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Muslim television preacher returns to Egypt
Amr Khaled urged youth to practice peaceful coexistence and be tolerant of different cultures and ideas.
February 26th, 2011
12:57 PM ET

Muslim television preacher returns to Egypt

By Lauren E. Bohn, Special to CNN

As Egyptians returned to Tahrir Square to push for the realization of more political demands, one of the world’s most influential Muslim television preachers delivered his first address in Egypt since President Hosni Mubarak left office.

“I don’t have a stronger message than this: Kill yourself working for Egypt,” Amr Khaled told a crowd of thousands.

Khaled traveled to Sohag, a poor governorate in Upper Egypt, for the first time to deliver lectures. He announced the launch of a microfinance project and literacy and politic awareness campaigns.

Hagar Ashraf, 15, said it was the best day of her life. “It’s the first time to see him. I always saw him on television talking about hope,” she said. ‘That’s why I love him. Just hope. Nothing more.”

Heralded by many in the West as a voice of Islamic moderation, Khaled urged youth to practice peaceful coexistence and be tolerant of different cultures and ideas.

“The world is opening up for all of us,” he said.

It certainly is for Khaled who was one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in 2007. He has been banned from speaking in his native Egypt for the past eight years.

Khaled’s trademark brand of “faith-based development” and massive popularity among the nation’s young and restless was a thorn in the side of Mubarak’s regime. He was forced to leave Egypt several times as critics worried he was inspiring youth not only to change their lives, but also the regime. He returned to Cairo on January 28 to show his support for the revolution that wound up sweeping Mubarak from power.

“Blood has started to run in Egyptians’ veins,” he said. “I’m using all this energy and opportunity to, insha’allah, inspire youth to dedicate their lives to improving Egypt.”

Despite efforts made by Mubarak’s regime, the sharp-suited 43-year-old has turned into a celebrity over the years. Khaled was greeted with crowds, gifts and requests for autographs on his early morning flight and on Sohag’s dusty side streets.

Youth jumped on Khaled’s car as he left his lecture in the town’s square. They all wanted a piece of a man they say has inspired them not only to be better Muslims, but better people.

Earlier this month, the Washington Post reported that Facebook users from Egypt created 32,000 groups and 14,000 pages during the revolution; the page with the most fans from Egypt was Khaled’s.

With almost unparalleled popularity among youth in Egypt’s newly democratic space, many have questioned whether Khaled will run for a political position in the country’s future government.

“Why not? All the options now are open,” he said, adding that he’d only do so if it would “improve the renaissance” rather than simply ride the wave of the revolution.

Abodoma Fathy Mohammed, a 21-year-old medical student, joined Khaled’s Life Makers branch in Sohag a few years ago and says Khaled’s foray into politics would naturally extend the “amount of people he’s changed like me,” adding,  “you need government and not just NGOs for development.”

Khaled shuffled through Sohag meeting with community leaders, including priests and Sohag’s governor. According to Khaled’s team, some signs showed business might return to usual earlier this week as security forces and local government, worried about continued workers’ strikes and demonstrations in the poor governorate, told Khaled and his team they couldn’t come to Sohag.

“We simply went ahead anyway,” said Gamal Al Etribi, head of Life Makers in Egypt. “It’s still the mind of the old government, but hopefully the power (of the revolution) will change this.”

Ayman, 40, hopes so. “We have a large amount of ignorance in Sohag. It’s a village system, and we suffer a lot,” he said, making ‘asab, a sugar-cane juice in his store across the square where Khaled delivered a lecture after Friday’s prayer. “We need people like him to come here.”

A few streets down, Salafis gathered at Al Haq mosque to listen to a lecture by another formerly censored figure, the prominent Salafi Sheikh Yasser Borhamy from Alexandria. A critic of the former government, Borhamy’s website (salafvoice.com) had been shut down by Mubarak’s regime in the past.

