Can President Sisi Initiate an Islamic Enlightenment?

The Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, caused a stir last year by publicly denouncing radical Islam and calling for religious reform. As important as his words may be, writes Samuel Tadros, they will amount to little unless they are followed by changes in policy—and such changes should begin with the schools:

Egypt’s current educational system is an incubator for extremism and radicalization. This radicalization includes increasing intolerance toward non-Muslims and hostility toward the outside world. . . . Values of equality, peace, respect for other opinions, and citizenship must [therefore] be stressed throughout the curriculum. The curriculum should stress that diversity is not only natural but also plays a positive role in a nation’s progress.

The subject of history is an area that needs the most immediate attention. The texts taught in Egyptian schools need to introduce world history—the history of ideas and world religions and cultures. As things stand, students graduate with no knowledge of important world-historical events, with the outside world and its cultures . . . an enigma to them. No information is given on any impact the world, its cultures, and [its] civilizations have had on Egypt beyond colonialism. The void is filled by Islamists, who stuff impressionable minds with falsehoods and conspiracy theories.

Even in studying their own history, students are unaware of the contributions Christians, Jews, and women have made to Egyptian society, making them unable to properly understand the richness of their own heritage. As it now stands, Jews are completely whitewashed from the history curriculum, despite a large Egyptian Jewish community having thrived there in the not-so-distant past.

Read more at American Interest

More about: Education, Egypt, Moderate Islam, Radical Islam, Religion & Holidays

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