08/31/2007, 00.00
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Hegazi Case: Is there a plan for the world’s conversion to Islam?

by Samir Khalil Samir, sj
Some theories about an alleged Muslim plan to convert the world are a myth. But it is fair to say that some Muslims are engaged in constant propaganda and that at a social and cultural level Islam is colonising the West. Saudi Arabia provides the money; the process of de-Christianisation offers the religious motive; ignorance and a sense of embarrassment in many Western governments do the rest. Here is the third (and last) part of an analysis by Fr Samir Khalil Samir, an Egyptian Jesuit and Islam expert.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – Is there a Muslim plan to take over the world? There is talk about a paper (which I haven’t seen) ostensibly published at a conference held in India in 1996 that purports to endorse a strategy for the conversion of Europe by 2050 and of the world by 2100 to Islam.

I think this is just a myth or some story blown totally out of proportion. I do think though that for the past 60 or so years the Muslim Brotherhood, increasingly backed by Saudi Arabia and many other Muslim countries like Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, etc., has tried to turn Muslim countries into Islamic states governed by Sharia law.

The second phase of this plan, carried out concurrently to the first, is to Islamise Christians living in Muslim countries. This is happening wherever there are radical Muslims, in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, Iraq . . . . We saw this happen in Iraq in the past year, where some neighbourhoods in Baghdad have become micro-caliphates in which Christians are told to convert to Islam or pay the Jizya (protection money), and accept second-class status.

Converting Europe

The third phase is the conversion of Europe (and for Muslims Europe symbolises Christianity). This is carried out first and foremost by working with young, European-born Muslims through imams teaching radical ideologies in mosques, prisons, bookstores. The next step is propaganda through Tabligh, a method that evolved in Pakistan and has spread to Europe. It is a mystical, Sufi-like missionary movement that has converted tens of thousands of Europeans. Another movement that aims at converting Europe is that of radical Islam, which is highly critical of European culture as a whole.

However, the most dangerous trend because it is subtler is that incarnated by Tariq Ramadan, a scholar who has become a leading figure in Europe and is consulted as an expert by Western governments.

Ramadan says that Muslims in Europe want to become European Muslims but for this to happen European society must recognise Muslims and give them the necessary space to express ourselves.

In practical terms this means converting Europe’s social and legal systems in order to facilitate converting people. It means Islamising institutions on the premise that since Europe no longer has a soul but only technology, Islam is the only religion that can fill the void.

Throughout Islam’s history conversions were the consequences of systems’ changes. In Egypt for instance a Christian who wanted to play a role in politics sooner or later had to convert with his family automatically following. Today anyone who wants to be a government minister, a head physician or an army general needs the advantages that come with being Muslim. As a result of this over the centuries the best and brightest and their offspring could only leave.

The same happens in marriage. Non-Muslim women who marry Muslim men today end up becoming Muslim. And yet, the Qur’an says that a Jewish or a Christian woman need not change her religion to marry. Verse Five, Chapter Five (the last to be revealed by God) does indeed say:

“Today, all good food is made lawful for you. The food of the people of the scripture is lawful for you, [and your food is lawful for them]*. Also, you may marry the chaste women among the believers, as well as the chaste women among the followers of previous scripture, provided you pay them their due dowries. You shall maintain chastity, not committing adultery, nor taking secret lovers. Anyone who rejects faith, all his work will be in vain, and in the Hereafter he will be with the losers.” (Translation by Rashad Khalifa)

In Italy and Europe it is becoming increasingly commonplace for European women to become Muslim in order to marry Tunisian, Libyan or Moroccan men even though the Sharia does not require it. Pushed by extremists Muslim men increasingly demand from their future wives that they convert, and the latter out of love and because of the lack of strong religious convictions often do without fully grasping its consequences.

