Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has urged reform of Islamic discourse and called on Islamic scholars to send Christmas greetings to Christians.
In a speech marking Mulid El-Nabi, the anniversary of Prophet Muhammad’s birth, President Sisi said that everyone should have the freedom to choose what religion and belief to follow without fear. President Sisi said that Islam calls for peaceful unity between different religions and beliefs and condemns violence.
“We talk a lot about the importance of reforming religious discourse,” said President Sisi in a televised speech to Islamic scholars.
“In our schools, institutes and universities, do we teach and practice respect for the other?” asked Sisi.
“We neither teach [respect for the other] or practice it,” declared the President in a grave tone.
“God did not create the world for the ‘ummah’ [Arabic for ‘nation’ or ‘community’] to be alone. [He didn’t create it] for one community, but for communities. [He didn’t create it] for one religion, but for religions,” added President Sisi.
President Sisi, who in January 2015 called for reform in Islamic discourse, added that freedom of religion is paramount.
“Can I impose upon someone pressure, physically or morally, to change their religion? Would God accept this?” said President Sisi.
“What are we afraid of? Are we custodians of people’s minds or choices? No we are not. In religion specifically, no. Each of us will be judged independently…and [people] will have to answer [for their choices and what they choose to believe].”
President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi added that extremists are behind the destruction and deterioration of Islam.
Merry Christmas from Muslims
Addressing Christmas, which is marked by Coptic Christians on January 7, President Sisi said he does not allow anyone to tell him Christians should be treated differently.
“No one should define someone by their appearance or religion. We are all Egyptians,” asserted President Sisi before sending his Christmas greetings.
“Are you going to be afraid….that which divides us, brings us down. We are one and we will remain one,” added President Sisi.
The president also stressed that participating in festivities and celebrations of Christians is part of Islam.
“If you do not understand this, then this is a catastrophe,” said President Sisi. “If you do not think that [sending Christmas greetings] is part of your religion, then this is a big problem.”
In a separate statement, President Sisi sent his personal Christmas greetings to Coptic Christians celebrating the anniversary on January 7 and others across the world celebrating on December 25.
“Let us together evoke the memory of Jesus Christ’s birth and the life of Virgin Mary, as they come to remind everyone once more of the values of love, mercy and forgiveness that should prevail the world,” said President Sisi in a statement.
“Such memory reminds peoples of the world to come together within the frame of constructive cooperation and hard work for the sake of the welfare and development of humanity, in addition to the reinforcement of efforts seeking to make the world more peaceful, safe and stable, a place fitting for everyone, and standing as a live example for the values of coexistence of all religions, races and doctrines.”