The Center for the Study of Contemporary Civilications at Ain Shams University in Cairo invited Dr. Reuven Firestone, Professor of Medieval Studies at HUC-JIR/LA, to present a lecture on "Jewish as a Chosen People: the Idea of 'Election' or 'Choosiness' in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam" on July 4, 2007. The event, which was free and open to the public, elicited extensive press coverage.
Dr. Firestone reports, "The first few articles, which were front page headlines in three national dailies, were distortions of the lecture and were amazing pieces of journalistic screed. The article in "Karama" was written by an attendee at the lecture who was scandalized by the reporting and came to my hotel to interview me and write a rebutal. The last piece was written in "October" magazine by a person who was not present. It is clear that the issue had nothing really to do with me, but had everything to do with internal arguments and issues that are of major importance in Egyptian society and actually represent the tip of a much larger iceberg of issues related to freedom of discourse, critique, relations between 'east and west,' and other related issues. Dr. Muhammad Al-Hawari was the person who invited me to lecture and who supported me throughout. I learned a lot from this experience and am still processing."
Tranlsations of the press coverage of Dr. Firestone's lecture appear below:
Al-Masri Al-Yom, July 6, 2007
Headline: JEWISH RABBI ATTACKS ISLAM AT A PRESENTATION AT AIN SHAMS UNIVERSITY
Sub-headline: THE RABBI: THE JEWS ARE THE CHOSEN PEOPLE OF GOD...AND THE STATEMENT [FROM THE QUR'AN], "THE MUSLIMS ARE THE BEST NATION..." IS NOT CLEAR.
By Abu Mas`ud Muhammad. Ain Shams University invited a Jewish rabbi to give a lecture on Jewish concepts at a presentation organized by the College of Liberal Arts yesterday, under the title, "The Chosen People...The Idea of Chosenness in Judaism, Christianity and Islam."
The Jewish rabbi, Reuven Firestone, who works as a professor of Jewish and Islamic history of the Middle Ages at the post-graduate institute of Jewish studies, Hebrew Union College in California in the United States of America, came to Cairo to participate in the presentation based on the invitation of Dr. Muhammad Al-Hawari, the director of the Center for the Study of Contemporary Civilizations of Ain Shams University, who introduced him because he is both a Jewish rabbi and an academic professor.
In the course of his lecture, Firestone discussed a number of Jewish concepts that promote the origin of "The chosen people of God" among the Jews, critiquing at the same time the idea of chosenness in Islam, and attacked the [Qur'an] verse that "the Islamic people is the best people brought forth to humanity," describing it as a characteristic that is unclear.
The Jewish rabbi related chosenness in Judaism with the issue of the intended sacrifice [of Abraham] being Isaac and not Ishmael, suggesting that the issue of sacrifice appears as an extremely important doctrine to Judaism, quite opposite to what appears according to Muslims.
The opinions of the rabbi provoked anger among the audience, which caused them to raise a number of criticisms directed toward him. Dr. Khaled Fahmi, Professor of Linguistics at the Faculty of Arts at Menoufia University, said that he attended the seminar because the speaker was American and not because he was a rabbi. He also pointed out that the professor confirmed Jewish racism and acknowledged the idea of chosenness on the basis of race.
Dr. Gala' Idris, Professor of Arab Studies at the Faculty of Arts at Tanta University, said that the rabbi's presence was not a problem for him, as dialogue must be held with those who want to have it, no matter where. However, while must assume the university's good intention when it invited the academic rabbi, the latter had only come to publicize his goods in a stagnant market, but was [rightfully] opposed by Egypt's children and scholars
Not even one month has passed since the appearance of two Israeli [Govt.] ministers to Egypt for a conference, "Euro-Mediterrania for Scientific Research," when the professors attending the session were surprised with [the lecture], "the Chosen People: The Idea of Chosenness in Judaism, Christianity and Islam..."
[Virtual repetition of all of the above in the section as it is continued on p.5, with the extension of the citation of the comments by Dr. Fahmi and Dr. Idris. Dr. Fahmi is cited as continuing]
[Dr. Fahmi] explained that the choice of Isaac being the intended sacrifice [of Abraham] was a foundational condition for the priority of the Jewish people. It is the justification for the application of that priority to Jewish settlement in Palestine, and it especially shows that Isaac was born in the Holy Land and that Hagar originated in Sinai.
He also demonstrated the racism of the lecturer in his preference of racial ideology in Jewish texts and his critique [of racial preference] in the Qur'an. He explained that [the qur'anic citation] is a general and not a specific characteristic.