Until the 1950s many Muslims intellectuals and political leaders boasted at having a Christian wife. This is no longer the case in Muslim but also in traditionally Christian countries. This is a victory for radicals in the Muslim world who, as they put, “can convert even in their Christian world.”

Islamic veils and beards

Proselytising is also done by showing oneself, wearing the hijab, the chador, etc. Muslim symbols make Muslim crowds visible. Conversely, the process of de-Christianisation tends to eliminate Christian religious symbols.

Symbols that mark group boundaries are clearly political in nature as well as of religious import to believers. For this reason some Muslim and European countries have banned religious symbols that assert an Islamist identity in public offices. In Egypt this principle applies to certain kinds of beards as well. For radical Muslims all religious symbols are politically relevant.

Among Muslim scholars these issues are the subject of heated debates. Some argue that Europe must be converted and that the means are available. Since it has become pagan it must be fought and converted. In this context the de-Christianisation of the West is seen as the first step towards conversion to Islam.

Thanks to Saudi Arabia and its ideological and financial backing, the Wahhabi ideology and the Muslim Brotherhood are spreading everywhere, in newspapers, on TV, in the curriculum used in imam training schools; through funds to build mosques and Islamic centres.

In Italy this is trend is best represented by the Unione delle Comunità ed Organizzazioni Islamiche in Italia (Union of Islamic Communities and Organisations in Italy) or UCOII. In France the Union des Organisations Islamiques de France (Union of Islamic Organisations of France) or UOIF has taken the lead.

Sadly, pro-Saudi Islamic groups are accepted as reliable partners in the dialogue with Islam even though they do not speak for most Muslims. But out of ignorance, for practical reasons or an attitude of compromise, European governments include them in their consultative bodies.

Conclusion: together to humanise the world

The Muslim World is going through is greatest crisis. The confrontation with modernity, represented and promoted by the West, which has always been viewed as Christian, a competitor and very often an enemy, chips away at Islam’s stable and uncontested order.

Centuries of intellectual stagnation have made this confrontation visible to all. After Islam’s much vaunted greatness in the period running from the 9th to the 11th century, a feeling of decadence has set in!

Some have escaped into the past when Muslims threw themselves into conquering the world (7th century), giving rise to Islam’s ‘Golden Age.’ Others have sought strength through violence and slid into terrorism in God’s name, thinking that this way they would be defending both Islam and God. Others still have sought a way out of Islam, seen as dead weight, a stranglehold or a prison, opting instead for practical form of atheism and sometimes even Christianity.

In turn the Western World, which is rooted in Christianity no matter what negationists might say, is going through its own great crisis. With God treated as a human invention and religion as an addiction (as the opium of the masses), the West has fallen into an ideological and spiritual vacuum. Some who are idealist find refuge in believing in a brighter future, dreaming a better world; others pursue a form of rationalism devoid of an ethical values and spirituality. Then there are those who seek total freedom, even at the cost of self-destruction. Finally, many simply live by relying on a practical form of materialism.

A clash of civilisation is inevitable under the circumstances. Treating conversion (from Islam) as a betrayal worthy of killing someone is one sign of this. Dividing the world into two camps, separating Good from evil, has turned into an obsession. This is the analytical framework that Professor Ratzinger (who now happens to be Pope Benedict XVI) elaborated and presented in his lecture in Regensburg on September 12, 2006. In it he pointed out that in the West we have a form of rationality that lacks a spiritual content (reason without faith), whilst in Islam we find a type of rationality that has turned into violence (faith without reason). These temptations oppose one another but also run parallel to each other.

The solution lies in the hands of believers who are not fanatical—be they Muslim, Christian or from others traditions. Their openness to all that is human can be the basis on which to build, along with others who may or may not believe, a better world.

This is the test of the 21st century, one that involves accepting the challenge posed by  freedom that cleanses without falling into a free-for-all; one that welcomes the challenge of modernity whilst neither reneging nor regretting the past; one that takes up the challenge of democracy without sliding into disorder and violence.

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