Rome (AsiaNews) - The series of terrorist attacks in many European cities and capitals, as well as the relentless wave of migrants seeking asylum in Europe, spurs many to fear of a possible "invasion" of Islam. Correspondingly many see an equally violent response to the violence of these attacks as the most rational move. A "war of religions" is the cliché touted passionately by many media, following the hypothesis of the "conflict of civilizations" in vogue a few years ago.
In this three part analysis, Father Samir Khalil Samir, Jesuit, Islamologist, points out not tensions with Islam are not found everywhere, nor within the entire Islamic world, instead they can be traced back to historical, geographical and cultural reasons, and that there has always been a dialogical basis in the Middle East, which urgently needs to be strengthened in Europe. Part One:
1. Relations between Christians and Muslims in the East
The situation is different depending on the countries. In general, however, the situation is difficult because the states are not secular, but governed by Islamic Law (shari'a), with the exception of Lebanon, the only non-Islamic Arab country. Muslim countries do not distinguish between faith and politics, between private and public. This is the greatest difficulty for us Christians: to be subjected to the Islamic system, a system that dates back to the seventh century.
In Lebanon, the situation is generally good and there is a willingness to live in a friendly way. All religious groups are recognized: they can follow their norms, and there is a constitution inspired by nodernity and recognized by all groups. There is equality between the two groups.
In Jordan, the situation is also relatively good, because the king is open-minded. Both his father Hussein and the present king, Abdallah, married Western, well-educated, wives of Eastern and even Christian origins.
Syria has positive elements, following the Baath party founded by an Orthodox Christian (Michel Aflaq, 1910-1989) and having a secular constitution. The problem is that, for almost 50 years, the president is a Muslim of Shiite tradition (alawita), although 70% of the population is a Muslim of Sunni tradition. The fact that the constitution is secular and that all religions are respected permits, for example, every religious group to build their own places of prayer, to have their religious activities, their days of celebration; The marriage system is different according to religions, the hereditary system also. In short, there is a distinction between political life (common to all), and the different religious organization according to religious groups.
Egypt, overly influenced by the al-Azhar University and the Muslim Brothers founded in 1928, is more fanatical. Everything is derived straight from Islamic Shari'a. It was not the case before, under the monarchs and even under Gamal Abdel Nasser. This changed with the amendment of the Constitution under President Sadat in 1972, with Article 2 which made shari'a the essential basis of the constitution.
In addition, the Muslim Brotherhood movement is very strong in Egypt (where it was born). This movement is aimed at the Islamization of society, by all possible means. The mosques are numerous and increasingly radical, and emit imam’s preaching and prayers five times a day (even at 5am) with powerful megaphones. It is their form of Islamic propaganda.
As for the Arab Peninsula, especially Saudi Arabia, religious intolerance is the norm based on Wahhabi fanaticism, a doctrine introduced by imam Muhammad Abd al-Wahhāb (1703-1792), in the most rigid form of Islam , Insisting on the literal interpretation of the Koran. Many of them estimate that those who do not adopt this form of Islam are simply pagan, kāfir. Characters such as Osama bin Laden, Ṭālebān and nowadays Isis (Da'esh in Arabic) inspire to this conception of Islam, with all the violence we see from these groups. What is worse is that all these inhumane massacres are carried out in the name of God and of religion.
The majority of Arab Peninsula countries follow Saudi Arabia to different degrees. Today's tragedy is that Arabia (and Qatar), with their oil wealth, widely distribute millions of dollars among every Islamic country provided they adopt the Wahhabi doctrine. And so they are destroying all the Muslim countries.
2. Arab culture unites Christians and Muslims and facilitates dialogue
Christians and Muslims in the Middle East share a common Arab culture. Indeed, everyone recognizes that through the centuries Christians have played an important role in Arab culture, both during the abbasside period (750-1250) and in the modern era, in the 19th and 20th centuries. They have modernized Arabic language and thought; they have often been promoters of modern ideas and modern technologies. Everyone recognizes their contribution (especially that of Siro-Lebanese Christians, even in Egypt in the 19th and 20th centuries) in Arab society and Arab politics.
This common Arab culture, and this positive contribution to renewing and modernizing culture, facilitates the relationship between the two religions. Often, however, Christians are more open to Western culture than Muslims, who have a more closed vision of life, more marked by the past, especially regarding the relationship between man and woman. In this area, as far as the woman's place is concerned, Christians have made a great contribution. Without falling into the excesses visible in the West, they have given value to the respective role of men and women.
The greatest contribution of Christians to modern Arab civilization is probably in the field of education. Both in Lebanon and Egypt, Christian schools (mainly Catholic), male and female, already in the middle of the nineteenth century, have formed the most prominent personalities, Muslims and Christians. In Lebanon, the most famous universities so far have been created by Protestant Christians (such as the American University, AUB, founded in 1866) and Catholics (St. Joseph's Jesuit University, USJ, founded in 1875). In the twentieth century many Catholic colleges (founded by religious orders) emerged, beginning with the Kaslik University (USEK, founded in 1950), the Balamand Orthodox University (inaugurated in 1988), and finally the Lebanese University In 1953).
The Islamic-Christian Studies Institute, founded in 1977 at St Joseph’s University, provides scientific information on the two religions and the relationship between the two. Students are more or less Muslim and Christian. The same goes for the professors. Some subjects are given simultaneously by two professors, one Muslim and the other Christian. This allows you to complete the point of view of one professor with that of the other professor.
Having a common Arab culture, this allows Christians to better understand Muslims and Muslims to find out that Christians are not alien to the Muslim cultural world. Difficulties arise with rigorous or fanatical Muslims, more rarely with fanatical Christians.
In addition, there is a common basis between Muslims and Christians of the East: faith in the one God, total trust in God. There are many common expressions that express abandonment to God's will in everything, and trust in Him : Insaliarah (if God wills!), Al-hamdu lillah (praise God!), Bi-idhn Allah (with permission of God!), Neshkor Allah (thank God!), Subḥān Allah (Glory to God!), Mā Allah, (what God loves) Fi aman Allah (in the protection of God!), Rahimahu Allah (May God have pity on him for a dead person), etc.