[Repetition of the introductory comment by Dr. Idris, which then continues]
Idris explained that the rabbi spoke about the issue of chosenness in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and that although Christianity does not recognize the issue of chosenness, it appears in Judaism and Islam. The lecturer exaggerated chosenness as it appears in sacred Jewish texts, considering them exaggerated proofs that go against what is [actually said] in those texts.
He explained that when he spoke about chosenness in Islam and cited the verse appearing in the chapter, "Family of Imran," " You are the best people brought forth to humanity, commanding the good and forbidding evil and believing in God..." he claimed that the sense of chosenness in Islam is not clear or understood. The lecturer treated issues with no relation to the topic of the lecture, and linked human sacrifice that prevailed in the pre-Islamic period and in ancient civilizations with chosenness, which led to mixing up the topic and causing confusion among the attendees.
Idris explained that the nature of chosenness in the idea of Islam and Judaism is divided into chosenness of the individual such as prophets and messengers, and chosenness of the name or people.
In what is found in Jewish texts, we find the act of choosing did not begin with the choosing of Abraham, as the lecturer claimed, but rather the appearance of the human race for doing the pure and the right from the time of Noah, when Canaan and his offspring were removed from the children of Noah, then the removal of Ishmael, and chosenness was allotted to Isaac. Then Esau was removed and chosenness was applied to Jacob, so at the end the act of choosing was purified and not subjected to the standards of ideology or ethics, but rather the single criterion is race or ethnicity. Thus it is impossible for any person to embrace Judaism unless he is an Israelite to enter into the chosen people, whereas on the other hand, the act of choosing according to verse 110 of chapter "Family of Imran," it is limited on the basis of doctrine and behavior. Therefore, the door of belonging to the chosen people in Islam is open to everyone, but it is established according to racism in Judaism.
Rooz al-Yusuf Article. July 6, 2007
Headline: JEWISH RABBI AT AIN SHAMS UNIVERSITY QUESTIONS THE STORY OF THE SACRIFICE OF ISHMAEL AND ACCUSES CHRISTIANITY OF OPPRESSING THE JEWS
Subheadline: Sneeking into the lecture through an American professor's consideration
By Muhammad Al-Sharqawi
The attendees of a presentation by the Center for the Study of Contemporary Civilizations at Ain Shams University were surprised Wednesday afternoon by an American university professor who was invited to deliver a lecture on chosenness in the religion of Judaism, when they learned he was a Jewish rabbi.
The biggest disaster of the Jewish rabbi, Reuven Firestone, who comes from the University of California, was when he made the provocative claim that the famous story of the intended sacrifice in the history of Islam was not Ishmael but was really Isaac!! And he arrived at the strange conclusion that the Zionists have a right to the holy lands.
The Jewish rabbi, whose presence did not respect the attendees of the session from the beginning of his entry into the walls of Ain Shams University, did not hold back [only] with that, but attacked the idea of chosenness in the Qur'an, saying that it is not "clear," and tried to prove that from verse 110 of the Sura, Family of Imran: "You are the best nation brought forth for humanity..." And the Jewish rabbi limped on to provoke Christianity also by the statement that they oppressed the Jews during the Roman age!!
Al-Masri Al-Yom, July 8, 2007
Headline: DIRECTOR OF THE CENTER FOR CIVILIZATIONS: FIRESTONE IS NOT A RABBI. THE QUESTION OF THE INTENDED SACRIFICE IS DISPUTED BETWEEN ISHMAEL & ISAAC
Subhead: Professor at Faculty of Arts at Menoufia [College]: The Speaker was Biased in Favor of Judaism and not Neutral. He Ended His Presentation [announcing that] He is a Rabbi. Al-Hawari: "I am Sending the Text of the Rabbi's Lecture to Al-Masri Al-Yom. Its Translation will Disclose [if there is] any Offense against Islam."
By Abu al-Sa`uud Muhammad
Dr. Muhammad Al-Hawari, director of the Center for the Study of Contemporary Civilizations at Ain Shams University, sent a reply to the article, "Jewish Rabbi Attacks Islam at Ain Shams University." He said that the lecturer, Reuven Firestone, who gave a seminar, "The Chosen People: The Notion of Chosenness in Judaism, Christianity and Islam" is not a rabbi nor a religious leader. Rather, his primary work is as academic professor, studying religious studies. He has received a religious ordination as "rabbi" just as some graduates of Al-Azhar University have a [religious] diploma from Al-Azhar and work in some other field such as a religious judge or professor of Islamic history.
