In the aftermath of the removal of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, many of his supporters have lashed out in retaliation. There have been serious questions raised about the future of political Islam, both in Egypt and elsewhere, as a result of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood’s experience. This article highlights the importance of not painting all Muslims with a broad brush, but of actually understanding the particular beliefs and convictions of individuals and groups.
By Tyler O’Neil
7/30/2013 Egypt (Christian Post) – Several experts on Islam, speaking after recent turmoil following the ousting of Egypt’s President Morsi, highlighted that Islam is not monolithic and the U.S. should support the Islamic tradition that respects religious liberty.
“Religion, when it becomes political and it seeks to take control of society, should be rejected,” Christian convert from Islam Patrick Sookhdeo, director of the Institute for the Study of Islam and Christianity, international director of the Barnabus Fund, and spokesman for persecuted Christians, told The Christian Post in an interview Tuesday. He called the now-deposed Muslim Brotherhood government Islamist and said it sought to “transform Egypt from a democratic society to what would effectively be a religious state.”
Sookhdeo expressed concern that the military – rather than an election – had removed former President Morsi, but said the action nevertheless bore some degree of legitimacy. When “countless millions come out upon the streets, and basically argue that he is creating what is in effect a religious state and therefore he should step down, I think the voices of those people do need to be listened to.”
At the end of June, millions took to the streets and signed a petition demanding Morsi’s removal before the military leader General Abdel Fatta al-Sisi forced him to abdicate.
Nevertheless, violence – especially against Christians – has ravaged Egypt in the wake of the government switch. Sookhdeo warned that “unless there can be a period of stability, reconciliation of all the different groups,” there will be further violence.
Egypt’s economy has fallen apart, he noted. Along with “massive inflation” and “major unemployment,” Egypt has also witnessed its tourism industry nearly collapse. These economic struggles fuel the ideological conflict between political and moderate Islam.
“Ultimately, this is a battle within Islam,” Sookhdeo explained, listing “two traditions” within Islam: reason and revelation. “Islam has a long tradition of coexistence with other religions, of existing without religion effectively seizing control of the state,” but it also has a tradition of clerics who “have sought to see the divine will as imposed upon society.”