Sufi leader, our influence is crucial against jihadism

For Western fighters as well, says World Federation chief Azayem

05 July, 14:41

    Sheikh Alaa Abul Azayem, head of the World Federation of Sufi Orders Sheikh Alaa Abul Azayem, head of the World Federation of Sufi Orders

    (by Luciana Borsatti) (ANSAmed) - ROME - The head of the Paris-based World Federation of Sufi Orders has stressed that his group is key to the struggle against jihadism, even in the West.

    ''Our aim is to promote peace in the world, fight against Salafism and convince all Muslims to take the path of modern Islam,'' Sheikh Alaa Abul Azayem said in his Cairo home, noting that 'modern Islam' consisted in ''coexistence among all populations that live in peace'' and ''mutual understanding'' without the use of force. The Sufi leader is keeping a close eye on both Egyptian politics and the danger of Salafi jihadism, which is spreading at an ever more alarming rate even in the West (where many jihadist fighters are from) and not only in regional areas of crisis (from Egypt to Libya, Syria, and Iraq). ''Our role is indispensable for the security of the entire world, and not only that of Egypt,'' Azayem told ANSAmed. ''Many Westerners are attracted to militant Salafism, whereas the Sufis, with their non-violent philosophy, can be a point of balance. This is why it is important that they be present among Muslims across the entire world.'' The Sufi community has been in Egypt for centuries. He said that there are only about five million Sufis belonging to several different orders in the country, but that many more are sympathizers. He denied, however, that the number was as high as the sometimes-quoted 12-15 million out of a total population of some 80 million. But the Sufi mouvement is an important source of political support in Egyptian political life anyway, expecially since the 2011 revolution.

    The Sufi order he leads, the Azmiya 'Tariqa', ''is the only one that fights against jihadist and militant Salafism at the ideological level. We have published and handed out for free 40 books against them, and recorded audio programs for more extensive reach.'' He said that true jihad could not exist in Islam ''unless there is a real or imminent attack'', and that ''the first victims of terrorists are their neighbors, with whom they should live in peace - and especially other Muslims.'' This is the case, he pointed out, in Egypt, Syria and Iraq, adding that he considered the Sinai-based group Ansar beit El-Maqdis (the 'Partisans of Jerusalem') - which has taken responsibility for numerous attacks in Egypt since the ouster of Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi last year - to be following ''Israel's agenda''. Azayem believes that the Muslim Brotherhood are also 'agents of Zionism', since ''they have the same aim of governing the world through their plan for a Caliphate''. To his mind, the Brotherhood showed ''its utter stupidity'' during its year in the government, and enjoyed support from Qatar, Turkey and initially Saudi Arabia as well. He noted that the group had close relations with jihadists from other countries as well. ''But Sisi will finish them off,'' he said firmly, referring to the former field marshal recently elected president, adding that this new post would endow him with full power. Salafi parties such as El-Nour are simply ''hypocrites'' even though they have long stated their distance from the Muslim Brotherhood, he added. It was the coming into power of Sunni Islamism after the ouster of former Egyptian president Mubarak in 2011 that pushed some Egyptian Sufis to enter the political arena, setting aside their historic propensity for quietism. Sufism is based on direct contact with God and despite being related to Islam, it is open to other religious and spiritual sources. This is precisely why it sees in Sunni extremism the main threat to its existence - a threat seen as ever more serious after several Salafi attacks on Sufi places of worship after 2011, in both Egypt and Tunisia. The order under Azayem has shown itself to be especially open to political participation with the Al-Tahrir Al-Masri ('The Liberation of Egypt') party, which ran against Morsi in 2012 and later supported the former field marshal now president.

    This choice, that of direct political involvement, represents a distinctive element of the Sufi order under his command, along with greater openness to the Shia religion. ''Egyptians are Sunni in practice and Shia in their hearts,'' he said. The Sheikh also stressed the need for Egypt to improve its relations with such an important neighbour as Iran, in spite of the fact that the he did not like official Iran's respect of Hassan El Bana (the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood) and Sayyed Qotb (father of contemporary Jihadism). Meanwhile he remains committed to leading the World Federation of Sufi Orders, which encompasses 25 orders (21 of which from Egypt) and whose general assembly was held in April in Paris. The Sufi non-violent approach is what is most needed against Salafi jihadism in Arab countries and among Arab migrants in Europe, partecipants pointed out. (ANSAmed).

    © Copyright ANSA - All rights reserved

    Business opportunities

    The information system of business
    opportunities abroad

    News from Mediterranean