He added that the visitor has a number of publications in the field of Islamic history and Jewish history and cultural discourse. He pointed out that the subject of the lecture he gave was the notion of chosenness among the three religions - Judaism, Christianity and Islam - and that it is a notion that is studied by researchers, students and professors. He explained that the lecture given by the lecturer is the result of trustworthy scientific research supported by the texts of the Old and New Testament, the Talmud and the Qur'an. Al-Hawari added that the lecturer, Reuven Firestone was asked the question whether the intended sacrifice [of Abraham] was Isaac or Ishmael. This is an issue with many different opinions. Just as we do not expect a non-Muslim to come and witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of God unless he intends to become Muslim, so we should not expect a Jew to proclaim that Ishmael is the intended sacrifice rather than Isaac. So why do we assume that the lecturer, whatever his religion, should believe that Ishmael is the intended sacrifice? On the other hand, some of those present, such as Dr. Khalid Fahmi, professor of linguistics at Manoufiya College, are certain that a recording of the lecture is available and will ascertain that Dr. Al-Hawari and the translator Dr. Gamal Rifa'i both said that the lecturer Reuven Firestone is a rabbi.
Fahmi said in his comment regarding the lecturer, mentioned that he opened by stating that he would be neutral, but he revealed his bias toward the Jews and described them as special, to which the lecturer responded by saying, "I cannot abandon my culture, language and creed." Fahmi pointed out the meaning of the word, "rabbi" in Judaism, noting that it means Jewish religious scholar at the level of hakham, though he does not work in a synagogue. Whereas the term hakham applies only to one who works in a synagogue, the term "rabbi" applies to all those working in a theological position outside of a Jewish place of worship.
He said that he did not intend to say that the lecturer is a "good" person or not, but only that these are the words that he used in the lecture.
Fahmi asked Dr. Al-Hawari to respond to some points, including: why did he critique the notion of chosenness in Islam but did not direct the critique to Judaism despite the fact that he presented the notions in all three religions? He appeared as if he was directing the critique to holy text.
He said regarding the lecturer that he is vague and not clear in his teaching, and that he [engaged in] a public attack on the Qur'an. And he made it clear that the danger of this is that the lecturer stated firmly that the current Jewish [view of the] notion [of chosenness] is based on the intended sacrifice being Isaac, that he did not inquire into the notion of chosenness and election among Jews, and that [the Jewish notion of chosenness] is based on Isaac having been the son for sacrifice in the land of Palestine according to their dogma and that this is the legal justification for the [Zionist] rape of the land of Palestine.
And the last issue is his concentration on the Arab Muslim people from the descendants of the matriarch, Hagar. What follows from his interpretation is that the [Arab] people has deteriorated from its [exceptional] roots and is [therefore] deserving of enslavement. He referred to the copy of Firestone's lecture that Dr.
Al-Hawari sent to Al-Masri Al-Yom, certified in one of its parts that was translated, that the lecturer attacked Islam through his words regarding verse 110 of the Sura, The Family of Imram: "You are the best people brought forth for humanity, commanding the good and forbidding evil, believing in God and the Last Day," about which he said that the notion of chosenness and election is vague and unclear from the verse.
Al-Karama 9 July 2007
Title: "Al-Karama interviews the American rabbi accused of doing harm to Muslims."
REUVEN FIRESTONE: NOT AN ISRAELI...AND DEFENDS ISLAM By Muhammad Abud.
Photo with caption: "I know that the Egyptians distinguish between the Jewish religion and the Zionist movement."
Second photo caption: "My study of Islam proves that it is a positive religion for which there is no space for doubt [about it being positive]." Second caption: "It makes no difference to me whether the intended sacrifice was Isaac or Ishmael."
Professor Reuven Firestone appears worried and saddened. He had come to Cairo with the expectation of a broad welcome based on the background of his efforts to defend Islam in the West, and his attempt to elucidate a moderate Islam in universities and the American media after September 11. But he was surprised with a violent attack launched upon him by three morning newspapers. The headline was basically the same and repetitive: "A Jewish Rabbi Attacks Islam in a Seminar at Ain Shams University," while the content of the newspaper reports did not find one single word from the speech of Firestone that was in the category of attack on Islam. The words [of the articles] were all organized around his view about the idea of "the intended sacrifice", where it was Ishmael or Isaac! And his interpretation as a Western researcher about the concept of chosenness in Islam based on his reading of the [Qur'anic] verse, "You are the best community brought forth to humanity."
