(AsiaNews) - Mohammed Merah, killed at age 23, is infamous as the author of the
slaughter of Jewish children at the school of Toulouse (France), on March 19,
and a few days earlier the killing of French paratroopers in Montauban.
Besieged by police for hours in the house where he was imprisoned, he died in
shoot-out on March 22.
Abdennour Bidar is
a French Muslim philosopher, I have had the joy of
knowing. On 23 March, he published an article in the newspaper "Le
Monde", entitled: "Merah, a monstre issu de la Maladie de l'Islam (Merah,
a monster created by Islam's illness)." Given its importance, I would like
to present it here.
killer of Toulouse and Montauban was identified as' Salafi jihadist '... the
declarations made by Islamic dignitaries in France were careful to avoid any'
amalgam 'between the radicalism of this individual and the peaceful nature of
France's Muslim community to "clearly" distinguish between Islam and Islamism,
Islam and violence. "
serious question remains: "On the whole, can the religion of Islam be declared
alien to this type of radical action? ... Or perhaps, is this gesture the
extreme expression of an illness within Islam itself?".
that in Islam there is a "degeneration" that takes multiple forms:
"ritualism, formalism, dogmatism, sexism, antisemitism, intolerance, religious
illiteracy or 'subculture' are ills which afflict it".
are prevalent, but there are also "Muslims morally, socially, spiritually
enlightened by their faith." One can not say therefore that "Islam is
essentially intolerant." You can however say that Islam contains - beside
certain moral demands - elements of intolerance that at times reappear in
different circumstances. He adds: "All of these ills I have enumerated
alter the health of the Islamic culture in France and elsewhere."
Faced with this situation, Muslims must respond with courage. The author says
that Islam must recognize "that this kind of gesture, despite being
outside its spirituality and culture, however, is the most serious, most
outstanding symptom of the deep crisis that it is experiencing." And he
asks: "Who will have that courage? Who will take this risk?"
One may wonder
why the author speaks of courage. The reason is that for "several
centuries" Islam has been stuck in its certainties. It does not dare to
question itself. It is content to affirm and reaffirm its "truth".
The more it states this with force, the more it reveals its internal weakness.
Before a world which contests it, it responds with violence, because it dare
not face the outside world, except to declare it evil and corrupt. It "is
incapable of self-criticism," says Bidar.
This is Islam's
illness: "considering with paranoia that any calling into question of its
dogmas is a sacrilege. The Koran, the Prophet, Ramadan, halal, etc. ..: even
among educated people, cultured, ready for dialogue in many areas, the
slightest attempt to call into question these totems of Islam, meets with a
final refusal. "
In their majority, Muslims deny anyone to be able to call into question
their traditions, their rituals, their customs and habits. They have walled
themselves in to their own world, which they worship, declare absolute and
sacred. "Most Muslim consciences refuse and even to refuse anyone else the
right to discuss what tradition established as untouchably sacred thousands of
years ago: rituals, principles, customs, which, however no longer meet all the
spiritual needs of the present time. "
They have remained deeply attached to these traditions, set in the 7 th
century, in a Bedouin context and "do not realize that ever more
frequently even they themselves and their demands have changed in nature."
The values that they claim as authentically Muslim, because faithful to the
practice of the "Ancients" (the Salaf,
hence the word Salafi), no longer
meet the current criteria of all Muslims, established criteria "in the
name of completely profane values: the right to difference, tolerance, freedom
of conscience. "
And our author
adds: "Is it no wonder that in this general climate of frozen and
schizophrenic civilization, some ill spirit would transform and radicalize this
collective closure into murderous fanaticism?".
In fact, for the Salafists, the model remains fixed to the past, to the era of
the "Prophet", the seventh century, the model of Bedouin society. The
model goes backward and not forward. The true Muslim, according to these
Salafists, to find the true essence of Islam, must go back to the past and not
look ahead to the future, this "forward" represented by Western
culture, is branded as corrupt and depraved.
Muslim reacts by saying that these Salafis are the exception, they do not
represent true Islam, an Islam that is retrograde, etc. ... At the same time,
the Salafis, present themselves as the only "authentic" ones because
they are faithful to the "Tradition of the Prophet" (sunnat
al-Nabi), and that the
Prophet is presented in the Koran as the model par excellence (Koran 33: 21 ).
In turn, the average Muslim says that true Islam is peaceful Islam, in
accordance with the Koran that says "there is no
compulsion in religion"
((Koran 2, 256).
The average Muslim says that "a similar fanaticism is [only] specific
to an individual and is the tree that hides the forest of a peaceful
But Bidar raises the question: "What is the real state of the forest in
which trees like this take root? Could a healthy culture and a true spiritual
education create such monsters?"
