Death Threats to Sayyid al-Qimni, Egyptian historian and thinker

Update: 5th August 2009

People have pointed out that Sheikh Ali Gomaa (who is Shaykh al-Azhar, not the Grand Mufti) is against the death penalty for apostates, so he can’t have encouraged killing Qimni.  It seems he may have been asked about Qimni and said that he was an apostate.  This might be insensitive, given what happened to Faraj Fouda & Nagib Mahfuz.

Similarly, it is unlikely that the Muslim Brotherhood would officially call for Qimni’s killing.  It has millions of supporters though, so some of them might have done.  It should also be pointed out that the MB has repeatedly suffered the arrest without charge of some of its members over the years, and this continued recently.  Egyptian society needs greater openness and justice.

The whole situation is actually a good opportunity for Al-Azhar, MB, Sh. Qaradawi and others to calm people down and show some maturity and wisdom, dialogue and engagement rather than rushing to death threats at the slightest whiff of heresy.  Surely the last thing Egypt and Islam need is another Faraj Fouda or Salman Rushdie situation?

With the Name of Allah

The secular, liberal Egyptian historian and thinker Sayyid al-Qimni, son of a traditionalist Azhari sheikh, has had serious death threats issued against him by many (mainly extremist) religious scholars in Egypt since the end of June, as detailed in his Appeal (below) which he describes as ” a distress call to all bodies and individuals, a call to the consciences of every free individual in the world.”

The latest threats to him seem to have been sparked by his being elected to receive the Egyptian State Award for Social Sciences on June 25th.

In particular, it is alleged that those who have declared that he is an apostate and should be killed (perhaps even by ordinary Egyptians, not just by the state) include:

1- The Muslim Brotherhood
2- Al-Azhar Scholars’ Front headed by Yahya Ismail Habloush
3- 5,000 mosque khatibs in their Friday sermons on July 24th
4- Sheikh Ali Gomaa himself (currently still the Shaykh Al-Azhar, as far as I know)

The situation of a polarisation between religious and secular currents in is repeated in different Muslim-majority countries, eg Pakistan, Turkey, North Africa, etc., so this case is symbolic of a much wider and deeper issue, of course.

Whatever we feel about his views (I think he’s too apologetic about the history of Jihad, for example, and he should not ridicule the Islamic practice of constant remembrance of God out of frustration with the religion-exploiters), clearly, the death threats are pathetic, appalling and totally unacceptable.

Now, our FCO and embassy in Cairo has been working with Sheikh Ali Gomaa and Al-Azhar over the last few years, and also recently hosted the charming Rector of Al-Azhar in the UK.  The Archbishop of Canterbury has also been working with Sheikh Gomaa – I was present last year at Cambridge University when they were the two main speakers at a “Common Word” event.  I also took part in the FCO Projecting British Islam delegation to Egypt last year, which is partly why the matter concerns me.

I’m therefore asking for your help in encouraging our friends in the following places to do the right thing in this regard (and praying to God that they do so, if appropriate!): i.e. to investigate the death-threats and to take appropriate steps to promote peaceful dialogue and debate, including between secularists and fundamentalists, believers and non-believers, etc.

1- The FCO, especially the Foreign Secretary
2- Our embassy in Cairo, as well as the embassies there of other influential countries
3- Al-Azhar University and its various affiliated institutions
4- The office of Sheikh Ali Gomaa
5- The Muslim Brotherhood
6- The office of Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi.  Qimni is highly-critical of Qaradawi.  From what I know of Qaradawi, he is at least open and committed to dialogue with others, plus he has a less-hardline position on the alleged death-penalty for apostasy.  Therefore, perhaps he may be able to have a calming influence here.
7- Religious scholars and shaykhs generally, especially those with links to the UK & Egyptian governments and religious circles
8- Lambeth Palace & the office of Dr. Rowan Williams
9- Members of the “Common Word” initiative
10- Human rights organisations & lawyers

I would appreciate your advice, suggestions, help, prayers, etc.  Please publicise this matter and forward it to the relevant people.  I attach pertinent quotes and some weblinks below.

The Arabic Network For Human Rights Information:  Sayyed Alqimni’s Life Is At Stake Amidst An Extremist Campaign. Iftaa Council Declares War Against Free Enlightened Thought.

Abu Aardvark: The secularism debate.

Politics & Religion Blog: Egyptian Reformer Sayyid al-Qimni.

Egyptian Liberal Sayid Al-Qimni & London Islamist Hani Al-Sibai Debate Secularism & Fundamentalism in Arab World.

Sayyid al-Qimni’s blog (in Arabic)

Sayyid al-Qimni is on Facebook also, with that spelling.

This appeal can be found at the Copts’ website as well as at ME Transparent.