His wife also appeared puzzled and somewhat frightened from the response, and did not understand how the terrible accusation regarding Islam could be attributed to her husband when he did not make any such presentation, while the newspapers who followed the presentation did not produce even one negative expression of reference to such. In a dwelling in one of the neighborhoods of Cairo, I began without delay and asked, "do you carry Israeli nationality?" He answered, "I'm not Israeli, and I have never carried Israeli nationality, and I know that the Egyptians distinguish very well between Judaism as a religion and the consideration of the notion of Zionism." Thus appeared an encouraging beginning to rounding out the discussion with Professor Reuven Firestone.
- How to you interpret the vicious attack against you in the newspapers in Cairo?
First and foremost, I am deeply saddened because I never intended to attack Islam or any religion, including Christianity or Judaism. The truth is that I did not say that. Rather, I believe that God is majestic, too great than [something that] human flesh and blood may be able understand and make sense of His intentions. I personally, as a researcher in Islamic religion and its study, confirm that Islam is a positive religion. What I have studied of Islam confirms this without any doubt.
- Your position on Islam is positive, but your lecture caused great controversy!!
I do not know the secret behind this. There are two possibilities. The journalists present may not have understood me, and if that occurred, I bear some of the responsibility because I therefore did not express myself well. The other possibility is that it was a purposeful intention to make my words appear badly, but I do not believe that that is true.
- Was the topic so suspicious that it should cause such an exaggerated negative response?
I spoke about the concept of God's chosen people and the revelation of this idea in the three monotheistic religions. I specified from the beginning that this concept had appeared in the ancient world and that the followers of all the ancient Near Eastern religions considered themselves the chosen people to their own god and their religion a chosen religion. There was no difference at that time between religion and ethnicity. For that reason, every people felt that their god had chosen it and that there was a special relationship between the people and its god. That is, the notion of chosenness was not the monopoly of Judaism, which took on the idea and incorporated it within itself. [The notion] appeared also in Christianity and in Islam in various forms. Christianity developed the idea into one of a chosen religion that came to take the place of Judaism. Islam in its turn did not accept the idea of chosenness as a necessity. Islam saw that the Jews defined themselves as a chosen people of God. When the Qur'an regards Muslims as belonging to a chosen religion, I assert that the notion of "Umma" in Islam includes other elements beside Muslims, and I am not speaking here from a religious perspective but rather from a historical perspective.
- What do you mean that the verse, "You are the best umma brought forth for humanity" is not clear?
I did not ever say that at any point in the lecture. I said clearly that what is written in the Qur'an is: This umma is the best umma when it commands the good and forbids the wrong, and I agree with it completely. I see in this that every umma can be "the best umma brought forth to humanity" if it is devoted to doing the good and preventing evil.
- How do you understand the repeated claim that you are a Jewish rabbi who is attacking Islam?
I am a university professor. It is true that I studied Jewish religious law at Hebrew Union College (Jewish Institute of Religion) for five years and received ordination, yet I continued to study and received a doctorate in Arabic language and Islamic studies. The direction of my study is therefore comparative religion. I consider myself professionally a university professor and academic researcher. And I expend great efforts to communicate the meaning of Islam in the West. In fact I wrote a book, Introduction to Islam for Jews because I believe that the Jews and the West in general are hostile to Islam. And I believe that hostility to Islam is growing in the West. That is due to historical roots that begin with the triumph of the Muslims over the [Byzantine] Roman Empire.
- Do you consider a book explaining Islam an effort to defend it?
The truth is that I did not stop with that. After September 11, on the basis of the book, I came to be considered in America one of those defending the image of Islam. I also established weekly discussion groups in the US from the east to the west in which I explain Islamic concepts. It is often felt in the West that when a Muslim stands before you he can say whatever he wants, but it is not certain whether anything of what he says is true. Therefore, when the image of Islam is presented by a person who is not Muslim, and especially a Jew, it appears more credible, just as a Muslim writer would defending Judaism. So too, I am working with a group of Jewish and Muslim intellectuals in California to build a foundation for dialogue between Judaism and Islam, which comes under the supervision of the University of Southern California, the Hebrew Union College and the Omar Ibn Al-Khattab Foundation of America. And I have been participating for five years on a project to resolve a conflict between Albanian Muslims and Slavic Orthodox Christians in Macedonia.
- You have also written a book on the topic of Jihad. Tell us the general reaction to that in America.
