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Moderates vs Radicals: Islam at a Crossroads

01-12-2015
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JERUSALEM, Israel -- Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi told an audience at the prestigious World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that Islam needs a reboot and that Egypt and nations like France face the same enemy: Islamic terrorism.

El-Sisi continued his campaign to change the image of Islam. He said Muslims must seek change from within and remove the things that lead to violence and extremism.

Several weeks earlier, el-Sisi addressed Islam's most influential university and called for a revolution in Islam.

"It has reached the point that [this ideology] is hostile to the entire world," the Egyptian president said. "Is it conceivable that 1.6 billion [Muslims] would kill the world's population of 7 billion, so that they could live [on their own]? This is inconceivable. Let me say it again: We need to revolutionize our religion."

Sisi's speech highlighted an important debate going on inside Islam between those who want a more moderate Islam and groups like the Islamic State. The debate accelerated when ISIS began its brutal campaign.

"According to the Koran and the Hadith, [this] is exactly what ISIS is doing, like in the time of Mohammad the prophet," former Israeli Ambassador to Egypt Zvi Mazel told CBN News.

Mazel said Sisi's speech to some of the foremost scholars in the Muslim world was unprecedented.

"But here you have a president, and the president of Egypt -- the most important country in the Arab world -- and he's telling them in their faces, 'Listen guys you have to change,'" Mazel explained.

And Sisi is not alone.

"It's not just him [Sisi]," Middle East expert Joel Rosenberg told CBN News. "The king of Jordan, King Abdullah II, has taken just the exact same approach over several years now, working with moderate Muslim leaders and build[ing] a consensus not just in Jordan but throughout the Muslim world -- that radical Islam is not the Islam that most Muslims want to practice."

It's unclear if the actions of these men will make any difference without help.

"It's a battle right now for the soul of Islam and the West needs to be encouraging, supporting, assisting any leader in the Muslim world who takes a pro-active, moderate position," Rosenberg said.

Without that support, Islam could split in two directions: one that spreads terror, as it did in Paris last week, and another that tries to make peace with itself and the world.

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