(I have edited it for what look like translation errors.  In particular, the Arabic takfir can mean both atonement and excommunication, but clearly the latter is meant throughout this appeal.  Also, salafi means fundamentalist or traditionalist in this context.)

From the Egyptian writer and academic researcher of Islamic Affairs, Dr. Sayed Mahmoud El Qemany, who is being exposed to incitements to assassinate him

Qimni photo
In the context of my academic research and practical work I have been able to provide an important set of motion in the stagnant Egyptian situation. I have attempted to make reforms from the inside and worked on the disarmament of those who exploit Islam politically and make it a source of livelihood at the expense of the simple, good people of Egypt. I have therefore created a secular movement that has imposed its presence, although still at a formative stage.

In a free ballot of Egyptian thinkers, I was granted the State Award for Social Sciences, on June 25th 2009. The hard-line radical militant groups considered that the state has adopted this intellectual secular trend officially, infuriating the mentioned group which called on the State to withdraw the prize with the declaration of my defection from Islam and excommunication which means in our country, I could be slain; any citizen is allowed to kill me and be awarded by God in Paradise.

The following parties have participated in the statements of excommunication (takfir), noting that none of them have read a single word of what I wrote, and have not been able to hold a dialogue to discuss my ideas:

1 – Al-Azhar Scholars Front headed by Yahya Ismail Habloush, which issued the first statement of excommunication on July 10, 2009.
2 – The Islamic Group (condemned terrorist group) issued a statement of excommunication on July 10, 2009.
3 – The Muslim Brotherhood hailed the excommunication, and were represented at the parliament by Hamdi Hassan requesting the withdrawal of the award and the declaration of religious-defection and excommunication on July 7, 2009. The Muslim Brotherhood also declared my excommunication on Mohwar Channel on July 11, 2009 and on Al Faraeen Channel on July 13, 2009.
4 – The Salafi (Fundamentalist) Group (condemned terrorist group) dedicated its Internet site named “The Egyptians” for excommunicating me and incitements to kill me, since the date of obtaining the prize until today.
5 – Al Nas channel, which represents the theoretical side of bloody terrorism which declared excommunication and demanded “all citizens who can” to kill me immediately, on July 24 and 25, 2009.
6 – The Hisbah Sheikh Youssef Al Badri in Egypt declared on the channel “ON TV” on July 3, 2009 that I have cursed God and the Prophet Mohammad in my books even though I have challenged him and others to refer to a single text written by me where such claims were made. Due to this proclamation, he has issued an incitement to kill me.
7 – A member of the Al-Azhar scholars, Sheikh Mohammed El Berry, on Mihwar TV Channel on July 11, 2009 announced my excommunication as he also said that he did not read any of my writings since he does not read “garbage”. He repeated the same words on the channel “ON TV” on July 22, 2009
8 – Sheikh Ali Gomaa, the former Chairman of the “State Religious Affairs Advisory Board”, issued a statement declaring my infidelity and calling for slaying me for “insulting the Prophet of Islam, the God of Islam” on July 24, 2009.
9 – The Sheiks of more than 5,000 mosques on Friday prayers on July 24, 2009 declared the incitement to kill me, especially in my hometown, which led to the rampage against my family and relatives, and that could possibly evolve to some serious consequences in the coming weeks.

Due to the above, I call upon the conscience of all humanity in the free world to come to me and my children’s rescue by providing moral support and the condemnation and denunciation of the radical thinking with quick solutions to save us from the danger that is luring around us.  This is a distress call to all bodies and individuals. A call to the consciences of every free individual in the world.

Sayed Mahmoud El Qemany- Researcher


We, the Liberal Egyptian intellectuals, students, followers, readers and lovers of Dr. Sayed El Qemany call upon the officials to intervene to save our distinguished and respectable intellectual from the threats of radical Islamic movements who continue to incite to murder him, openly and publicly in mosques and on satellite channels, financed by those who exploit religion to serve their political agendas for nothing but their inability to hold a valid and a scientific argument with him and totally lost their minds over his being granted the State Award for Social Sciences, The fact that lead to their predicament that the state has adopted a secular ideology, which is synonymous with heresy and atheism in their ignorant minds.

We also urge the Press Syndicate to address the abuses of the fundamentalist brothers Mahmoud and Gamal Sultan as well as Jamal Abd al-Rahim against Dr. El Qemany inciting the general public to kill him. We call upon the Attorney General as well, to bring to justice those held accountable for incitement to kill an Egyptian citizen whose only crime was to use his mind.


El Qemany’s Appeal About Sayyid al-Qimni Qemani text I (English) Qemani text II (English) Qimni – Azhar – Extremism Qimni – Muslim Brotherhood – civil society Qimny on Jihad attitudes

Cover snapshots of Qimni’s books:

Qimni book 1 Qimni book 2 Qimni book 3 Qimni book 4 Qimni book 5 Qimni book 6 Qimni book 7

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2 Responses to “Death Threats to Sayyid al-Qimni, Egyptian historian and thinker”

  1. usamahasan Says:

    I received some private feedback, that I’m publishing here anonymously. It is preceded by my brief reply.