I wrote that book before September 11, and it is a study of comparative religion between Judaism and Islam. I intended to look into the concept of jihad in Islam and whether it is similar to the notion of wars in the Hebrew Bible or perhaps closer to the notions of war in pre-Islamic Arabia. I arrived at the conclusion that the motivations [for the notion] in Islam and Judaism are similar, so while the two religions call for fighting the enemies of the religion, the definition of the enemy varies.
- Do you insist that Isaac was the intended sacrifice and not Ishmael? Would you discuss this?
This is a point of difference between Judaism and Islam, whether the intended sacrifice was Ishmael or Isaac. I personally engaged in research around this point. I concentrated on Islamic books of commentary [on the Qur'an]. In the course of my work, I learned that 131 commentators said that the son of Abraham brought for sacrifice was Isaac, and 133 said that Ishmael was the intended sacrifice. Statistically, the difference is insignificant, but there are nevertheless problems in the traditions. Sometimes Ibn Abbas is cited as having said that the son Abraham went to sacrifice was Isaac, and other times he is attributed as having said that it was Ishmael.
- Do you believe that it was Isaac?
The truth is that the whole issue makes no difference to me.
October Magazine #1603.
The Imaginary Rabbi..And the Doubtful Investigation By Isma'il Muntasir
"This is a recording. The number that you have dialed is not correct. Please check the number and dial again." We always hear statement when we dial an incorrect number. So we double check the number and try again. Why don't we do this when we make bigger and more dangerous mistakes?
I am referring to the ugly mistake that the press made, and that members of the Peoples Assembly got involved in last week. Some newspapers, among them Al-Masri al-Yawm and Al-Ahrar, published a story about a rabbi attacking Islam and the Holy Qur'an in a seminar hosted by Ain Shams University. At the same time more than twenty members of the Peoples Assembly introduced a call for an investigation of the case demanding the dismissal of Dr. Hani Hilal, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research and firing of Dr. Ahmad Zaki Badr, the president of Ain Shams University and an immediate investigation.
The subject is dangerous and it is possible that it could result in the incitement of fury in the street, igniting fires that would not be easy to extinguish, especially in light of the crisis of the offensive Danish caricatures of the Prophet and afterwards, the declaration of Pope Benedict for which he did not apologize, and which are still in peoples minds. But the entire story [about what happened at Ain Shams University] is erroneous, lacks all accuracy, and is simply untrue. Nevertheless, not one of those who stimulated all the noise thought to check for accuracy. No one thought to double check the number and try again!
Listen and read [what was written in the newspapers] and you will find your nerves reaching the boiling point!
Is there a greater danger than this? Who would wish to wait after these hot words and inflammatory headlines? Who would be able to conceal his anger after this and suppress his rage and shout at the top of his voice: "Wake up to the Islamic emergency! Wake up and defend the Holy Qur'an?!"
Would we be surprised after this if those demonstrators demanded the head of the Minister of Higher Education and the president of Ain Shams University and the entire government that allowed the Jewish rabbi to perpetrate this ugly crime?!
Would we be surprised if the fires of rage were ignited in the souls of Muslims so that they revolt and destroy Ain Shams University on the heads of its professors?! [Now] there is an investigation presented by more than twenty representatives of Parliament with their demand to dismiss the Minister of Higher Education and fire the president of the university. Does this mean that these parliamentarians control the facts that would judge the minister and the university president?
But all of this is untrue and incorrect. It has only one aim: provocation and incitement, despite the expression of good intentions!
The rabbi is not a rabbi, but rather a university professor! His name is Reuven Firestone, an American Jew who works as a professor of Islamic and Jewish history at the University of Southern California, and also teaches at the [Jewish] Institute for the Study of Religion [Hebrew Union College].
And the president of Ain Shams University is not the president! Until now D. Ahmad Zaki Badr works in the position of vice-president of the university. The president is Dr. Ali Al-Abid, who remains in this position until the end of this July. Only then will Dr. Ahmad Zaki Badr take the position.
The data [written in the newspapers] has all been confused and mixed up. The rabbi is really a university professor, and the president of Ain Shams University who was called for investigation along with him does not serve in that office. The real suspicion is that the brothers in Parliament are pushing for revenge against his father, the prior minister of the Interior, Zaki Badr. They seem to be pushing for a sacrifice of the first born!
It has moved from simple mistakes to serious mistakes, and the excuse is an attack on Islam and the Holy Qur'an!
