Qur‘anic schools in the West teach political Islam centred on jihad and hatred towards the enemies. Imams and scholars are blocking any reform and every question from students. Islamist groups want to destroy Muslim regimes and the imperialist West. An Islam of dialogue that does not proselytise is still possible. Europe must control Jihadi groups. This will save Islam as a religious experience, and even world peace. Imam Drouiche, vice-president of the Conference of Imams of France-Paris, gives his reflections.
Paris (AsiaNews) – Several experts believe that the Muslim world is going through the most difficult period of its history, and is losing its political, social and religious points of references.
At one time, religion was seen as the salvation of the Ummah, the global community of Muslims, from poverty and underdevelopment. Now it has become the Ummah’s biggest problem. With apostasy (takfir), hatred, and religious wars, the notion of Ummah (nation) has become almost non-existent. Amid Shias, Sunnis, Salafis, the Muslim Brotherhood, political Islam and jihadism, tens of thousands of young Muslims can no longer find rationality and the ability to adapt to modern times. Political Islam has turned the Islam of life and hope into an ideology of death and bombings in the name of jihad and defence of the Ummah!
The latest attacks in the Muslim world show that Islam’s religious crisis is becoming more serious and complicated. We had always thought that terrorism was born in Iraq and Afghanistan because of the pride of the Bush administration. The Arab Spring has shown clearly that the problem of Islam is linked to Islam’s theological and legal crises: various legal schools, various Islamist groups, the absence of religious references, the crisis of multiple references colliding with each other, captivity to the past and history without any desire for reform, creativity or adaptation of the religious text to modern circumstances.
Despite all the efforts at religious reform, Islam has not been able to free itself from interpretations and judgments that date back to the Middle Ages. Can we accept these ancient interpretations in the West? Is it morally acceptable that we repeat the hateful religious norms, drawn up centuries ago, when Muslims were at war against Europe, whilst Muslims today have become citizens with full rights in these countries?
The latest attacks in the West and the Muslim world show that religious reform has become necessary for Islam and Muslims to continue to exist. These events have shown the importance of such reform for world peace!
The Muslim religion, as it is often presented in Islamist Qur‘anic schools, tends towards hatred and violence instead of love and tolerance. Conspiracy theories and the demonisation of others make these groups more attractive than if they spoke about peace and dialogue!
Recently, a Committee for Reform set up by the University of al-Azhar, which is the largest university in the Muslim world, strongly criticised the ancient methods and books used in the training of imams and theologians. Nevertheless, that university itself is often criticised by Islamists and Muslim groups because it facilitates religion too much!
These schools use very ancient Muslim legal books. Self-criticism is prohibited. Students have no right to take a different point of view from that of their sheikh or spiritual leader. One can still hear in school an old refrain: If your teacher (sheikh) is not pleased with you, God will never be pleased with you! As a result, creativity and religious reform are destined to eternal death!
Muslims consider that the Salaf (predecessors) have already answered all the questions of life. As a result, students in their Islamic group must be as a dead person in the hands of his purifiers (quote from Muslim literature).
Conspiracy theories and hatred towards the West
In addition, these schools never cease telling young people about conspiracy theories, which explain perfectly how the whole world is against Islam and Muslims! So, the best among them are those who gives their soul to defend God’s religion against unbelievers, Jews, crusaders, atheists, polytheists, etc. . . . These Islamists know how to create enemies because they consider themselves God’s attorneys on earth with the right to judge all others, even Muslims who do not think like them!
Hence, it is easy to understand why Islamist groups demonise all tolerant imams, those who encourage dialogue and work for a European Islam, detached from the Arab-Muslim world. They often call them traitors, Western collaborators, pro-Zionists . . . in order to discredit them in the eyes of their fellow Muslims, who want nothing more than a decent and respectable life, without any desire to dominate Europe or convert others. Such allegations can even turn into death threats as is the case for Imam Hassen Chalghoumi, Dalil Boubekeur and other imams in the United States.
Conspiracy theories clearly tell Muslims that ‘You are not responsible for anything because you are the victims of the West’. Those elites who promote such theories kill the notion of responsibility and hope among Muslims to reform and correct the serious errors of Islamism in Europe.
Conflict theories exploit people's discontent in marginalised neighbourhoods in France, in Belgium and elsewhere. In Europe there is racism against Muslims, as there is anti-Semitism towards Jews. But this cannot be solved through violence, attacks, or hatred towards each other. Conspiracy theories only help radicalise young people and put them in a state of revolution and opposition to any dialogue or rapprochement, since there is no trust any more.
Of course, the problems associated with radicalisation are due to various social, economic, and identity factors, but I personally believe that imams and Islamic scholars in Europe must have the courage to face the truth and recognise that the Islamic religious discourse is still not adapted to Europe’s reality and values . . . and that the religious text has become a pretext for hatred and violence.
For the first time in history we have Europeans who convert for the sake of war and hatred! In a normal situation people should convert to a religion for peace and love!
Young Muslims are in direct conflict with their brothers and are at war with the West. This trauma creates a psychological imbalance in thousands of young people who, in the absence of a competent and recognised religious references, find opportunities to interpret religious texts in the sense of hatred and violence, in accordance with the notion of jihad and self-defence, to protect the Ummah from the cultural, economic and military conquest of the West.
Islamist groups have replaced the Muslim state. The chouyoukhs [wisemen, scholars, elders) and the leaders of these movements do not hide their contempt for governments and the regimes installed – according to them – by Western imperialism.
Hijacked by Islamist groups, modern Islam is explained from within a war-like and confrontational framework. Consequently, dialogue with Christians, Jews and the West can never be sincere to these groups. Muslims must not place any trust in them.
The International Union of Muslim scholars asked all imams and Muslim preachers to stop inter-religious and intercultural dialogue with Western institutions.
Such a conflictual environment and hatred as well as the immobility of Islam towards modernity and post-modernity have influenced the vision of millions of young people towards the whole world. For Islamist thinking, Islam does not accept coexistence between faith and unbelief, light and darkness, God and the devil.
Europe is caught in between Islamist groups and interventions by various Arab and Muslim countries like Algeria, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran and others. It will find it difficult to manage Islam that transcends the notion of religion and has become more and more the ideology of militant political Islam that seeks to rule. The relationship between Islam and the West can be normalised only if Islam is de-politicised and goes back to its religious nature, tackling desires for domination and proselytising.
Islamic groups draw their legitimacy among Muslims from the revolutionary Islam that challenges Arab regimes, but also modernity and imperialist European states. Sooner or later, Europe will recover its power and its control over Islamist groups in the interest of social peace, but also in the interest of European Islam that is going through a period of anarchy and disorganisation, with blows from abroad that threaten everyone.
European Muslims who are part of these pseudo-religious groups do not yet realise the fear and anger of European citizens against them, because of their incomprehensible and ambiguous silence in the face of the terrorist attacks in Europe and the world! Political Islam, which describes these people as racist, fascist, and Islamophobic only aggravates the situation. It is up to European Muslims and groups to inject rationality in the discourse and break away from visions imported from the Arab world.
According to various experts, a clear, modern European Islam has become more than necessary if we are to avoid falling into a general and inevitable conflict that harms first of all Islam and Muslims.
European Muslims should not fall into the trap laid by Islamist groups who pursue ideological and political agendas rather than religious goals and have no connection with the true values of Islam, which are peaceful, spiritual, realistic, respectful as well as non-dominating and non- proselytising.
* Vice-President of the Conference of Imams of France-Paris
Candidate for rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris