Thursday, March 11, 2010

The likely next Al Azhar leader - a "moderate"

After the death of Sheikh Tantawi, who led Egypt's Al Azhar University, the most likely successor is the current Grand Mufti of Egypt, Sheikh Ali Gomaa.

From Gomaa's Wikipedia entry he comes across as being very moderate:
Since taking office Gomaa has issued a number of fatwas and statements that have made an impact in the media. He has issued a fatwa asserting that men and women enjoy equal political rights in Islam, including the right to become president of a modern state.[12]

In November 2006, prof Gomaa ruled that female circumcision (also referred to as female genital mutilation or FGM) should not be applied; this ruling is in accordance with Egyptian law, that also forbids female circumcision. This ruling came about after a conference instigated by research and a documentary on FGM in Somalia by the German action group Target. This fatwa is now also used in Western Europe to combat FGM.[14] On June 24, 2007, after an 11-year-old died under the knife undergoing circumcision, he decreed that female circumcision was not just “un-Islamic” but forbidden.[15]

He has also stated that Islam does not call for and has never known a theocratic state and that there is no contradiction between Islam and liberal democracy saying, “I consider myself a liberal and a Muslim, but this does not mean I am a secularist. The Egyptian [historical] experience has combined liberalism and Islam in the best of ways.” [16]

In 2007 he "unequivocally told the Washington Post that the death penalty for apostasy simply no longer applies."[18]

Gomaa has publicly asserted that the anti-Semitic The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is a forgery and made an official court complaint concerning a publisher who falsely put his name on an introduction to its Arabic translation.[19]
Sounds pretty good, right?

Unfortunately, the Wiki entry does not fully address his feelings towards suicide bombing against Israelis. The Nationmaster encyclopedia fills in the blanks:
In an interview with an Egyptian paper “Al-haqiqa” in July 2003, Sheikh Ali Gomaa was asked a number of questions regarding Palestine. He also made some statements regarding the issue which were reported in al-Hayat newspaper on the 30th September 2003. [6] [7]

When asked about the rule of an Egyptian man illegally entering Palestine and carrying out a ‘martyrdom’ operation without the express permission of the head of state he replied that "he is a Shahid [martyr], because Palestine is a special case and not the ordinary case existing in the world… This is because in Palestine there is an enemy that rules the land. This rule is considered a crime by international conventions and resolutions… The world has let the Jews spread corruption throughout the land and they have succeeded in obtaining international legitimacy to territories that were conquered after 1967…Israel is a special case that does not exist [anywhere else] on the face of the earth. We are facing a criminal occupation that is the source of terror."

When asked about the explicit ruling on “martyrdom” operations he replied that "The one who carries out Fedaii [martyrdom] operations against the Zionists and blows himself up is, without a doubt, a Shahid [martyr] because he is defending his homeland against the occupying enemy who is supported by superpowers such as the U.S. and Britain."

In the same interview, referenced above, he was then asked regarding the rule regarding differentiating between civilian and non civilian targets replying that

"The Zionists themselves do not differentiate between civilian and military personnel. They have set the entire people to military service. The civilian settler who occupies land in a state of war is a Harbi [that is, a non-Muslim living in an area regarded as 'Dar Al-harb,' the 'domain of war,' in which Islam does not dominate]. Besides, everyone in Israel, civilians and military personnel, bear arms. That is, they are 'Ahl Al-Qital'[that is, those who deserve to be fought]."

Various other questions and answers from the same interview include:

Question: "Do you differentiate between operations carried out within the 1948 borders and operations carried out within the 1967 borders?" Sheikh Gum'a: "Even Zionists do not differentiate. They occupied the entire territory. We differentiate when there is a difference, [but] there is no difference between Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Hebron."

Question: "Is it permitted to kill an Israeli traveling outside the borders of his land?" Sheikh Gum'a: "Yes, it is permitted to kill him, because he is a Harbi and the Harbi spreads corruption throughout the face of the earth."

Question: "Even if he is wearing a diplomatic uniform, for example?" Sheikh Gum'a: "He can wear a diplomatic uniform as much as he likes, but his blood is permitted. But permitting his blood does not mean that he must be killed; it only permits his killing."

Wikipedia mentions only the last question and quotes another person who says that the sheikh denied making that statement. It also quotes Church Times:
During a press conference on Wednesday, the Grand Mufti of Egypt, Dr Ali Gomaa, rejected press reports that he had praised suicide- bombers in Palestine. The reports were wrong and had “muddied the picture. . . We are against any per­secution of any minorities,” he said.
That denial is not a denial, it is a non-sequitur.

But so long as you can accept that the word "moderate" has completely different definitions when referring to Arabs/Muslims and when referring to any other human beings, then you can certainly call him a "moderate."