    Dear akhi,

    wa ‘alaykum as-salam & jzk for the nasiha. I will publish it anonymously on my blog, since it is valuable. Hope you don’t mind.

    Point taken about the detention of Ikhwan people. I support their cases also … cageprisoners, IHRC etc. tend to take up the cases of Islamist prisoners so they’re kind of covered. Anyone detained must be given a fair trial or released. We should all oppose detention without trial and believe in passionately in the principle of “innocence until proven guilty” revealed by Allah and taught by His Messenger, peace be upon him.

    I agree with you: we can’t be selective, so I hope you will support Qimni. He may be an attention-seeker, I don’t know. But religious people must learn to debate and dialogue in a peaceful and civilised way, not resort to death threats. The irony is that it’s secular groups like Amnesty who will tend to defend both Islamist and secular prisoners.

    At the joint UK-Syrian governments’ conference in Damascus in June, I publicly called on Muslim governments to stop unjust practices such as torture, and on the UK government to make sure they don’t outsource torture or become complicit in it. My paper is on the blog.

    Salams to the family and duas please also, ws.


    —– Original Message —-
    Sent: Tuesday, 4 August, 2009 12:20:48
    Subject: Re: URGENT: Death Threats to Sayyid al-Qimni, Egyptian thinker

    Assalamoalaikum Usama

    trust you and the family are well.

    Just a few comments:

    [1] As far as I know there is no Hadd punishment in Egypt. Hence any call from anyone for death has no judicial basis and cannot be carried out nor is there a threat to such an act happening from the Egyptian courts. As for individuals taking the law into their own hands, there is no difference in this to the condition of say Salman Rushdie here in the UK. Everyone has a right to say or write what they want as long as it does not stoke up incitement to hatred. When individuals such as Al Qimni knowingly stoke up hatred and tensions of this nature they are well aware of what they are doing and the possible consequences of their actions. To then moan and call the world for help is frivolous. Are you saying that he didn’t know what he was doing? There is nothing wrong in intellectual discourse in fact it is to be encouraged but there is a way of doing this. Many orientalists have made many of the same arguments that he’s making and not been condemned. I
    think from your translations it is clear that he is clearly being provokative. If he feels that he would fit better in a non Muslim country then he should leave and ask to immigrate. This guy seems to me to be an attention seeker who wants the world to read his trivial work. Frankly by saying that scholars won’t intellectually challenge him doesnt mean that is the case. Seeking media attention is a common Taslima Nasreen strategy which says to the west please buy my books and read my material and see how I’m being persecuted by these evil Muslims so protect me!

    Come on Usama you have to accept that there is never a problem of taking criticism amongst Muslim scholars, and the Brotherhood or Shk Gomaa or anyone else from the mainstream has never had a problem with criticism of Islam or conducting dialogue. Why even when it comes to disrespect
    the Yemeni Saudi Salafi scholar I believe Shk Muqbil wrote a book entitled ‘Silencing the hounding dog’ about Shk Qaradaw! No one from The Brotherhood or even Shk Qaradawi said that he’s out of Islam.

    Shk Ali Gomaa has a duty of reply to questions examining whether people are Muslims or not and he has made a judgement. As in any faith there are clear tenets that must be adhered to that you better than most know. Once outside of this you are no longer a Muslim. The judgement is based on the writings and sayings of Qimni. Not so long a go for far less there was a time you would have said far worse! The corollary that he should be killed is something Qimni has ALLEGED not something Shk Ali Gomaa has said and does not automatically follow. It is a well known fact that Shk Gomaa does not believe in the death penalty for apostacy so this so called call for Qimni to be assasinated is very far fetched and I would like the full transcript of where Qimni claims this was said. Because some individual takes a pot shot at Qimni doesnt mean anything other than there are some very upset people. No one has sanctioned his death from whether the Brotherhood or Shk Ali
    Gomaa. This is the pathetic psychobable of a Walter Mitty character. Am I saying he has nothing to worry about – No, I’m sure there are some idiots out there who want to do him harm, but he knew what he was doing. It doesnt make it right but in every society you have people who are extreme.

    Similarly Naser Hamad Abu Zaid another Egyptian so called intelectual, when he wrote on the Quran, said similar stuff and was declared a Murtadh. An Apostate by the Egyptian courts. He hasn’t been killed. The courts ruled he’s a murtadh apostate and that he cannot marry a Muslim. His books are still published.

