The same proto-revolutionary activities in Egypt that terrify Israelis are giving some observers hope that a necessary encounter of Muslims with reform will be benefited from regime change in Cairo. It seems that efforts of voices of reform in Islamic circles in Egypt have gained courage in recent days and are proposing departures from the stern religious line laid down by the Mubarak establishment.
A clearer picture emerges of the religious policy followed by Mr. Mubarak and his ally, the Grand Imam of Al Azhar University. It has been to allow modest freedom, but restrain simultaneously 1) political action by Christians; 2) reform advocacy by Muslim clerics; 3) growth of the radical Muslim Brotherhood. President Mubarak and his ally, the Grand Imam, wanted all of these players kept in check. Mubarak probably reasoned that support for greater freedom for Christians or for Islamic reformers would give ammunition to the puritanical Muslim Brotherhood.
However, in recent days, notice has been taken at the Vatican of a group of Muslim scholars in Egypt who, with the demonstrations offering an opening of free speech, are calling for essential religious reforms.
At Chiesa:expressiononline Sandro Magister writes from Rome, "On January 24, on the website of the Egyptian magazine 'Yawm al-Sâbi' (The Seventh Day), a text appeared entitled "Document for the renewal of religious discourse." By that night, the text had already been posted on more than 12,000 other Arab websites."
Thanks to a Jesuit of Egyptian background, Fr. Samir Khalil Samir, Sandro Magister is able to report the contents of the Arabic document. It is an impressive list of proposals. In summary, they include:
"DOCUMENT FOR THE RENEWAL OF RELIGIOUS DISCOURSE
Cairo, January 24, 2011
1. Reexamine the collections of the Hadith [the sayings traditionally attributed to Muhammad] and the commentaries of the Qur'an, to purify them.
2. Subject to analysis the political-religious vocabulary of Islam, for example the gizah [the special tax required from the dhimmi, the non-Muslim minorities subjected to limitations].
3. Find a new practice of the concept of interaction between the sexes.
4. Clarify the Islamic view on women and find convenient forms for marriage rights.
5. Islam is a religion of creativity.
6. Explain the Islamic concept of jihâd [inner and outer holy war], and specify norms and obligations that regulate it.
7. Stop the invasion of external religiosity and the extraneous practices that come to us from nearby countries.
8. Separate religion from the state.
9. Purify the heritage of the first centuries of Islam (Salafism), eliminating the myths and aggressions against religion.
10. Give adequate preparation to the missionary preachers, and in this field, open the doors to those who have not studied at the university of Al Azhar, according to very clear criteria.
11. Formulate the virtues common to the three revealed religions.
12. Give guidelines on Western customs, and eliminate incorrect behaviors.
13. Clarify the relationship that must exist among members of the different religions through schools, mosques, and churches.
14. Modify the presentation of the biography of the Prophet in a way adapted for the West.
15. Not keep people away from economic systems with the interdiction of dealing with banks.
16. Recognize the right of women to become president of the republic.
17. Combat sectarian claims, [emphasizing] that the flag of Islam [must be] one.
18. Invite the people to go to God through gratitude and wisdom, and not with threats.
19. Make the teaching of al-Azhar evolve.
20. Recognize the right of Christians to occupy important positions [including] the presidency of the republic.
21. Separate religious discourse from power, and reestablish its connection with the needs of society.
22. Improve the connection between the da'wah [the call to conversion to Islam] and modern technology, the satellite channels and the market for Islamic recordings."
Writes the Catholic writer, Magister, "These 22 points are followed by an equal number of paragraphs of commentary which, in Fr. Samir's judgment, give a glimpse of a real and proper revolution with respect to the traditionalist and puritanical ways of living Islam recently introduced into Egypt, above all by Saudi Arabia."