Editor's Column: Why the West Should Ally with Egypt
For many Western countries, including the United States, developing plans to confront Iran, destroy the Islamic State (ISIS), and safeguard their interests in the region often serve as top priorities. Under former-President Barack Obama, the U.S. often disregarded the role of Egypt in Middle Eastern affairs, particularly on the issue of security. However, Egypt may in fact prove to be a valuable ally to the United States. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has signaled his intention to dramatically improve Egypt’s relationship with the U.S. Sisi met privately with then-candidate Trump in September 2016 during the opening of the UN General Assembly in New York and called him a “strong leader.” After the elections, El-Sisi was one of the first to congratulate Trump.
El-Sisi has also courageously called for a Muslim “Reformation.” He has addressed scholars and clerics at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, challenging them to reform Islam and distance it from radical, violent interpretations of the Quran.
“We are in need of a religious revolution. You, imams, are responsible before Allah. The entire world is waiting for your next move,” El-Sisi said.
El-Sisi has created a strong initiative to promote a moderate interpretation of Islam, much needed in times of growing extremism.
Additionally, El-Sisi has maintained Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel and developed a close working relationship with the Israeli government. The cold peace between the two nations was under risk during the presidency of El-Sisi’s predecessor, Mohammed Morsi. But, relations between the two countries have warmed considerably under Sisi as the two governments are working closely to secure the unstable region of Northern Sinai from ISIS and Hamas terrorists.
Lastly, El-Sisi is building closer ties with minority communities. In 2014, he visited Pope Francis in Rome. In 2015, for the first time in Egyptian history, the president publicly celebrated Christmas with Coptic Christian leaders. El-Sisi has ordered and completed the restoration of Coptic churches that were damaged or destroyed by discriminatory attacks. In early 2016, he welcomed a delegation of 36 American Jewish leaders to Cairo and met with other prominent Jewish leaders in New York.
El-Sisi serves as one of the most progressive and moderate leaders in the Muslim world. His vast achievements have demonstrated his commitment to both the social and economic development of the country. The West can stand to benefit from stronger ties with stable and moderate allies like Egypt now more than ever.