Dictator Behind the Curtain

The preeminent institution of Islamic learning is supposedly Al-Azhar University in Cairo. The U.S. and the world continue, especially since 9/11, to look to its chiefs often to the chagrin of moderate secular Muslims for pronouncements regarding Islamic principles. Last month Al-Azhar made a recommendation to ban three books on different aspects of Islam. Hossam Bahgat opining in the Lebanese Daily Star today, noted, pure and simple, “Al-Azhar is actually an administrative branch of the Egyptian government. Egypt’s official religious institution is not independent and has not been independent since at least 1961, when law 103 on Al-Azhar was promulgated. The grand imam is appointed by an executive decree signed by the president and the prime minister has traditionally carried the additional title of state minister for Azharite affairs.” For such open revelations to be published in a major Arab daily is an “epiphany” Many of us are looking and praying for freedom-minded Muslims to effect reform in the Islamic world. I have actually long remarked about the obvious hypocrisy and oft misguided statements and principles that come out of institutions like Al-Azhar. While it is certainly somewhat of a center of Islamic learning, a true university in the honest Islamic tradition would be free from any external coercion and only answerable to science, philosophy and the pursuit of learning. For any who would doubt the significance of Arab secular dictatorships in promulgating the misguided ignorance and fanning the flames of religious intolerance, Baghat’s piece today in the Lebanese Daily Star may finally begin to open some eyes. It may finally enlighten the west to what many of us freedom-minded Muslims have felt for a long time. The change needed to combat the ideology that threatens us begins at the democratization of the secular and monarchal dictatorships of the Middle East. The parasitic co-dependency between dictatorships like Mubarak’s in Egypt and other Arab dictatorships is the primary sickness that manufactures religious intolerance. Thus, spreading liberty and freedom beginning in Iraq will go a long way toward liberating Islam from the vice-grip of Arab dictators. This column can also be found at this link at the Arizona Republic

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