Private TV channel hosts debate with controversial Islamic researcher El-Beheiry

Ahram Online , Saturday 18 Apr 2015

El-Beheiry is known for questioning the credibility of the sources of the Prophet Mohammed's sayings; President El-Sisi calls for responsible debate, hints some approaches not suitable

Osama Al-Azhary and Islam El-Behery
Al-Azhar professor and scholar Osama Al-Azhary (R) and Islamic researcher Islam El-Behery (L) speaking during a debate on Friday April 17, 2015 (Photo courtesy of CBC)

Islamic researcher Islam El-Beheiry once again confronted on TV a representitive from Al-Azhar, Egypt's highest Muslim Sunni authority that has been criticising him over his opinions.

The two-hour debate on Saturday featured Yemeni religious Scholar Habib Ali Al-Jifri Al-Azhar, Egyptian Al-Azhar professor and scholar Osama Al-Azhary, and El-Beheiry. It was moderated by TV Host Khairy Ramadan on private broadcast TV channel CBC.

El-Beheiri and Al-Azhar debate

During the debate, Al-Jifri said that he agrees with El-Beheiry that some religious approaches need revision and renewal, but he disagreed with his approach and methods

El-Beheiry, who is known for questioning the credibility of the sources of the Prophet Mohammed's sayings, said that scholars are human and their texts should be dealt with as such. When they are harsh, as when they call for capital punishment in some cases, we should be harsh with their texts.

The sources of Prophet Mohammed's sayings are a prime reference for Islamic teachings, next to the Muslim holy book of the Quran.

Earlier in April, Al-Azhar filed a complaint to the General Body for Investment and Free Zones requesting TV channels not air El-Behery's show, adding that it knew the authority planned to send a warning to Al-Qahera Wal Nas, the channel that airs his show.

El-Beheiry's show, Al-Azhar's statement said, deliberately makes people question what is certain in religion and it threatens social peace. Al-Azhar also accused the show of stirring sectarian strife.

Since Al-Azhar's statement, El-Beheiry has taken part in several debates, including on Al-Qahera Wal Nas. 

El-Sisi's remarks

Prior to the Saturday debate, Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said that he previously spoke on religious discourse but didn't go into details, because "This is the role of religious institutions, in a responsible mindful way."

In January, El-Sisi spoke in front of Al-Azhar’s religious scholars in a televised speech demanding a "religious revolution" on texts and ideas that have been held sacred for hundreds of years. The president said that these ideas are causing "worry, danger, and destruction to the whole world."

However, on Saturday El-Sisi said that he found "some talk not in the benefit of the cause." He urged caution in discussing religious discourse so not to pressure public opinion and scare people, "Because there's nothing more precious than religion."

"Religious discourse won't be fixed overnight and not in this way. It requires enlightened effort from enlightened scholars," El-Sisi stated.

El-Sisi said that, "All our attention should be focused on protecting and preserving Egypt."

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