Dr. Muhammad Al-Hawari, professor of Jewish religious thought and comparative religion and the director of the Center for the Study of Contemporary Civilizations at Ain Shams University, organized an educational seminar series. One of the lecturers in it was Professor Reuven Firestone, and the title of the seminar was "The Chosen People and the Idea of Chosenness or Election in Judaism, Christianity and Islam." It is to be expected that Firestone engage the notion of the chosen people in Judaism in the course of his lecture, and in that context Firestone pointed out that Isaac in Judaism is the intended sacrifice, and not Ishmael as is taught in Islam.
One of the attendees interrupted the American professor and said that the intended sacrifice was Ishmael and not Isaac. This is what caused Dr. Muhammad Al-Hawari to intervene, saying: "It is clear that we honor those who follow the text of the Qur'an, and it is clear that we honor also what is found in the text of the Torah. Professor Firestone did not come here to convert to Islam and articulate the Islamic statement of faith. Rather, he came to speak on an academic topic and expresses his ideas, but he is not imposing them on us!"
In the same context, Professor Firestone pointed out that the qur'anic verse that says "You are the best people brought forth for humanity" is intending to convey that this people is the best people when it commands doing good and forbids engaging in evil.
This is Firestone's crime?! This is his attack on Islam and on the Holy Qur'an?!
The strange thing, says Dr. Muhammad al-Hawari, is that the American Jewish professor, Firestone, whom the press and the parliamentarians described as hostile to Islam, did not utter one offensive word in relation to Islam as a religion. And for some twenty years, and this is known history, he has not taken a single hostile position toward Islam. On the contrary, he is a contributor to taped [television] programs that bring together Judaism and Islam during the most difficult times that Islam has faced during the vicious attack of the West after the events of September, 2001.
Dr. Muhammad al-Hawari added that Firestone wrote a book called Children of Abraham: An Introduction to Judaism for Muslims along with a Muslim writer, Khaled Duran, who wrote Children of Abraham: An Introduction to Islam for Jews. The strange thing is that Islamic Organizations in the United States of America fiercely attacked the book of the Muslim, Khaled Duran, and considered it negative toward Islam while at the same time praising the book by the Jew, Firestone.
Not only that, at a scientific conference that took place recently in the United States in which Dr. Al-Hawari participated along with the American professor Firestone, an Israeli professor related to Islam inappropriately. Dr. Al-Hawari got up in defense, and Firestone supported Dr. Al-Hawari and demanded an apology from the organizers! Dr. Al-Hawari wondered after that, "Why do we demand freedom and yet not practice it?! Why do we call for freedom of expression and not implement it in our schools and universities?! Why do we resort to breaking the pens of those who differ with us and muzzle the mouths of protesters?! Why do we not understand the language of dialogue nor know the way of dialogue and accept only dialogue?! Why do we impose ideological terrorism on everyone who hears us or reads us?!" He is right.
I think, after all of this, that it is necessary to listen to the view of the minister that the parliamentarians demanded be dismissed for allowing the desecration of university honor by Zionist and settler ideas! I think it is necessary that we listen to Dr. Hani Hilal, and hear the moral of the story.
Dr. Hani Hilal says that he was [recently] in Paris as an educational advisor along with Dr. Mustafa Al-Haluji, professor in the Department of Languages at Al-Azhar University, engaged in an initiative to correct the image of Islam in French educational curricula. It was organized at the highest level with a large group of writers, publishers and officers in the French Ministry of Education along with a large number of French educators specializing in the field of history. And in the course of a broad conversation, Dr. Hani Hilal rose with his colleague, Dr. Mustafa Al-Haluji to correct many erroneous notions about Islam and presented proof and evidence. The result was corrective to a large portion of these erroneous notions in French books!
As the minister Hani Hilal says, "Defense of religion comes through acts and not words, and he added, "We will not accept excess, not from a foreigner or from an Egyptian, for at the same time, we believe in absolute freedom within the university."
I was struck after that by the words of my colleague, Professor Muhammad Aboud that were published by the newspaper, Al-Karama, right after the episode [at Ain Shams University]. My colleague said, "If I had not been present at the entire seminar, I would have thought like the readers that an offense had been committed against the honor of the university. But when I read the press coverage a second and third time looking for the alleged wrong, it became clear that the offense of the American professor was that he was a Jew!
The press must be responsible. Their responsibility does not include cheap incitement! And the parliamentarians must be responsible. Their responsibility does not include provocation!
I am not writing a defense of the Jewish professor or the Egyptian minister. Rather, I am writing a defense of Egypt, that was once a beacon of civilization. Right now, within it is a world of shadow!