What Muslims Can Learn from Moses Mendelssohn

While some have argued that Islam needs a Martin Luther-like figure to reform the religion, the Muslim theologian Mustafa Akyol argues that his coreligionists could gain more from someone like Moses Mendelssohn (1729-1786), the German Jewish philosopher who was among the founders of the Haskalah, or Jewish Enlightenment. Akyol writes:

[There are numerous] similarities between [Mendelssohn’s] arguments and the arguments of contemporary Muslim reformists. Mendelssohn offered a new interpretation of Judaism where Jews could be true to their faith while being full members of Gentile society. He argued against religious coercion among Jews, with the argument that only under freedom can genuine religiosity flourish. These are the exact same issues that Muslim liberals are dealing with today.

It is notable that Mendelssohn was criticized in his time both by more conservative Jews, who found him too liberal, and by Gentile skeptics, who found him too Jewish. One of the latter, a Christian writer named August Friedrich Cranz, judged Mendelssohn’s reformism a hopeless effort. For Cranz, Judaism was a religion of “armed ecclesiastical law,” and Jews would never be able to accept freedom of religion unless they “directly contradict” the faith of their forefathers. He sounds like [those] today who . . . think there can be no real Muslim liberals except the ones who really cease to be Muslims.

Read more at Forward

More about: Haskalah, History & Ideas, Islam, Judaism, Moderate Islam, Moses Mendelssohn

Why Egypt Fears an Israeli Victory in Gaza

While the current Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has never been friendly to Hamas, his government has objected strenuously to the Israeli campaign in the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip. Haisam Hassanein explains why:

Cairo has long been playing a double game, holding Hamas terrorists near while simultaneously trying to appear helpful to the United States and Israel. Israel taking control of Rafah threatens Egypt’s ability to exploit the chaos in Gaza, both to generate profits for regime insiders and so Cairo can pose as an indispensable mediator and preserve access to U.S. money and arms.

Egyptian security officials have looked the other way while Hamas and other Palestinian militants dug tunnels on the Egyptian-Gaza border. That gave Cairo the ability to use the situation in Gaza as a tool for regional influence and to ensure Egypt’s role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would not be eclipsed by regional competitors such as Qatar and Turkey.

Some elements close to the Sisi regime have benefited from Hamas control over Gaza and the Rafah crossing. Media reports indicate an Egyptian company run by one of Sisi’s close allies is making hundreds of millions of dollars by taxing Gazans fleeing the current conflict.

Moreover, writes Judith Miller, the Gaza war has been a godsend to the entire Egyptian economy, which was in dire straits last fall. Since October 7, the International Monetary Fund has given the country a much-needed injection of cash, since the U.S. and other Western countries believe it is a necessary intermediary and stabilizing force. Cairo therefore sees the continuation of the war, rather than an Israeli victory, as most desirable. Hassanein concludes:

Adding to its financial incentive, the Sisi regime views the Rafah crossing as a crucial card in preserving Cairo’s regional standing. Holding it increases Egypt’s relevance to countries that want to send aid to the Palestinians and ensures Washington stays quiet about Egypt’s gross human-rights violations so it can maintain a stable flow of U.S. assistance and weaponry. . . . No serious effort to turn the page on Hamas will yield the desired results without cutting this umbilical cord between the Sisi regime and Hamas.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: Egypt, Gaza War 2023, U.S. Foreign policy