Tragically, the most profound answer to the Grand Imam of al-Azhar’s speech in Germany came less than a week later on Tuesday, March 22, when homegrown Islamic terrorists committed yet another of their heinous acts in Europe. This time it took place in Brussels, Belgium, the capital of the European Union and headquarters to NATO. I suggest that Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb return to the Reichstag, where he delivered his speech before the Bundestag and this time offer an apology.
By Mounir Bishay | April 5, 2016
On Tuesday, March 15, Egypt’s top Muslim cleric, the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, addressed the West from the floor of the German parliament, where he tried to present the West with a polished version of Islam.
What the Sheikh said painted a picture of Islam that is completely different from that which we know. This prompted the head of the German parliament to comment telling the Grand Imam, “As if you are talking to us about a religion other than the Islam that we already know.” Dr. Abbas Shuman, al-Azhar Deputy, interpreted the comment as evidence of al-Tayeb’s success in changing the West’s view of Islam. However, in truth, it may actually have clashed with the reality that the West has about Islam.
First, I’d like to emphasize that no one has an interest in marring the image of Islam as the whole world would love to deal with an Islam as beautifully described by the Grand Imam. Even if there are negatives in Islam, which al-Tayeb was able to change to the image presented in his speech, we would fully support him in these endeavors. Nevertheless, it is unacceptable if his goal was to select and emphasize certain positive Quranic verses, while hiding ones in order to give an image of Islam other than the one we know.
Let’s examine some of the points al-Tayeb made in his Berlin speech.
He said, “We Muslims believe in the Torah [Jewish holy book], and the Enjeel [Christian New Testiment], and the Quran, to have been a guide and light to humanity; we believe that the latter of these books confirm the former ones, and our faith would not be complete unless we believe in these heavenly books and in Moses, Eissa [Jesus] and the prophets and messengers who preceded them.” Yet, the Imam is fully aware that this statement does not say it all, and that there are differences which show that Islam has conflicts with much of the Christian and Jewish beliefs. That is why there is now a claim among Muslims that those two faiths have been altered, regardless of the fact that when Islam recognized them, they had already been widespread all over the world for hundreds of years. It does not make sense that the people of these faiths would conspire to change their own books then be martyred for a lie. Besides, neither does Islam present any evidence for the alleged forging, nor does it show us the original uncorrupted versions.
In his speech, al-Tayeb argued, “What is being said about Islam as a religion of the sword is not true, because the ‘sword’ is not found in the Quran even one time.” However, he very well knows that the word “kill” and its synonyms, including “slay,” can be seen all over the Islamic books, including the Quran itself. He also knows that the prophet of Islam slew his opponents, so did his successors. And, even though the tool of killing is not explicitly mentioned in the Quran, yet, it can be easily understood from the context. For example, this from the Quran, “When you meet those who disbelieve, smite their necks,” Sura 47:4. Also, “I will instill terror in the hearts of the unbelievers; smite ye above their necks and smite their finger-tips off them,” Sura 8:12. Mohammed once told the Qurishites, “By Allah, I have come to you for slaughter,” Hadith.
Also, al-Tayeb says, “Islam does not allow killing non-Muslims because of refusal to embrace Islam for God created both believers and unbelievers.” But he does not tell us that the punishment for leaving Islam is death, as prescribed in the Hadith, Mohammed’s sayings; “Whoever changes his [Islamic] religion, kill him.” To explain this clear contradiction between what Muslims call “freedom of belief” and what they actually practice in killing those who leave Islam, they say that this freedom is available before one accepts Islam, but is denied afterwards!
Al-Tayeb proclaimed before the Bundestag, “Islam does not command Muslims to engage in armed Jihad, and does not urge them to practice it, unless they are being attacked or are fighting in self-defense.” We have to pause here and ask a few questions: Were all the Muslim wars launched in self-defense against peoples who attacked the Muslims first? And, how did the peoples of those countries invaded by the Muslims allegedly attack them in the first place, located as far from the Arabian Peninsula as the Levant, Egypt, North Africa and Spain? The Muslim invasions did not stop until these peoples confronted the Islamic armies with their own fighters, forcing them to retreat before reaching Paris and ultimately at the gates of Vienna. Who then was the attacker and who was being attacked in all of these wars?
The Grand Imam queried, “Some would whisper in objection that if Islam is so good, how it produced such evil groups as ISIS and other terrorists that kill, destroy and slay in the name of Allah and Islam?” Al-Tayeb’s answer is that “terrorists who commit their crimes in the name of one religion or another do not really represent that religion, but are truly betraying the trust of the religion, which they claim they’re fighting for.” Well, we may have accepted the imam’s claim had he even once issued a condemnation of those terrorists. On the contrary, he refused to condemn them because, as he says, they have once declared their faith in Allah, and have never left it. Besides, it is a well known fact that all these crimes are being taught in Cairo’s al-Azhar curriculums, and al-Tayeb should know it given he is past president of the University whose center is al-Azhar Mosque of which he became Grand Imam. It would be even worse had he really been ignorant of this fact.
Tragically, the most profound answer to the Grand Imam of al-Azhar’s speech in Germany came less than a week later on Tuesday, March 22, when homegrown Islamic terrorists committed yet another of their heinous acts in Europe. This time it took place in Brussels, Belgium, the capital of the European Union and headquarters to NATO. I suggest that Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb return to the Reichstag where he delivered his speech before the Bundestag, and this time, offer an apology.
Mounir Bishay is a human rights activist and president of the Los Angeles based Christian Copts of California. Mr. Bishay is also a contributor to SFPPR News & Analysis.