July 27, 2005


In Egypt, Many Question Whether Their Own Culture Is to Blame for Terror Attacks (Nadia Abou El-Magd, 7/27/05, Associated Press)

At one mosque in Cairo, some worshippers objected to prayers for the dead and missing after Saturday's bombings in Sharm el-Sheik because some victims were likely non-Muslims, said the editor of the government weekly Al-Musawwar.

Another columnist pointed to a weekly column in the government Al-Ahram daily by a religious scholar, Zaghloul al-Naggar, who explains science by using the Quran. After December's tsunami in the Indian Ocean, he went on Arab television and called the devastation God's revenge on Westerners engaged in vice.

The debate since Sharm has been a deepening of the soul-searching that has gone on across the Arab world in recent years over whether religious interpretations need reform in the face of terror attacks by Muslim radicals.

The debate began, hesitantly, after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. And the voices have grown with each act of terrorism - particularly ones in the Middle East. A series of attacks in Saudi Arabia in 2003 forced that country to begin taking action against extremist thought.

The 2004 Madrid bombings increased calls for change among Muslims in Europe and the Mideast. After the July 7 suicide bombings in London, Britain's largest Sunni group issued a binding religious edict, known as a fatwa, condemning the attack.

Egypt has been hit this month by a double blow: the kidnapping and slaying of its top envoy in Iraq by Islamic militants and the bomb blasts that ripped through Sharm, killing as many as 88 people - the vast majority of them Egyptians.

What was unusual about the self-criticism after Sharm was that it came from government media - and even from within the Islamic clerical hierarchy picked by the government.

"There is no use denying. ... We incited the crime of Sharm el-Sheik," ran a bold red headline of a lead editorial Wednesday by Al-Musawwar's editor in chief, Abdel-Qader Shohaib.

The bombers "didn't just conjure up in our midst suddenly, they are a product of a society that produces extremist fossilized minds that are easy to be controlled," Shohaib wrote.

"They became extremists through continuous incitement for extremism which we have allowed to exist in our societies. Regrettably, the incitement is coming from mosque pulpits, newspapers, and TV screens, and radio microphones," which are all state-run, Shohaib said.

In Al-Ahram, columnist Ahmed Abdel Moeti Hegazi wrote: "This is not just deviation, it is a culture,"

Hegazi said he went to one mosque after the July 7 London bombings and the slaying of the Egyptian diplomat but the preacher made no mention of either attack. Instead, he denounced women wearing bathing suits.

Abdel Moeti Bayoumi, a theology professor at Al-Azhar University and a member of Al-Azhar's Center of Islamic Research, said change is needed. Al-Azhar, in Cairo, is one of the leading Sunni Muslim institutions in the world.

"Islamic preaching institutions are in a very acute need for shake-up," Bayoumi told The Associated Press. "Issuing statements and holding conferences to condemn terrorism is not what is needed. They are more like a cover-up of unresolved problems."

The Islamicists are exploding their way to a Reformation in our image.

Struggle for a British Islam (James Brandon and John Thorne, 7/28/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

Notably, they're not taking their cues from Britain's leading Muslim clerics. Rather, their effort is largely spontaneous - a grass-roots phenomenon that is emerging to bridge the disconnect between faith and nationality that, for some Muslims, ends in violence.

"We believe that we are as British as anyone, if not more, because we are British by choice," says Dr. Akmal Makhdum, a psychiatrist who organized the gathering. "The way of life here does not mean you have to give up your culture, because the British way of life allows you to keep it."

Polls taken since the bombings, however, show that men as unabashedly pro-British as Mr. Makhdum face a daunting challenge. Nearly two-thirds of Britain's 1.6 million Muslims have considered leaving the country, a Guardian/ICM poll this week showed.

Between Makhdum and the rejectionists opposing him, the bulk of ordinary Muslims have been thrown into the thick of the debate by the Islamic terrorists who struck London twice in a fortnight.

"The bombers are throwing away everything our parents have done for us," laments Wasif Khan, who works for global professional services firm Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu in London. "It's so frustrating."

"It's only been in the last 10 years that we've been able to say we are British," says his wife Ayesha, a third-generation Muslim who remembers the lingering racism her elders had struggled against. "All [the bombers] were thinking is that they, personally, were going to heaven," she adds bitterly. "They'd been brainwashed for a larger cause, but individually they were completely selfish. They need to figure out what true Islam is."

Selfishness is the hallmark of Europe's secular rational "culture."

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 27, 2005 8:04 PM

The solution is simple then. Boot them out of the West and quarantine the Muslim world until they get their act together.

We in the West do not need to be imperiled by having people who believe in the psychosis that is Islam among us. It is not as if any Muslim anywhere in the Western World is doing anything or making a contribution that cannot be readily replaced with little to no cost.

Posted by: bart at July 27, 2005 8:20 PM

A Reformation needs a Luther, a Calvin, a Tyndale, a Latimer, and like that. Islam has none (right now). The lesbian writer in Canada (can't remember her name) is about the strongest voice I have seen, and she isn't really arguing about doctrine, which is where the changes must occur.

Admission of their confusion is a first step, but the other big problem is that Luther had the Pope to 'challenge'. Who gets the letter in our day? Osama? Khameini? Hezbollah? CAIR? The Finsbury Park mosque?

Posted by: jim hamlen at July 27, 2005 8:39 PM


They're an improvement on the rest of the West.

Posted by: oj at July 27, 2005 9:42 PM


Then let them be an improvement on the West in their home nations - nations that, despite being highly religious, aren't even faintly comparable to the West.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at July 28, 2005 2:27 AM


They will be.

Posted by: oj at July 28, 2005 10:15 AM

They haven't been for at least 600 years, and in many places for about 800 years.

What's changed?

Posted by: bart at July 28, 2005 1:13 PM

They're being Reformed by the U.S..

Posted by: oj at July 28, 2005 1:26 PM

As we saw on 9/11.

Posted by: bart at July 28, 2005 9:00 PM

That's why we're Reforming them.

Posted by: oj at July 28, 2005 9:09 PM

And the success of our efforts could be seen in London a few weeks ago.

We cannot 'reform' them, anymore than we can 'reform' any other criminal. We can deter them from further violent behavior by making it very clear that further violent behavior will result in punishment to the Muslim world far more severe than they are capable of. That's how any criminal justice system works.

Posted by: bart at July 29, 2005 6:32 AM


Yes they will be because, as you note, we're turning them into the West...

So how does the "superiority" of the Muslims factor in ?

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at July 29, 2005 6:53 AM


Islam is superior to secularism, inferior to Judeo-Christianity. America is Reforming them, not France.

Posted by: oj at July 29, 2005 9:11 AM


On 7/07 we saw that Europe needs the Reformation just as badly. The problem is that it has less of a base for one than Islam does.

Posted by: oj at July 29, 2005 9:13 AM

we are reforming islam by filtering out the terrorist elements.

Posted by: cjm at July 29, 2005 7:42 PM