“Look, they have different points of view, different than Khaled’s maybe,” said Life Maker Hassam Marey. “But after all, we are all Muslims. It’s just a matter of applications. We are all brothers.”

Though an accountant-turned-preacher, youth like Heba El Said, 23, say Khaled has been an inspirational spiritual leader.

“Amr Khaled advises us and speaks to our hearts. He doesn’t give us orders on what I should or shouldn’t do,” she said. “I like, no, I love Amr Khaled and his way to discuss, his way to develop, his way to change.”

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Egypt • Islam

soundoff (291 Responses)
  1. Fred

    Why do people of all religions appear to have been smoking something illegal. All the talks of angels, clouds, miracles and love, whilst a lovely thought, we have unfortunately not seen any signs of anything remotely close to this in over 1000 years.

    February 26, 2011 at 7:55 pm |
    • Muneef

      How old are you did you say 1000 years are you Jinn?

      February 26, 2011 at 8:36 pm |
    • damn yank

      ucf uyo, uoy pistud sihts..... nodt eb os dterade

      in 1000 million years, these letters will rearrange themselves and evolve into a sentence atheists can read.....

      February 26, 2011 at 9:01 pm |
    • Re-all-ity

      Much smoke by all. Little search for truth.

      February 26, 2011 at 9:35 pm |
    • Re-all-ity

      @Damn Yank – yet God could read them before you wrote them and you wrote them anyway. What does that say about you?

      February 26, 2011 at 11:20 pm |
    • Tim

      What is the mathematical probability of life forming on earth?

      February 27, 2011 at 1:22 am |
    • Fredegar

      I am not Fred, Tim, but I would like you to consider the very likely prospect that life is forming even now in different places all over the earth.
      Just because we have lots of advanced organisms running around doesn't mean new life cannot form. You think it all stopped back in history, but there is no reason why it cannot still be going on in various potential habitats.

      As for the odds, I would put it at 1 to 1 for the above reasons and because biochemical life is easy given the right chemicals and enough time.

      February 27, 2011 at 2:26 am |
  2. Upperhand

    @ Newyorker The one difference between Islam and Christianity is Christianity should be a personal relationship with Jesus Christ NOT what you as a person defines it to be or what an entire country claims to be.

    February 26, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
  3. Upperhand

    @ Iqbal Khan You know nothing about Christianity.

    February 26, 2011 at 7:35 pm |
  4. Tim

    This reminds me of the flying spaghetti monster case. People will believe in anything.

    February 26, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
    • Re-all-ity

      Especially the ones with the scary tangled logic flying at you from all directions

      February 26, 2011 at 10:42 pm |
    • Eric G.

      I am the flying spaghetti monster. I am also the walrus. cu cu ca choo.

      February 26, 2011 at 11:48 pm |
    • The Last Italian Supper

      Take it easy there. Don't get your noodle all in a knot like you usually do.

      February 27, 2011 at 12:48 am |
  5. Ed Galbraith

    Extraordinary claims (like miracles, angels, the "ascension", heaven/hell, god, etc. ad nauseum) require extraordinary proof. Wait...I'll settle for SOME proof. And don't refer me to a 2,000 year old book written entirely on hearsay by desert nomads who found miracles around every corner and thought the earth was flat and the center of the universe. People who are atheists are simply people who would like a smidgen of proof. It's called having a conscience.

    February 26, 2011 at 7:29 pm |
    • Re-all-ity

      Then look beyond the ancient part of the perceptions and see what truth is there. That was all that was intended any how. You see what you want to see.

      February 26, 2011 at 10:20 pm |
    • Joe

      I used to be Atheist. Then I found the case for evolution and the big bang in the Quran.

      February 27, 2011 at 9:58 am |
    • Misled Honor

      @Joe Try the other books too, east and west. Eventually, it won't be so funny. Understanding is like that. You'll just smile contentedly, the more things and others, make sense. You have chaos if that is what you want though.

