Since last month’s Muslim Brotherhood-Salafi sweep of Egyptian parliamentary elections, serious questions have arisen about Egypt’s long-term commitment to the peace treaty with Israel and its warm relations with the terror group Hamas. The words of outspoken religious figures who have inspired the Muslim Brotherhood and who have in the past preached to violence makes that concern seem well-placed.
Now, one voice in Egypt is turning the tables on radical Islamists who encourage jihad, accusing them of defaming Islam and the prophet Muhammed.
Journalist Ahmed El Aswany, an Egyptian Muslim, wrote on the popular news site El Bashayer that it’s not cartoons, books or free speech that defame Islam, rather Muslims “for imposing a terroristic, hypocritical, and life-hating Islamic model that feeds on killing others in the name of jihad and fighting freedom of expression…”
Among those he criticizes: Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi – the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual leader – who has in the past called suicide bombings “heroic martyrdom operations.”
Middle East expert Raymond Ibrahim found the column, originally published in December, and translated it from Arabic this week. This is what El Aswany wrote:
Those who defame the Prophet are they who slaughter and bomb innocent people all over the world—in New York, Madrid, London, Bali, Riyadh, Cairo, Kabul and Baghdad—while citing the name of Allah and his Prophet and under the banner of Islamic jihad. Ongoing demonstrations follow in support of their acts, while Internet sites sing praises of the “knight” Osama bin Laden, the “hero of the two raids on New York and Washington [i.e., the strikes of 9/11].”
Those who defame the Prophet include men like [Yusif] Qaradawi [the Muslim Brotherhood's spiritual leader], who incite killing Jewish babies in their mothers’ wombs (his lecture at the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate in 1996), and who incite and support suicide bombings and declared jihad in Iraq, in the name of religion and the Prophet, leading to the killing of innocent people.
El Aswany criticized bizarre fatwas that are little-known in the West:
Those who defame the Prophet are they who issue fatwas sanctioning “adult breastfeeding,” who claim that drinking the Prophet’s urine is a blessing, and allow such hadiths to be taught in schools and religious universities—including the hadith of the fly and other hadiths advocating humiliating the People of the Book [Christians and Jews] and treating them with contempt; the hadith of “paradise is under the shades of swords,” and thousands of other hadiths, the mere existence of which defame the Prophet and Islam.
Those who defame the Prophet are they who teach children in Islamic schools to hate Christians, that befriending them is forbidden (“your enemy is the enemy of your religion”)—as one niqab-wearing teacher taught my friend’s ten-year-old daughter at Al Fateh Islamic Schools in Maadi; and when the parents complained they were told “This is Islam.”
He also defended the rights of women, threatened by the religious edicts:
Those who defame the Prophet are they who deem women defective, equating them with dogs and donkeys in that they invalidate prayer, as per the famous Sahih Muslim hadith. They believe that women are brainless and impious—forgetting that women are mothers, sisters, sweethearts, daughters, and wives, and are on an equal par with men. What is even sadder is that the majority of Muslim women believe in the authenticity of such hadiths that disparage them.
His harshest critique comes at the end of his editorial:
Those who defame the Prophet are the rulers and sheikhs of the Arab world who have transformed their countries into the last strongholds of tyranny and dictatorship in the world and who manipulate religious texts to justify their crimes.
Those who defame the Prophet are not in the West, but rather we Muslims, for imposing a terroristic, hypocritical, and life-hating model of Islam that feeds on killing others in the name of jihad and fighting freedom of expression on the pretext of defending the Umma’s [Islamic world's] precepts, which mean only regression and ossification. They [Western people] only defame and combat the model that we—and no one else—created.
Criticizing armed terrorists and their supporters seems like a pretty brave venture, but according to Raymond Ibrahim who found and translated the article, finding Muslim voices willing to criticize Muslims they consider radical is less rare than it used to be, especially among those cloaking their views in the anonymity of the internet.
Recent examples include Gaza human rights worker Mahmoud Abu Rahma who survived a stabbing attack after publishing an op-ed criticizing Hamas for using Palestinian civilians as human shields and Egyptian secular writer Khaled Montaser who portrayed the Muslim world as having an “inferiority complex.”
On the other hand, outspoken critics of Islam face severe retribution, as seen in the calls for the execution of one Saudi blogger who posted Tweets about the prophet Muhammed.
The Blaze asked Raymond Ibrahim if he had further information about El Aswany. He explained El Aswany’s own website provides few details. Ibrahim says:
“It states that he is a secularist who sees the ‘religious movement,’ i.e., Islamist movement, as the source of the world’s woes, and calling it the ‘new Nazi’ movement, which poses a great threat to the entire world.
The dearth of information concerning him is of course not surprising: considering the sort of articles he writes and his stated position, he likely does not want to reveal his identity.”
An American whose parents were raised in Egypt, Raymond Ibrahim is a fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an associate fellow at the Middle East Forum. He is also author of the book The Al Qaeda Reader, a collection of translations of al-Qaeda documents, and has written extensively about the persecution of Christians in the Muslim world, including the publication of a monthly report on the subject.