Arab West Report Middle East Published Articles

A Sufi Sheikh and the Fine Line of anti-Semitism

Alaa al-Din Abul Azayim
Alaa al-Din Abul Azayim

From my article at Arab West Report, from before Egyptian presidential elections but pertinent now with the escalation in Gaza:

Arab West Report, Editor-in-Chief Cornelis Hulsman recently highlighted the mutual recourse to anti-Semitic accusations on the part of both opponents and supporters of the current government. He referenced research complied by MEMRI, in which General Sīsī and the Muslim Brotherhood are simultaneously declared to be Jewish in origin and committed to a Zionist agenda.

The prominent Sufi sheikh, ‘Alaa al-Dīn Abū al-‘Azā’im, recently offered an example of such rhetoric. In an interview designed to explore both the Sufi contribution to the June 30 revolution deposing President Mursī, and the motivation thereof, ‘Azā’im consistently inserted accusations of the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis being allied to Israel. Despite efforts to focus on the local issues involving Sufi citizens, ‘Azā’im could not help himself from resorting to international conspiracies.

Examples include the following:

The article lists his charges, but here is an excerpt from his response at the end of the interview about whether or not the Western world is right in considering such comments anti-Semitic:

First, he said the Qur’an commands us to be merciful to everyone – Jews, Christians, the whole world, even unbelievers. Mohamed’s constitution in Medina was civil, giving everyone the right to choose his own religion and pray as he wishes, again, emphasizing this right was given even to unbelievers. Jews are welcome to live in Egypt, and before 1967 when they were plentiful, he had good relations with them. While a student in Asyut University, ‘Azā’im’s Jewish colleague tried to persuade him to marry his sister. He referenced Pope Shenouda, stating he said we all worship one God – Muslims, Christians, and Jews – so he should gather us together rather than us fighting each other.

But second, this fighting is what earns Israel his animosity. Jihad in the Muslim sense may only be waged if a country attacks you, or has attacked you. Look at what Israel does, he said, killing Muslims every day. They occupied our land, so it should be jihad, until they leave.

There is a necessary difference between Israel and the Jews. Arabs often conflate the two; do Westerners as well? Where is the line properly drawn?

Please click here to read the full article at Arab West Report.


Friday Prayers for Egypt: Egyptian Jews and Salafi Splits

Flag Cross Quran


Division does not please you. You have created us differently and esteem these differences. We have different opinions and go our different ways. But when we break relationship – forgive us.

As many in the liberal and leftist and revolutionary camps have come together to oppose the Islamists, honor them, even if their unity is temporary and superficial. Help them, God, that it may be otherwise. If they part may they part as friends, having accomplished good for Egypt.

At the same time, many in the Islamist camps are coming apart. The reasons are unclear, but appear to be personal, political, and administrative – not ideological. You know the heart of these leaders, God, but heal the divisions that they have. If ambition or strife stands in the way of worthy ideals, keep their house in order. If they part, may it be as friends, having accomplished good for Egypt.

Judge, God, if the division between these camps is honorable or displeasing. Heal the wounds that exist; correct the assumptions which poison. May each esteem the good in the other, and expose all wrong. Unite them in discernment, that together they may accomplish good for Egypt.

And bless those, God, who are healing historical division. Certain Muslim Brothers have invited Jews of Egyptian origin to leave Israel and reclaim their property and heritage. You know, God, the purpose and sincerity of such remarks, which the presidency has distanced itself from and other Islamists have rejected. But honor at least the symbolism – if not more – that Egypt may be a place of welcome for all people.

Be with Egypt, God. Grant the people a common vision to rebuild their nation. May you be pleased with what they create.