      February 27, 2011 at 10:32 am |
  6. pt

    I read the headline as literally kill yourself for Egypt, boy am I dissapointed by the actual contents of this story.

    February 26, 2011 at 7:14 pm |
    • Metoo

      I am disappoint.
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      ………………………..,.-”……………………………..“-.,
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      ………………./…………………………………………………..,}
      ……………../………………………………………………,:`^`..}
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      …………./__.(…..“~-,_…………………………,:`………./
      ………../(_….”~,_……..“~,_………………..,:`…….._/
      ……….{.._$;_……”=,_…….“-,_…….,.-~-,},.~”;/….}
      ………..((…..*~_…….”=-._……“;,,./`…./”…………../
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      …………(….`=-,,…….`……………………(……;_,,-”
      …………/.`~,……`-………………………….\……/\
      ………….\`~.*-,……………………………….|,./…..\,__
      ,,_……….}.>-._\……………………………..|…………..`=~-,
      …..`=~-,_\_……`\,……………………………\
      ……………….`=~-,,.\,………………………….\
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      ……………………………….`=-,……………….,%`>–==“
      …………………………………._\……….._,-%…….`\
      ……………………………..,< `.._|_,-&"................`\
      darn it

      February 26, 2011 at 11:03 pm |
  7. Terry P

    When he gets too popular, they will wack him just like they did Anwar Sadat.

    February 26, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
  8. Owned

    He actually sounds like a somewhat sane, rational guy. Can we kidnap him and have him work for our government? We could use it.

    February 26, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
  9. Admonisher

    Just wanted to chime in again and say I'm glad CNN updated the main page headline to reflect the actual quote!

    February 26, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
  10. Reality

    Only for the those interested in a religious update:

    1. origin: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482

    New Torah For Modern Minds

    Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

    Such startling propositions – the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years – have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity – until now.

    The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine docu-ment.

    2. Jesus was an illiterate Jewish peasant/carpenter/simple preacher man who suffered from hallucinations and who has been characterized anywhere from the Messiah from Nazareth to a mythical character from mythical Nazareth to a ma-mzer from Nazareth (Professor Bruce Chilton, in his book Rabbi Jesus). An-alyses of Jesus’ life by many contemporary NT scholars (e.g. Professors Crossan, Borg and Fredriksen, ) via the NT and related doc-uments have concluded that only about 30% of Jesus' sayings and ways noted in the NT were authentic. The rest being embellishments (e.g. miracles)/hallucinations made/had by the NT authors to impress various Christian, Jewish and Pagan se-cts.

    The 30% of the NT that is "authentic Jesus" like everything in life was borrowed/plagiarized and/or improved from those who came before. In Jesus' case, it was the ways and sayings of the Babylonians, Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, Hit-ti-tes, Canaanites, OT, John the Baptizer and possibly the ways and sayings of traveling Greek Cynics.
    earlychristianwritings.com/theories.html

    For added "pizz-azz", Catholic theologians divided god the singularity into three persons and invented atonement as an added guilt trip for the "pew people" to go along with this trinity of overseers. By doing so, they made god the padre into god the "fil-icider".

    Current RCC problems:

    Pedo-ph-iliac priests, an all-male, mostly white hierarchy, atonement theology and original sin!!!!

    3. Luther, Calvin, Joe Smith, Henry VIII, Wesley, Roger Williams, the Great “Babs” et al, founders of Christian-based religions or combination religions also suffered from the belief in/hallucinations of "pretty wingie thingie" visits and "prophecies" for profits analogous to the myths of Catholicism (resurrections, apparitions, ascensions and immacu-late co-nceptions).

    Current problems:

    Adu-lterous preachers, "propheteering/ profiteering" evangelicals and atonement theology,

    4. Mohammed was an illiterate, womanizing, lust and greed-driven, warmongering, hallucinating Arab, who also had embellishing/hallucinating/plagiarizing scribal biographers who not only added "angels" and flying chariots to the koran but also a militaristic agenda to support the plundering and looting of the lands of non-believers.

