Dr. Ahmed Subhy Mansour is the founder of the Quranic movement in Egypt and President of the International Quranic Center. He is also on the board of Americans for Peace and Tolerance. He was recently quoted in USA Today about the extremism he witnessed at the Islamic Society of Boston, the mosque that was attended by the two brothers that committed the April 2013 bombings in Boston.
Dr. Mansour was born in Egypt in 1949 and was a professor at prestigious Al-Azhar University. His Quranic movement believes that the Hadith, the books documenting the life and sayings of Mohammed, cannot be considered a reliable source. He was fired from the school for his beliefs and arrested twice, including a two-month imprisonment in 1987 with 64 of his colleagues.
Mansour was subsequently exiled from Egypt and now lives in the U.S., where he has been a visiting fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy and Harvard Law School’s Human Rights Program. He was also a visiting fellow at the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
The following is ClarionProject.org National Security Analyst Ryan Mauro’s interview with Dr. Mansour:
Ryan Mauro: You were recently quoted in USA Today about the radicalism of the Islamic Society of Boston. Can you tell us about your experience there?
Dr. Ahmed Mansour: It was in 2003 when I was in Harvard Law School as a one-year Visiting Fellow in their Human Rights Program. I passed by the old mosque and attended the sunset prayer. I found materials in Arabic full of hatred against America and the Jews. It proved that the leaders of that mosque were very fanatical.
I have my own painful story of persecution in Egypt from the same fanatics, so I was so scared and I finished my prayer quickly and did not go there anymore.
Mauro: Can you be more specific about what you saw at the Islamic Society of Boston that frightened you?
Dr. Mansour: It was their Arabic newsletters and fliers that condemned the U.S., the Christians and the Jews, branding them as kafir [infidels] and mushrik [idol worshippers] and the ardent enemies of Islam and Muslims. It’s the same discourse you can read in Al-Qaeda or other fanatical Wahhabist writings. They usually misuse the Quranic verses, twisting their meaning to call for jihad against the U.S., the Christians and the Jews as the enemies of Islam.
I was scared because they usually make the same accusations against me and other Quranists in Egypt and the Arab countries [that we are enemies of Islam]. As my name is well-known and so is my face, I was scared that someone in that mosque would recognize me, so I left.
By the way, my wife was with me at that time, praying in the women’s section downstairs. I had to wait for her until she finished her prayer. While waiting for her, I had to listen to the sermon by the imam, and it was fanatical, using the same traditional scriptures of the Wahhabists.
After finishing my one-year Visiting Fellowship at Harvard, I returned to Virginia. Then Charles Jacobs of Americans for Peace and Tolerance emailed me asking for my help as a moderate Muslim scholar against those fanatics who were about to establish a big mosque, the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center. We worked together in establishing a new organization, Citizens for Peace and Tolerance. Because of our peaceful work in educating the people of Boston, the Islamic Society of Boston sued us and then dropped it.
Mauro: The mosque leadership has condemned the Boston bombings and says that they kicked the older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, out of a prayer service for shouting at the imam when he praised Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Do these actions show that the mosque is now moderate?
Dr. Mansour: In my opinion, as a Muslim scholar with over 40 years of expertise studying the fanatical Muslim mentality, the real moderate mosque opens its doors to all Muslim scholars regardless of their sect.
The most fanatical Sunni school is the Hanbali. The hardest line is the Wahhabists and the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists are from Wahhabism. Those Wahhabists control most of the mosques in Egypt and in the U.S. They do not allow the Sufi and Shiite scholars in their Sunni mosques.
So, if the leaders of the Islamic Society of Boston are really moderate, they should allow Shiite and Sufi scholars to preach and pray inside their mosque. For example, I am a Ph.D. sheikh from Al-Azhar University, which is like the Vatican for the Sunni Muslims around the world. If they are really moderate, invite me to give a Friday sermon.
The fact is that the Muslim Brothers usually deceive people using two faces in their discourse.
Mauro: You said that most mosques in the U.S. are controlled by Wahhabists. How did this happen and how do they maintain control if most Muslim-Americans are moderate?
Dr. Mansour: One word: Saudis. Their influence and their finances.
Mauro: Why did you have to leave Egypt?
Dr. Mansour: I was arrested in Egypt in 1987 along with my 64 Quranist leaders. It was the first wave of arrests during the time of Mubarak and they released us after two months. Because of the Muslim Brothers’ influence in the media and the streets, my life was in real danger, so I escaped to the U.S. in 1988.
I stayed for 10 months, and then I had to return to Egypt because my wife and children were under threat. They arrested me at Cairo Airport and jailed me in a dark room filled with the most fanatical prisoners. After two horrible nights, they released me. I escaped the second wave of arrests of Quranists in 2000-2001 and got political asylum in the U.S. The Quranists suffered another two waves of arrests in 2007 and 2009.
Mubarak was bribed by the Saudis to persecute us. Also, he used the Muslim Brothers to frighten the U.S. to stay in power and to defend the Wahhabists he supported. There were two kinds of Wahhabists in Egypt in Mubarak’s time: The Muslim Brothers who had their own political agenda to take over Egypt and the Salafi scholars that controlled the mosques, media and educated and allied with Mubarak. His secret service used them to destroy churches and persecute the Copts.
After Mubarak, the Salafists have suddenly come up from the surface and are using their influence for their new agenda.
Mauro: Tell us about the Quranic movement and the International Quranic Center.
Dr. Mansour: The Quranic Movement started in 1979 in reaction to the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Wahhabists. It has about 10,000 members in Egypt today. The International Quranic Center aims to support Muslim moderates in their struggle against extremist Muslim groups’ monopoly over the Internet and thereby encourage democracy throughout Islam. Our website has over 5,000 articles written by over 200 Muslim reformers.
We want to convince the Islamic world to accept the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as Islamic laws, according to the real core of Islam. By doing so, these resolutions could be the main source of legislation in Muslim countries instead of Islamic Jurisprudence, which actually means fanatical Wahhabi legislations. We also want to defend the image of America in the Muslim world.
Ryan Mauro is the ClarionProject.org’s National Security Analyst, a fellow with the Clarion Project and is frequently interviewed on Fox News.