Sayyid al-Qimni and the Tony Sopranos of Islamism

BY ALEXANDER MELEAGROU-HITCHENS

Yet another hit has been put out on a vocal critic of Islamism.  Sayyid al-Qimni is a leading Egyptian secular intellectual who has written scathingly about the dangerous and intolerant ideology of Islamism.  He has been particularly critical of some sections of al-Azhar University, which he accuses of trying to drag Islam ‘back to the Middle Ages’, and the Muslim Brotherhood.  In 2007, he delivered a heroic performance on al-Jazeera where he bemoaned the lack of liberal democracy in the Arab World, and described how Arabs are suffering under both military dictatorships and Islamist theocracies.  Now he, like many of those before him who have challenged the backwardness, fascism and violence of Islamism, has found himself the subject of death threats from the bullies who represent this ideology.

In 2004, Mr. al-Qimni gave an interview where, among other things, he criticised Muslim scholars for their treatment of women and suggested that sections of the Koran must be re interpreted.   The subsequent death threats he received forced him to retire from writing in 2005.  He found himself back in the spotlight again in June of this year when he was awarded the Egyptian State Award for Social Sciences.  Now, unsurprisingly, the death threats have returned. 

This week, Mr. al-Qimni has issued an appeal which must not be ignored.  In this letter he describes the anger with which Islamists have met his recent achievement, something they have interpreted as an official acceptance of the ‘ideology’ of secularism:

…hard-line radical militant groups considered that the state has adopted this intellectual secular trend officially, infuriating the mentioned group which called on the State to withdraw the prize with the declaration of my defection from Islam and excommunication which means in our country, I could be slain; any citizen is allowed to kill me and be awarded by God in Paradise.

He also lists the parties whom he has identified as the primary instigators of this barbarity:

1 – Al-Azhar Scholars Front headed by Yahya Ismail Habloush, which issued the first statement of atonement on July 10, 2009

2 – The Islamic Group (condemned terrorist group) issued a statement of atonement on July 10, 2009

3 – The Muslim Brotherhood hailed the atonement, and were presented at the parliament by Hamdi Hassan requesting the withdrawal of the award and the declaration of religious-defection and excommunication on July 7, 2009. The Muslim Brotherhood also declared my excommunication on Mohwar Channel on July 11, 2009 and on Al Faraeen Channel on July 13, 2009

4 – The Salafi (Fundamentalist) Group (condemned terrorist group) dedicated its Internet site named “The Egyptians” for excommunicating me and incitements to kill me, since the date of obtaining the prize until today

5 – Al Nas channel, which represents the theoretical side of bloody terrorism which declared excommunication and demanded “all citizens who can” to kill me immediately, on July 24 and 25, 2009.

6 – The Hisbah Sheikh Youssef Al Badri in Egypt declared on the channel “ON TV” on July 3, 2009 that I have cursed God and the Prophet Mohammad in my books even though I have challenged him and others to refer to a single text written by me where such claims were made. Due to this proclamation, he has issued an incitement to kill me

7 – A member of the Al-Azhar scholars, Sheikh Mohammed El Berry, on Mihwar TV Channel on July 11, 2009 announced my atonement as he also said that he did not read any of my writings since he does not read “garbage”. He repeated the same words on the channel “ON TV” on July 22, 2009

8 – Sheikh Ali Gomaa, the former Chairman of the “State Religious Affairs Advisory Board”, issued a statement declaring my infidelity and calling for slaying me for “insulting the Prophet of Islam, the God of Islam” on July 24, 2009

9 – The Sheiks of more than 5000 mosques on Friday prayers on July 24, 2009 declared the incitement to kill me, especially in my hometown, which led to the rampage against my family and relatives, and that could possibly evolve to some serious consequences in the coming weeks.

It should be of no surprise that the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Azhar are heavily involved in this fiasco, and this once again demonstrates the pitfalls of the ‘moderate Muslim Brotherhood‘ approach.

Some may ascribe these threats to a fringe of unrepresentative extremists, but unfortunately the presence of Egyptian Grand Mufti Sheikh Ali Gomaa may suggest otherwise.  He has previously been held up by a number of groups, including some in the UK, as a shining example of moderate Islam who rejected the murder of apostates.  If indeed Mr. al-Qimni’s list is accurate, and Gomaa has been involved in this disgraceful episode, those same people should now condemn him as unrepresentative of moderate Islam.  Usama Hasan of the UK-based City Circle has already taken the commendable step of denouncing the death threats.

When they show themselves to be nothing more than mafia-style gangsters who put out hits on their opponents and critics, Islamists are at their most revealing.   Only an ideology with such a weak basis such as Islamism would deem it necessary to, rather than debate or discredit their opponents, simply have them killed.  Thus, al-Qimni writes that “none of them have read a single word of what I wrote, and have not been able to hold a dialogue to discuss my ideas.”

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