    This agenda continues as shown by the ma-ssacre in Mumbai, the as-sas-sinations of Bhutto and Theo Van Gogh, the conduct of the seven Muslim doctors in the UK, the 9/11 terrorists, the 24/7 Sunni suicide/roadside/market/mosque bombers, the 24/7 Shiite suicide/roadside/market/mosque bombers, the Islamic bombers of the trains in the UK and Spain, the Bali crazies, the Kenya crazies, the Pakistani “koranics”, the Palestine suicide bombers/rocketeers, the Lebanese nutcases, the Taliban nut jobs, the Ft. Hood follower of the koran, and the Filipino “koranics”.
    And who funds this muck and stench of terror? The warmongering, Islamic, Shiite terror and torture theocracy of Iran aka the Third Axis of Evil and also the Sunni "Wannabees" of Saudi Arabia.

    Current crises:

    The Sunni-Shiite blood feud and the warmongering, womanizing (11 wives), hallucinating founder.

    5. Hinduism (from an online Hindu site) – "Hinduism cannot be described as an organized religion. It is not founded by any individual. Hinduism is God centered and therefore one can call Hinduism as founded by God, because the answer to the question ‘Who is behind the eternal principles and who makes them work?’ will have to be ‘Cosmic power, Divine power, God’."

    The caste/laborer system, reincarnation and cow worship/reverence are problems when saying a fair and rational God founded Hinduism."

    Current problems:

    The caste system, reincarnation and cow worship/reverence.

    6. Buddhism- "Buddhism began in India about 500 years before the birth of Christ. The people living at that time had become disillusioned with certain beliefs of Hinduism including the caste system, which had grown extremely complex. The number of outcasts (those who did not belong to any particular caste) was continuing to grow."
    "However, in Buddhism, like so many other religions, fanciful stories arose concerning events in the life of the founder, Siddhartha Gautama (fifth century B.C.):"

    Archaeological discoveries have proved, beyond a doubt, his historical character, but apart from the legends we know very little about the circu-mstances of his life. e.g. Buddha by one legend was supposedly talking when he came out of his mother's womb.

    Bottom line: There are many good ways of living but be aware of the hallucinations, embellishments, lies, and myths surrounding the founders and foundations of said rules of life.

    Then, apply the Five F rule: "First Find the Flaws, then Fix the Foundations". And finally there will be religious peace and religious awareness in the world!!!!!
    o

    February 26, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
    • trex

      Oh, glad you abridged this.

      February 26, 2011 at 9:16 pm |
    • Re-all-ity

      And we all trust you have applied the five Fs to yourself?

      February 26, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
    • Re-all-ity

      You're getting very sleepy, keep eyes on watch going back and forth, you're eyelids are getting very heavy, I'm going to count to 10, when I reach 10 Reality's reality will be real. 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1......

      February 26, 2011 at 9:43 pm |
    • Joe

      How can a man who died with nothing to his name and would often go days without eating because he could not afford any food, in fact he owed money to a Jewish neighbor when he died, be greedy? I'm confused.

      February 27, 2011 at 9:56 am |
    • Misled Honor

      @Reality: It is easy to find fault with anything, especially when you feel you do not have to prove it. The truth however, requires a little effort, no matter what your current perspective.

      February 27, 2011 at 10:08 am |
  11. Upperhand

    @ Chris When YOU die, YOU will realize YOU were wrong.

    February 26, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
  12. Hare

    CNN has done itself a dishonour in my mind. After accusations of unbalanced and sensationalist reporting by many areas of the media regarding Bahrain, the link to this page from the main page was 'Kill Yourself For Egypt'.

    In an age where suicide bombers in the context of Islam, and the fears thereof are ubiquitous in the minds of many, this is a massive and frankly, insulting misrepresentation of the story, and it's main characters message to his people.

