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Opinion

July 21, 2013

Column: Young Muslims put forth messages of hope

(Continued)

Yousafzai concluded her remarks with a call for “a glorious struggle against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism,” not quite the struggle - “jihad” would be the Arabic word -- the Taliban has in mind.

Nor should we expect Yousafzai to be praised by Sheikh Yousuf Al-Qaradawi, the Muslim Brotherhood preacher featured on Al Jazeera, the TV station owned by Qatar’s rulers.

Qaradawi has called for the killing of Americans in Iraq. He promotes suicide bombings against Israelis. Most recently, he issued a fatwa declaring the Egyptian military’s removal of President Mohammed Morsi a violation of sharia, Islamic law.

Here’s where it gets interesting: The sheikh’s 42-year-old-son, Abd Al-Rahman Al-Qaradawi, published a response in an Egyptian newspaper titled, “Sorry, Father, Morsi Has No Legitimacy.”

Calling himself a “revolutionary” who went to Tahrir Square in 2011 to oppose the dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak, and then again last month to oppose the authoritarianism of Morsi, he wrote: “I did not engage in demanding to implement the shari’a, and I did not think I had the right to impose the shari’a on anyone. Moreover, I engaged in encouraging the people to be free men, since freedom and shari’a are equal in my eyes ... It is time for this nation to complete the difficult (mission) and separate religion and state, so that we know when the ones who are speaking are clerics or statesmen!”

Don’t misunderstand: I am neither inferring nor implying that young Qaradawi is a Jeffersonian democrat. I am suggesting that a less predictable, more provocative and perhaps even productive debate may be beginning to take shape in the Middle East.

Which brings me to a video that has gone viral -- an interview with Ali Ahmed, a 12-year-old Egyptian first-grader, who explains succinctly why millions of his countrymen have refused to do as the Muslim Brotherhood commands. “We didn’t get rid of a military regime to replace it with a fascist theocracy,” he says. The puzzled interviewer asks him to define that term. He does so without skipping a beat: “A fascist theocracy is when you manipulate the religion and enforce extremist regulations in the name of religion -- even though the religion doesn’t command that.” He adds that women “are half of the society. How come there are only seven ladies in the Constituent Assembly, six of whom are Islamists?”

Wouldn’t you like to hear this young man also speaking at the U.N.? Wouldn’t you like to hire him as a State Department spokesman?

Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on national security. Email him at cliff@defenddemocracy.org.

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