, arresting tens of thousands of political activists on concocted charges and shutting off all non-conformist media outlets.

Not a single criticism or gesture of dissatisfaction has been directed by al-Azhar against a regime that has taken Egypt down the drain.

Interestingly, this is really at odds with al-Azhar's main function, namely to see to it that the political authorities don't deviate from the straight path, e.g., don't oppress citizens or impinge on their rights and dignity.

Wrong prognosis

We all agree that certain Muslim groups have deviated from the true path of Islam. However, most people who are true to their conscience know deep in their hearts that the main reason contributing to religious extremism doesn't lie with the Quran or in the Hadith of the Prophet Muhammad.

Islamic religious texts are very clear about things. They are for justice, equality, love and mercy. They are against evil, oppression, exploitation, tyranny and corruption. Islam is for all that is good and virtuous and is against all that is evil and unethical. Islam calls on its adherents to be honest and join virtue and stand against vice.

Yet, it is a fact that most of the so-called Muslim states, including Egypt, are among the most repressive states in the world.

The reason is clear and it has absolutely nothing to do with Islam itself or with Islamic religious texts that can be misunderstood.

Quite the opposite, the main reason for this serious anomaly is precisely the scandalous deviation from Islam by states and governments that grossly violate the human rights and civil liberties of their own citizens.

Yet, we continue to be affronted with politicians and officials who would never stop paying lip service to Islam in order to justify the unjustifiable and in order to legitimize evil.

In fact, it is conceivable that these criminal hypocrites would go as far as actually murdering the Prophet Muhammad himself in order to maintain themselves or their tribes in power.

Repressive dictatorship is the original sin

As an avid observer of Islamic political movements for decades, I can attest that religious extremism in the Arab world is the legitimate child of government repression and dictatorship. Dictatorship means the absence of justice. Justice and dictatorship are a contradiction in terms. That is why extremism appears and thrives in countries where justice has effectively committed suicide.

This is unfortunately the case in Egypt under the Sissi junta where the entire justice system, the last hope for wronged citizens, has been repeatedly raped, abused and violated by those thugs in power who adopt a modus operandi of governance based on total dishonesty.

And when people lose faith in justice, they also lose hope in the ability to effect change peacefully. This is where extremism begins, effectively becoming the only available avenue for change.

Unfortunately, people like the Sheikh of Azhar are part of the problem, as they always side with the authorities.

Indeed, if the rector of al-Azhar were true to the message of Islam and really committed to the principle of fairness and equity he would have rejected article 74 of the concocted Sissi constitution whereby Islamic political parties are banned whereas every other conceivable party, e.g. Communists, socialists, liberals, atheists, etc., is allowed to function. And this is happening in a country where Muslims constitute 96% of the population.

Didn't it occur to his eminence that when people's horizons are narrowed and their basic human rights are denied, with no chances for redressing legitimate grievances, these people resort to violence against both society and state?

Khalid Amayreh is a veteran Palestinian journalist and political commentator living in occupied Palestine


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