To learn about Islam "from within", the PIME missionary attended an institute in France whose project is Islamization and the foundation of the caliphate, but in a non-violent manner. Young Muslims, in crisis with their faith, attend school to strengthen their identity. The veil, the beard, the halal food the external signs, distinctive of Muslim witness.
Rome (AsiaNews) - Fr. Luca Del Bo, a PIME missionary in Cameroon, lives in the north of the country, where together with other Christians and local imams he helps young people not to fall prey to Boko Haram's fundamentalist and violent Islam. Here the second part of his experience, in contact with an Islamic school in Paris. For the first part, see here.
To continue the work on dialogue with Islam, I decided to train in Paris, also to strengthen my French. I found two possibilities: one was the Islamic faculty; the other was a private institution (European Institute for the Humanities).
I wanted to understand Islam from within, explained by a Muslim: I did not want a priest to explain the faith of others to me. In the same way, to understand Christianity, a Muslim must turn to a Christian, not another Muslim. With my PIME brothers we decided to reject the Islamic faculty because it seemed fundamentalist. The private institute seemed more open, but it turned out to be a set of schools run by the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). In their past, the MB have a history of violence, but the branch that supports the school I attended has a non-violent political project of Islamization. The goal, however, is the Islamization and the erection of a Caliphate in the world.
This Islamization begins with forming the base, starting from the bottom reaching up to a political level. At school this is expressed clearly, presenting it as the project of Islam, tout court. Some Muslims and I directly asked if the school is supported by the MB. They replied that it was founded by the MB, but that it is now independent and no longer has direct links. In any case, as principles they follow are those of Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the MB, whose texts are studied; as well as those of Sayyid al-Qutb, who was the theologian of the MB.
The school offers courses in Arabic, also recognized by the French State, and Muslim theology explained in Arabic and French. They also teach Islamic finance, very interesting because it deals with the management of business, inheritance, etc. according to sharia. It also proposes to train imams for Europe, but is not yet recognized by the State and is based on a course recognized at the Institute Catholique. France demands that the imams who exercise in the country know French law, which in some respects is opposed to sharia. It seemed to me that it is taught but only to "pass the exam", without any real dedication to it.
Islamization and "true Islam"
Islamization takes place primarily through education. At school they present the Sharia, with hadith, the Koran, the jurisprudence and by doing this they strengthen the people who attend these lessons, which are above all young men. They want to rediscover their identity and seek arguments upon which to found their faith. At present the Islamic identity is in crisis. These young people need to rediscover their identity and the value of their faith. This is why they attend school, where they are taught love for and imitation of the prophet, a return to their origins. Girls are taught to wear the veil, to cover their body; young men are taught to grow a beard. Living thus, imitating the prophet (for men) and the wives of the prophet (for girls), and living the "true Islam".
What’s curious is that we always hear talk of "true Islam". When terrorist attacks occur, they say: "That is not true Islam; true Islam is peace and mercy ". They say that terrorist Islam is not true because it is violent, it tries to shock people: the prophet has never shocked anyone, not even when he proposed Islam. Quoting from the hadiths they argue that rather than shocking someone, the prophet left the other in his religious conviction.
Neither are attempts to go beyond traditional Islam “true Islam”, what we would term today "enlightened Islam", an Islam that tries to modernize itself by critically reading the hadiths, the Koran, rejecting a literal interpretation.
The spiritual (Sufism) is not "true Islam" either. The "real Islam" is that of the two golden periods, that of the "four well-guided caliphs" and that of the Abbasid dynasty. They believe we must return to this Islam. Modern Islam hurts Islam; those who propose a modern and open interpretation of Islam are not considered Muslims. Citing the hadiths, they say that these people must be killed, even before Christians and Jews, because they are the ones who represent real evil for Islam. Those who criticize the hadiths and question them are not true Muslims, in fact they do not even call them Muslims.
This style of education is precisely that of the MB, even if the leaders of the school deny it. There is a strong emphasis on tradition, and also on clothing. Formation for them means teaching how a Muslim should dress, how he should behave. For example, they advise against Muslims becoming too familiar with non-Islamic people. In the course of Muslim theology these indications are given: do not frequent groups of non-Muslims if it is not necessary; lower your eyes and do not look into the eyes; the right clothing for women (do not emphasize curves and wear the veil, but not covering the face); the food must be halal (pure); other products must be bio. There is a strong awareness on food: it is one of the most important topics. For men to grow a beard without a mustache is not obligatory, but it is an act of love for the prophet; man cannot wear gold decorations. They insist a lot on the behavior, the way of life, on the necessity of witnessing their faith also through external signs.
(End of the second of three parts)