File - Sisi is relying on state religious institutions like Al-Azhar to rethink basic tenets and make them more appealing to the young.
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Egypt's president opened the new year with a dramatic call for a "revolution" in Islam to reform interpretations of the faith entrenched for hundreds of years, which he said have made the Muslim world a source of "destruction" and pitted it against the rest of the world.The speech was Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi's boldest effort yet to position himself as a modernizer of Islam. Sisi is clearly seeking to impose change through the state, using government religious institutions like the 1,000-year-old Al-Azhar, one of the most eminent centers of Sunni Muslim thought and teaching.Radicals – and Sisi's Islamist political opponents who have wide religious followings – angrily denounced the Egyptian leader, saying he was trying to corrupt the religion. Even secularists, who would normally promote a more modern interpretation of Islam, frowned at Sisi's statist approach to such a complicated issue. Affifi told AP that Sisi didn't mean changing texts – something even Sisi quickly made clear in his speech.That raises a key problem with the "religion revolution" – state control over religious reform could just stifle it.
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