These cases are
too numerous to be just a tree in the forest! How come there are so many
"fanatics" who are often educated people who, far exceeding the
Muslim average? How is it that so many Western converts to Islam, or Muslims
who live in the West for so long, feel attracted to this extreme?
And even more so, how is it that so many imams and guides, trained in the best
and most authentic Islamic centers worldwide, go on to promote this form of
"Some Muslims - says the author - sense that this type of issue has been
delayed for too long. They are gradually becoming aware [over time] that it
will become more difficult to remove responsibility from Islam for its
fanatics, and behave as if it is enough to draw the distinction between Islam
and radical Islam. "
frequent manifestations of radical Islam it is only too easy to say that this
is not Islam. The "Arab spring" that we see developing before our
eyes is too often turned into an "Islamic autumn." And Islamism is
likely to bring us back to the civilization of the desert.
And Bidar proclaims: "But for many more Muslims it should now become clear
that in this religious culture, the
roots of the sick tree are too absorbed and too numerous for it to continue to
believe it can be satisfied with simply denouncing its black sheep... 'Islam
must accept the principle of its complete re-establishment or - without doubt -
its integration into a broader humanism, which leads eventually to overcome its
frontiers and horizons. "
It is therefore
a case of superseding itself, "its borders and its own horizon," says
Prof. Abdennour. The choice is this or death. A case of a "complete
re-establishment" in a "broader humanism." And at this point he
asks the question: "But will [Islam] agree to die in this way so that a
new form of spiritual life can be reborn from its legacy? And where can we find
the inspiration for this?".
As a good philosophy professor, Abdennour ("the servant of the
Light"), gives this answer: "As a specialist of Islam's deepest
thoughts, I see that the philosophical and mystical thought of Averroes
(1126-1198) and Ibn Arabi (1165-1241) [have] a wisdom that has been lost - the
majority of Muslims do not even know their names. However, it is not a case of resurrecting
them, or repeating them. It is now too late for that . It is about finding their equivalent for our time. From this point
of view, it is not enough to be ready to admit that ultimately there is "a
general illness within Islam" and that we must return to these
"wisdoms of the past."
So there is a
"general illness of Islam". For several decades, Islam has been
facing a crisis of the strongest nature. Most of the intellectuals and
enlightened thinkers have said it and repeated it. Many are trying to emerge
from this crisis, but the fundamentalist trend is stronger and blocks any
effort to renewal or reform, as Bidar says. The point is that the leap forward
is a leap into the unknown, with all the risks this entails, while going backwards
appears more certain, in accordance with the Sunnah and it is reassuring. For
Bidar, Islam "has to re-invent itself a spiritual culture." This last
word is one of the key words of our philosopher, in all his works:
spirituality. Thus we quote his conclusion:
challenge is much more important. Islam should come to this completely new
lucidity in which to understand that it must reinvent a spiritual culture from
the ashes of the material death of its traditions. But, another important
problem, it can not do by itself and for
itself: today it would serve no purpose to establish an "Islamic
humanism" next to a "Western humanism" or "Buddhist
humanism." If the tomorrow of the twenty-first century is spiritual, this
will not occur in separate modalities between the different religions and
worldviews, but on the basis of a common faith in man. To be found together.
 Born in Clermont-Ferrand 13
January 1971 to a French Muslim mother. Educated by his grandfather, an extreme
secularist, he sought his path in a reflective and spiritual Islam. I personally
met Bidar on July 12, 2007 at the Senate in Paris,
during the Colloquium, "East Europe:
Dialogue with Islam," sponsored Christian Poncelet, President of the
Senate (see: http://www.senat.fr/colloques/europe_orient/europe_orient_mono.html). With others, Abdennour had to deal with
the theme "Can we adapt Islam to Europe?
'I (along with Mohammed Arkoun, Abdelmajid Charfi and Youssef Seddik) had to
deal with the question "Can we conceive an Islamic exegesis? '. We had a
deep and personal exchange, which for me remains most memorable. He is also
author of numerous articles and especially the five works that have provoked
much discussion: Un Islam pour notre temps
(A Islam for Our Time, 2004); Self Islam, Histoire d'un islam personnel (Self-Islam, history of a personal Islam,
2006), L'islam sans soumission. Pour un existentialisme musulman (Islam without submission. Existentialism
For a Muslim, 2008); L'islam face à la mort de Dieu. Actualité de Mohammed
Iqbal (Islam before the
death of God. News of Mohammed Iqbal, 2010); Comment sortir de la
religion? (Getting out of