The Arabic Spring’s Stillbirth

by THE EDITORS December 3, 2012

FSM recently sat down with Dr. Mark Gabriel for an interview. 

The situation in Egypt these days reminds us of the situation in the beginning of the year 2011, during what became known as the Arab Spring. Once again, people are gathering on Tahrir Square and they are demonstrating. They are protesting against the recent decrees that granted President Mohammed Morsi sweeping powers - decrees issued by President Morsi himself. The masses want Morsi to roll back his decrees. Consequently, the time is right to hear Dr. Gabriel's assessment of these most recent events in the volatile Middle East.

FSM:   Dr. Gabriel, how do you view the developments in Egypt since Morsi came into power and how do you view the future of Egypt? Is Morsi just another dictator?

MG:    We have to be aware that Morsi is an Islamist, even if he and other representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood tried to present themselves to the world as very moderate. 

I am not concerned that Morsi will be just another dictator, because I am more concerned that Morsi is bringing Egypt under the rule of Islamic law. And for a nation to be ruled by Sharia, that's the worst form of dictatorship you can think of - a religious dictatorship.

Actually I was expecting that Morsi would secure and establish the power of the Islamists subtly and imperceptibly and, in such a devious way, that people would not even realize it before it would be too late to stop it. So I am glad that Morsi is acting so obviously that the moderate citizenry immediately saw what was happening and had the chance to organize and stand up against these very troubling new rulings. I hope that they will be able to stop the spread of radical Islam.

However, this won't be easy as the Islamists are very numerous and well organized too. But there is hope. The good thing is that, between the two biggest radical Islamist groups - the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists - there is no unity. And as the Bible says:  Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. (Matthew 12: 25).

The Salafists, for example, recently declared that the pyramids and the Sphinx should be torn down because they are objects of Idol worship. I am glad that the Salafists show their extremist attitudes so clearly. This will prevent even more Egyptians from supporting them.

However, we cannot ignore the influence of the Islamists in Egypt who are in power along with Morsi, and therefore I hope that the Western world will take an active role regarding this issue.

FSM:   Concerning the international relationship between Egypt and America, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did call Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Amr and told him that the United States wants to see President Mohamed Morsi share power in Egypt. Could this be a sign that the Obama administration will change their position towards the Morsi regime ?  Remember that, when Hillary Clinton came for her first visit, the newly elected President Morsi declined to shake hands with her.

MG:  I do hope that America will take strong actions but, again, it might be a good sign that Morsi has acted so boldly. If America merely convinces Morsi to proceed less obviously it may become even more difficult to uproot.

 FSM:  Dr. Gabriel, how do you see the development of international relations between Egypt and the United States?

MG:  From Egypt's point of view, the hostility towards the West is growing.  Incidents like the public burning of the Quran, and the film about Muhammad are repeatedly publicized and amplified by the Muslim Brotherhood and other powers in Egypt and elsewhere in order to fuel the fire of hostility. The five Americans from California with Coptic Christian backgrounds who were the people mainly responsible for that movie have been sentenced to the death penalty by the Egyptian Criminal Court. This shows how gravely the Egyptian rulers view this kind of attack on Islam.

Since the beginning of his presidency, Obama tried to establish a good relationship with the Muslim world.  During his visit to Cairo, Egypt, in June 2009 Obama tried to build a bridge by referring to his Muslim upbringing.  He has established himself as a good friend of the Muslim Brotherhood, and perhaps America's reluctance to interfere right now is a reflection of Obama's compliance with the Brotherhood's direction.

FSM:  This rapport with the Muslim Brotherhood has raised questions as to how close Obama is to Islam. Again and again the question comes up, whether Obama might be, or still is, a Muslim.

Just recently there was another discussion in the media raising the question of whether Obama's gold ring that he wears is a Shahada ring. The Shahada ring is one that carries the Islamic faith statement, "No God but Allah".  Pictures of the ring have been published and have traveled around the world.  You, in fact, were cited as claiming that Obama's ring is a Shahada ring. What does that mean about Obama?