    [2] What surprises me is why you have taken this case up so vehemently? I have not seen you take up the case of the dozens of people very recently (in the last 2 weeks) wrongly arrested by the Egyptian Government who have been imprisoned and tortured without charge such as the head of the Egyptian Doctors Federation or many others. Or members of the Muslim brotherhood or other parties that are illegally detained and imprisoned and tortured.and killed in Mubarak’s prisons every year because they believe in a democratic system. Or of thousands of other Muslims in other countries that are imprisoned and tortured and killed for asking to be part of a legitimate democratic process?

    Usama these issues if you’re really going to do them justice should be equally defended and not selectively so.

    [3] Taking these instances of individuals and then asking the FCO or others in our government to help doesnt help us much as British Muslims. If anything it diverts precious resources and time that our government should be spending on us! The cases of British Muslims being tortured abroad at the behest of our own government, the serious problems with the ‘Prevent’ strategy and numerous other issues are ones that we should be lobbying government to work on. This focus serves to undermine the British Muslim communities as it sends civil servants and politicians on a tangential and unhelpful trajectory.

    Other problems such as British Muslims being mistreated in Belmarsh and some having been unjustly detaimed. What about Babar Ahmed who has committed no crime and been incarcerated for so many years. Usama your heart is good mashAllah but I really think you need to think through a little more when you support blanket statements against Islamic political parties or Scholars for the sake of them being so. You have a right to disagree but not to disrespect and unwittingly be part of a spin exercise that undermines them. Surely that is the essence of adhab al khilaf. We’ve all grown up from the days when we would childishly attack and see things in black and white. It remains for us to set examples not to be drawn into the vortex of old school or new school HTesque/Quilliamite behaviour.

    Salam to all the family and pls remember us in your duas


  2. luckylarrysilverstein Says:

    The unedited full-text of the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia
    The results of his investigations and researches into the history, geography, geology, fauna, and flora of that country have placed him in the front rank of Palestinian explorers and geographers. HE IS THE GREATEST JEWISH AUTHORITY ON PALESTINIAN MATTERS SINCE ESTORI FARHI (1282-1357), the author of “Kaftor wa-Feraḥ.”

    614-1096 C.E.
    From the Accession of the Mahomedans to that of the Europeans.

    By Rabbi Joseph Schwarz, 1850


    Rabbi Shallum, son of the then Resh Gelutha, in Babel, aka Abu Bachr al Chaliva al Zadik, Abu Bakr, the first Caliph, was in fact: [A JEWISH RABBI] Rabbi Shallum, son of the then Resh Gelutha, in Babel, perceiving this dreadful predicament, went to Mahomed, and offering him his submission, friendship, and services, endeavoured to enter with him into a friendly compact. Mahomed accepted his proposition with pleasure, conceived a great affection for him, and took his daughter, a handsome young girl (A 6 YEAR OLD CHILD), for wife; he made him also a general in his army, and gave him the name of Abu Bachr al Chaliva al Zadik, literally:

    The father of the maiden, the descendant of the righteous; this means, that of all his wives, who were either widows or divorced women, this one was the only one who had never been married before, and then she was the granddaughter of the celebrated chief of the captivity; therefore, the descendant of the righteous. This occurrence induced Mahomed to give up his terrible intention to destroy the Jews in his country, and thus did Rabbi Shallum save his people.


    [Why Muhammad hated alcohol]

    Abu Bachr and Aliman now resolved among themselves to remove the dangerous enemy of the Jews, Bucheran. One evening Mahomed, Bucheran, Aliman, and Abu Bachr, were drinking together; the latter two soon saw that Mahomed and the astrologer were strongly intoxicated, and lay stretched out in a deep and profound sleep. Abu Bachr thereupon drew the sword of Mahomed from its scabbard, cut off therewith Bucharan’s head, and put the bloody sword back into its receptacle, and both then lay themselves down quietly near Mahomed to sleep. When Mahomed awoke and saw his friend lying decapitated near him, he cried out in a fury: “This terrible deed has been done by one of us three in our drunkenness!” Abu Bachr thereupon said quite unconcernedly: “Let each one draw his sword, and he whose weapon is stained with blood, must needs be the murderer!” They all drew their swords, and that of Mahomed was completely dyed with fresh blood, which proved thus clearly to his satisfaction that he had murdered his friend. He was greatly grieved at this discovery; cursed and condemned the wine which was the cause of this murder, and swore that he never would drink any more, and that also no one should do so who wishes to enter heaven. This is the cause why wine is prohibited to the Mahomedans.

    At a later period, Mahomed learned the whole transaction, and that his father-in-law was the perpetrator of the bloody deed; wherefore, he lost his favour, and he would not permit him to come before him. Abu Bachr went thereupon and conquered sixty places, which had not yet submitted to Mahomed, and presented them to him, through which means he became again reconciled to him, was received in favour, and remained thereafter at court.

    614-1096 C.E.
    From the Accession of the Mahomedans to that of the Europeans.

    By Rabbi Joseph Schwarz, 1850


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