    An Inferred suicide bombing provocation and a speech encouraging an industrious work ethic are so far a part I can't think, and dont want to think of a more misleading link text. Many many people won't read the article, they'll just take perception with them and spread that to other minds. That's how word of mouth works.

    Deeply dismayed. Mind, news is a business that's addicted to hits by design.. What can we expect?

    February 26, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
    • ron

      I agree. This headline is disgustingly misleading. I've been noticing more and more of these kinds of attention grabbing headlines from CNN. Another thing CNN does is change the headline after a few hours or few days so that the reader thinks he/she has not read the article.

      February 26, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
    • Iv

      So true. CNN, thanks for the facts when I read the story. But do you think your readers would not like to read a headline like: "Egyptians Encouraged to Establish Broader-Minded Egypt" or something like that? I would have been all over that. I just got to this story becuase I was clicking through all the headlines. Come on, quit pandering to lower qualities of humans and for once have the guts to be positive!

      February 26, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
    • Hare

      But do they care? Not about honesty and integrity, so much as viewing figures, profits and awards. That's how any self-respecting modern day media business judges itself.

      February 27, 2011 at 8:50 pm |
  13. tewrobert

    Maybe some of it will rub off on us

    February 26, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
  14. fanta

    It seems he would make an ideal President....absolutely....he is exactly what egypt needs at this time !

    February 26, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
  15. Patiat

    "Faith-based" anything gives me the willies.

    February 26, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
    • Re-all-ity

      Free Willy ! ! !

      February 26, 2011 at 9:50 pm |
  16. Sam

    Does CNN really have to sink to the sensationalist gutter to grab attention? The "Kill yourself for Egypt" line only appears in the link without any further explanation. Just an unabashed attempt at attention grabbing. It taints the whole article and what this guy is about. Pretty disgraceful really.

    February 26, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
    • conoclast

      Agreed! CNN should be ashamed; corporate greed obviously trumps journalistic integrity - and even good taste - every time. There's always PBS, folks.

      February 26, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
  17. Edwin

    It seems like this is the sort of person Egypt needs right now - someone to mobilize the masses to BUILD. What they did - taking down Mubarak - was very hard, but rebuilding the new country they desire is so much harder. It will take large numbers of people 'killing' themselves in service of Egypt for it to become what they wish it to be. And it will take a great deal of hope to sustain them.

    February 26, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
  18. Hawk

    All this man is trying to do is encourage his audince to become better people,now if you have a problem with that. Then you observably have some issues you need to deal with before putting some unsightly comments of hate and such

    February 26, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
  19. michael cahill

    To the Editor:
    Please tell us why you choose to promote fear and hatred with your headline/link to the story from the homepage: "Preacher: Kill Yourself for Egypt"? Why did you not say: Preacher: Work Yourselves to Death for Egypt....or something else?

    How many casual glances may see that as something completely different tabloidism. shame.

    February 26, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
    • Jack sheet

      I agree. As an Arabic language scholar, I found the flaw in the translation in that the author did not correctly translate the idea or the thought. It was a crude, literal translation.

      February 26, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
    • Iv

      It's just the usual "if it bleeds, it leads". A while ago when I was living in Mexico, CNN said "Obama sending troops to the Mexican border". Son of a gun – they got me. It was only to fix holes in the fence or to pick up trash. News would be so much more believable without these subtle fear-mongering headlines!!! Stop it, please!!!!

      February 26, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
    • Re-all-ity

      The problem with translating many texts: "out of sight, out of mind" becomes "invisible idiots" and the the real ones all start arguing.

      February 26, 2011 at 9:48 pm |
    • jeswondering

      thought that too....doesnt CNN respond to these posts at all. that was pretty shameless.

      February 26, 2011 at 10:18 pm |
  20. Moe

    The translation is a literal one, yes he probably said kill yourself but the translation of its meaning would be more along the lines of work hard for Egypt.

    February 26, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.