MG:   Well, let me just say that I do not agree that the ring is a Shahada ring. The article you're referencing said that I examined the photographs and concluded that the first half of the Shahada is inscribed on it. The other statements it cites were based on "if the ring were a Shahada ring." Unfortunately, there was some confusion. The first pictures I saw were quite unclear and some of them had handwriting overlaying the image.  These pictures indeed made it look somewhat like a Shahada ring.  I had thought that I would both have a better look and the ability to give a final opinion before publication but the article went out before I could clarify. Now that I have seen better pictures, I do not believe it is a Shahada ring.   Nor do I know what his ring signifies, if anything.

These pictures were published in the Arabic media all over the Arab world - always in connection with the report of Obama wearing a Shahada ring. Interestingly, in not one of these articles did anyone raise a single doubt whether it really was a Shahada ring.  Perhaps this shows how much those first pictures made it look like the Arabic writing for "No God but Allah".   

FSM:   How did you feel, when you saw the first pictures that looked like a Shahada ring? Did you assume that Obama was a Muslim? And if yes - was this a surprise to you?

MG:  Actually I wasn't surprised at all. In many Muslim countries it is quite common for Muslim men to wear a Shahada ring. First, Barack Hussein Obama was raised during his childhood in a Muslim country. He also was surrounded by a Muslim stepfather from Indonesia and, for years, Obama attended a Muslim school (a so-called "madrassa").  Therefore, it wouldn't have been a big surprise to me for him to wear a Shahada ring, especially because I can see the influence of his Islamic background in his behavior and attitude.

For example: When Obama mentions the name of Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, he usually says: "Muhammad, peace be upon him". This is what any Muslim says when he uses the name of Muhammad. Another example: When Obama met the King of Saudi Arabia during the 2009 G20 London summit, he greeted him with a full bow from the waist and kissed his hand. In the Islamic world, this is the normal way to express respect and submission to an Islamic authority. This behavior shows the great impact of his Islamic upbringing and his affiliation to Islam, whether or not he is a Muslim.

On the other hand, it is very obvious that Obama cannot be what I would call "a real Muslim". Why?  One reason alone is because he condones homosexuality. According to Islam, homosexuality is a horrible crime and punishable by the death penalty. It is considered to be one of the worst sins ever.

In the eyes of the Islamic world, the United States is a place like "Sodom and Gomorrah". Therefore, the Arabic world rejoices about any news of the economic decline of America. They see this as a punishment of the United States from Allah. Also the attacks of September 11 are seen from the Islamic perspective as a punishment to the "enemies of Allah". 

FSM:  Dr. Gabriel, you used to be a Muslim yourself and you are a former scholar of Islam at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, which is known to be the world's highest authority in the Islamic world.  Does the Islamic teaching promote violence and terror attacks?

MG:  In my book "Islam and Terrorism", which was published right after September 11, I talk about "what the Quran really teaches about Christianity, violence and the goals of the Islamic Jihad". I wish it weren't true, but sadly enough, the real Islamic teaching as taught at Al-Azhar and throughout the Arab Middle East and elsewhere does promote violence and terrorism against the "enemies of Allah".

The good news, however, is that many Muslims do not feel comfortable with this belief in the "original Islam, represented by Muhammad".  They have developed a peaceful version of Islam. And I am thankful for any Muslim who is following a peaceful teaching instead of the original teaching of Muhammad.

The sad thing about the developments in Egypt is that Mubarak - who represented a moderate, peaceful Islamic belief - was replaced by a radical Muslim who is trying to implement the original, violent kind of Islam. And this is why they are much more hostile towards the West than before. 

FSM:  Do you see any way that America could decrease this hostility?

MG:  If there is any way to calm down the hostility from the Islamic world towards the United States it is by reestablishing the moral values which the Islamic world and we, as a Christian nation, share - such as family values, protection of marriage, rejecting adultery and abuse of drugs and alcohol. Sure, this cannot solve the problem fully. But at least for the majority of Muslim society, who are neither radical nor violent, this would make it much easier to accept and to respect Americans. And for those Muslims living in the United States, it would help them to integrate and to identify much easier with the American society.

Dr. Gabriel is author of the books, "Islam and Terrorism," "Jesus and Muhammad," "Islam and the Jews," "Culture Clash" and "Journey into the Mind of an Islamic Terrorist."


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