Grand Mufti of Egypt Shawki Ibrahim Abdel-Karim Allam strongly condemned the 22 March terrorist attacks in Brussels and talked about his work challenging extremist propaganda in an exchange of views with Foreign Affairs Committee MEPs on Tuesday. They praised his efforts, but called for more dialogue within Islam and for the rule of law to be strengthened in Egypt.
In his opening remarks Foreign Affairs Committee chair Elmar Brok (EPP, DE) emphasized that terrorist attacks must not stop dialogue and cooperation between Egypt and the West and reminded the audience that globally the majority of the victims of terror were Muslims.
Shawki Allam, who is seen as Egypt's primary source of religious authority, expressed his solidarity with the victims' friends and families and said that such heinous acts can never be justified by religion.
“Terrorism knows no borders and is a plague on all of us. We must work hand in hand to dismantle terrorism. Dialogues like this one are a step in the right direction”, he said, stressing that “words must translate into actions.”
The Grand Mufti explained that he had set up a specialist centre to challenge extremist views on websites and the social media by providing an authentic interpretation of Islam. This unit of experts publishes an e-newspaper, videos in 10 languages and interacts on Facebook with young people who are at the core of this struggle.
“Correct education is the right answer to ignorance and extremism”, he affirmed, noting that the Egyptian government had declared 2016 the “year of youth” to help fulfill the dreams of a young generation.
While MEPs praised these efforts, some observed that an effective internal dialogue within the main branches of Islam would also be essential in tackling extremism. Others highlighted the need to strengthen the rule of law in Egypt, and especially the separation of powers, because, in their view, only a truly democratic country is able to offer prospects to young people. MEPs also voiced concerns about hasty death sentences and other grave human rights violations in Egypt’s judiciary and prisons, pointing out that “we cannot fight terrorism with terrorism.”