Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi said Thursday that Muslims need to adapt their religious discourse to the present and eliminate elements of their rhetoric that could foster violence.
“Islam is a tolerant religion, but this wasn’t always clear to the rest of the world during the last 20 or 30 years,” Sisi said during a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “The terrible terrorist attacks and this terrible image of Muslims led us to think that we must stop and think and change the religious discourse and remove from it things that have led to violence and extremism.”
The Egyptian leader’s comments likely referred in part to Charlie Hebdo, the satirical French newspaper whose Paris offices were recently attacked by Islamist extremists, though Sisi did not specifically mention the terrorist attack.
“There can be no religious discourse which is in conflict with its environment and with the world,” Sisi continued. “And therefore, we Muslims need to modify this religious discourse. And this has nothing to do with conviction and with religious beliefs, because those are immutable. But we need a new discourse that will be adapted to a new world and which will remove some of the misconceptions.”
Sisi, himself a Muslim, has long presented himself as more secular than Egypt’s ousted former President Mohammed Morsi — the Islamist who served as Egypt’s first democratically elected president. In 2013, as army chief, Sisi led the ouster of Morsi.