Egyptian academic faces backlash after calling Salahudeen al Ayubi “despicable”

Controversial Egyptian thinker, Youssef Zeidan, is facing a backlash after calling the famous Muslim military leader Salahudeen al Ayubi “one of the most despicable figures in human history”.

Salahudeen Ayubi is revered as one of the most prominent Muslim figures in Islamic history for liberating Jerusalem from the Crusaders in 1187.

But recent statements made by published author and academic Zeidan have sparked a heated debate on social media and in the Egyptian press.

Youssef Zeidan

The controversy occurred when Zeidan responded to a question during a talk show about old Egyptian films about Islamic figures and history.

He stated that films of the past which glorified Islam and Muslim figures included “historic fallacies”.

Zeidan said the way Salahudeen was depicted in mainstream Islamic history does not include his alleged “brutality against the Fatimid’s,” the founders of the Ismaili Shia Caliphate that ruled Egypt and Syria.

Zeidan told interviewer Amr Adeeb that, “Salahudeen is one of the most despicable figures in human history. He committed crimes against the Fatimids.”

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He added that the reason why this alleged reputation of Salahudeen is uncommon among today’s Muslim community is “intentionally political”.

Zedian’s controversial interview angered many Egyptian scholars and historians, who condemned his comments, and questioned his political motives in attacking esteemed figures from Islamic history.

Professor Zubeida Attallah from Egypt’s Ain Shams University said: “Why do we attack our symbolic figures and the values that we possess? The hero of the Battle of Hittin, during which he fought the Crusaders and took back Jerusalem.”

His unconventional and fringe views on many topics, including the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, have previously caused controversy and made him widely unpopular amongst mainstream Muslim scholars and academics.

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