In an authoritarian Islamic leadership style there are pressures from every angle to block the door to freedom of rights, speech and religion. One must be a hero if he/she breaks the silence, speaks out and stands firmly to rescue his nation from religious and cultural intolerance and chauvinism. For this reason, the Reza Shah of Iran (the first king of Pahlavi dynasty), Ataturk of Turkey and Sisi of Egypt deserve to be called heroes, even though unable to stand for every tenet of freedom.
The amazing and distinguishing character in these leaders is their love for their countries and nations. Reza Shah’s and Ataturk’s major desire, as in Sisi, was to see their counties free from tyrannical Muslims whose aim has always been to frame the mind of their people with the seventh century nomadic culture of Muhammad and close every door of creativity to them. Islam, as a political religion, started to finance itself with looting caravan traders, the Jews of Medina and the pagans of Arabia instead of teaching its adherents to work and stand on their own feet.
Reza Shah, who reigned in Iran between 1925 and 1941, was the first Iranian Muslim King in 1400 years of Islamic history in Iran who rescued Iranian women from the slavery of their husbands, led them into education and established them in equal rights with men. He was also the first Muslim king who rejected racism and put the most ancient freedom creed of the great King Cyrus into action, showing reverence to the Jews of Iran by visiting their communities and synagogues. That’s why Ayatollah Khomeini hated him and destroyed even his mausoleum in Tehran after the Revolution of 1979. As a Muslim, Reza Shah was expected to hate and humiliate the Jews according to the instructions of the Quran, but he instead honored them as his fellow citizens and as humankind against the instructions of Islam. Indeed, the severity of Ayatollah Khomeini’s hatred towards the last king of Iran, Mohammad Reza Shah, was because of his acceptance of Israel as a country and friend.
The goal of the Middle Eastern heroes is to open the door for their nations to enter the free world, benefit from good values of others and rescue themselves from premature values. Their lives cannot be productive unless they start to believe in the autonomy of others and of their rights as much as they desire and believe for themselves. Of course, the valiant actions of such heroes have always provoked the most close-minded and vicious committed Muslims to do everything in their power and stop dynamism. That’s why so often these heroes find themselves alone in the battle and see themselves in desperate need of external help. In many cases, it becomes unlikely for them to get even the whole-hearted support of moderate Muslims who are afraid to be ranked infidels according to the Quran and thereby be humiliated. The Quran calls moderate Muslims infidels:
….: and (those who) wish to take a course midway. They are in truth (equally) Unbelievers; and We have prepared for unbelievers a humiliating punishment. (Sura Al-Nisa 4:150-151 Yusuf Ali).This is where these heroes need external support, the support of those who value freedom and want to see it as an inherent part of every individual, no matter his/her race, color, belief or nationality. Sadly, not only these heroes haven’t received any external support but they have received opposition instead. Reza Shah was disliked by the British Government of the West and the Communist Russian Government of the time, who both forced him to leave his country and die apart from his homeland.
The church-state legacy of the Ataturk of Turkey is now being axed by the present Islamic government of Turkey, a pro-Muslim Brotherhood government who gets unlimited support from President Obama. The Turkish government has become the number one government in jailing many numbers of democracy-loving generals and journalists. President Sisi of Egypt is also face to face with President Obama’s unceasing support for the Muslim Brotherhood which has been the number one sworn enemy to every Muslim reformist, including Sisi.
President Sisi deserves external help more than others. His approach to the traditional Islamic values is different to the approaches of Reza Shah and Ataturk. Both Reza Shah and Ataturk used their power in outlawing some tenets of Islam which were pushing people back. President Sisi instead wants an ideological revolution. He wants a new Islam which is free of discrimination, hatred and hostility, can respect the rights of non-Muslims and Muslims alike; a religion that honors the freedom of choice and allows people to choose whatever belief they like or reject whatever they dislike. Such a belief cannot be established in any Islamic society without the support of freedom lovers in the world.
No government in the West, as far as I am aware of, congratulated Sisi for his extraordinary courageous remarks against radicalism. Western governments ears are very sharp in listening to the terrorist governments of Iran, Palestine and the like whose goal is to radicalize Muslims and to exterminate non-Muslims. But they hardly hear or even want to hear the voices of those who are courageous and want to de-radicalize their societies.
Media in the West also could draw the attention of the Islamic world, especially the young Muslims who are under the threat of employment by ISIS, to Sisi’s golden words but sadly turned its blind eye to his comments. Most of our contemporary media channels have failed to honor the true freedom lovers. They instead honor PLO and Hamas who are the vessels of radicalism and enemies to reformists like Sisi.
Western leaders and people need to learn from President Sisi who is able to see the root of the problem in Iran and in Palestine, which is radical Islam. The world will not be a peaceful place unless its leaders stand behind heroes like Sisi who knows that openness is the key for Muslims to learn and live in peace and harmony with others.
While the majority of western leaders see the solution for the Islamic radicalism in physical war, Sisi believes more in an ideological war that can uproot fanaticism and barbarism among Muslims. He said that it is “illogical” for over a billion Muslims to dominate the world and get rid of the other six billion non-Muslims or limit their rights for living. He pleaded with Muslim clerics to think, evaluate and reform Islam based on understanding and in a way that it can tolerate logic. Only a logical approach to Islam can cause Muslims to think and save themselves from the destructive archaic creeds of 7th century Arabia that are guiding the minds of fundamentalist Muslims. Sisi’s reference to logic means that reformation should start from the root instead of pruning branches. Reza Shah and Ataturk pruned the branches of Islam only, but forgot that the effects of the root on the branches is immense and multiplies the pruned branches. They were very brave and even exposed their own lives to the attacks of radical Muslims, but forgot to think deeply that any positive change ought to start from the root. They needed to encourage their people to open their minds and hearts to the best values in the world, no matter from who or where, even if they contradicted their own beliefs. In other words, people needed to broaden their ways of thinking in order to understand that the fundamental problem in their societies was the close-mindedness of Islam and the lack of freedom. That’s why both Iran and Turkey fell later into the hands of committed Muslims despite Reza Shah’s and Ataturk’s great investments in the pursuit of their agendas for freedom. They pruned some branches of Islam only, instead of reforming Islam. With pruning the branches of radicalism the fruits of radicalism will even become more than before. We all know that the death of Osama bin Laden, who was just a branch of Islam’s radicalism, did not result in the disappearance of radicalism. Instead, many shoots of radicalism popped up from his death and made the world even more insecure.
It is an obligation for all freedom lovers to stand behind heroes like Sisi who has put his life at risk and has pleaded with Muslim scholars to reform Islam for the sake of peace and harmony in the world. Sisi is not a hero of freedom, but he is a hero in raising his voice boldly for freedom in a society that is instructed by Islam to cut the finger tips and head of anyone who aims to reform Islam. Let us award Sisi with raising our voices in favor of his remarks so that many Muslims in the world follow his foot-steps and offer even more than Sisi to their societies against radicalism.