04/19/2007, 00.00
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West weak, Muslims mute when it comes to Islamism and terrorism

by Samir Khalil Samir, sj
There is an evident link between Islamism and terrorism. The experience of Tawfik Hamid, a former member of Al Qaeda. The apologies of the West (and of the Church) reinforce Islamic violence. Importance of the Pope’s lesson at Regensburg. Fourth and final in a series of articles.
Beirut (AsiaNews) – Both Western and Muslim communities tend to understate, if not hide, the strong link that exists between Islamism and terrorism. This is demonstrated by the lukewarm reactions to the killings of Christians in Turkey, Indonesia, Pakistan and the indifference and silence with regard to the massacres between Sunnis and Shias in Iraq. Instead, it is essential to understand the intrinsic bond which exists between Islamism and terrorism. Islamism, this literalist interpretation of the Koran and the Sunna, arrogates the right to penetrate into the details of the believer’s life and to determine every aspect of his behaviour. In this way, it easily transforms the believer into a docile instrument in the hands of those who hold religious authority. 
The experience of an ex-terrorist
Here’s the example of one of these terrorists, an Egyptian doctor who in the end abandoned the way of terror and is starting a new life in the West. He uses the pseudonym Tawfik Hamid and writes:
“As a former member of Jemaah Islamiya, a group led by al Qaeda’s second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, I know firsthand that the inhumane teaching in Islamist ideology can transform a young, benevolent mind into that of a terrorist. Without confronting the ideological roots of radical Islam it will be impossible to combat it. While there are many ideological “rootlets” of Islamism, the main tap root has a name–Salafism, or Salafi Islam, a violent, ultra-conservative version of the religion.”
Tawfik Hamid correctly and very clearly affirms that the root of terrorism is Salafism.  Because the Salafites want to apply Shariah literally, and Shariah includes violence, they accept violence.
“The grave predicament we face in the Islamic world, Tawfik Hamid also says, “is the virtual lack of approved, theologically rigorous interpretations of Islam that clearly challenge the abusive aspects of Shariah.”
As for liberal movements, including Sufism, they do not offer the theological basis for completely eliminating violence in Shariah.
The ambiguous and weak reactions of many Westerners
On the other hand, Western intellectuals who fight for human rights do not dare to criticize Shariah and all that is inhumane in it. They instead try to find socio-political excuses to justify it. Often these intellectuals limit themselves to being self-critical and are afraid to criticize the Islamists. This submissive behaviour reinforces the Islamist position. For example, with the Mohammad caricatures affair, violent demonstration began various months after the caricatures had been published in Denmark, when the newspaper had already apologized to Muslim: only then did the entire Muslim world feel itself justified to engage in violent protests. Apologies (even those of the Church) are perceived by Islamists as a mark of weakness.
Another example is fitting here. At the end of the 1980s, the then Archbishop of Palermo, Cardinal Salvatore Pappalardo (deceased December 6, 2006) decided to offer Muslims (mainly Tunisians) the 16th-century church dedicated to San Paolino dei Giardinieri, which was in disuse at the time. Catholic media unanimously praised this gesture as a sign of brotherhood. And it no doubt was. But the following day, Tunisian and Egyptian newspapers came out with big headlines saying, “Crescent victorious over Cross. A cardinal must give up a church to Muslims.” Then the municipal government did restoration works on the building before handing it over to the Tunisian government which is managing it on the bases of a 1990 agreement. The Muslims have hidden (or eliminated?) two trinitarian sculptures with pieces of white marble on the ancient church’s entrance (see foto:
The Cardinal’s gesture was certainly nice at the spiritual level, but was mistaken at the psychological and political level: it did nothing but reinforce the fundamentalism of the Islamists, even if the Tunisian Muslim community is not Islamist.
Everywhere in the world nowadays inter-religious meetings are being held, in particular between Christians and Muslims.  We must thank God and the good will of all those involved for this fact. But good will is not enough when it comes to dialogue. It seems to me that more is needed, namely that we all agree, authentic Muslims and Christians – and even non-believers – to call upon everyone to speak out, unambiguously, against violence in our religious communities, in particular, violence exercised in the name of God and of religion. As has been repeated various times by recent Popes, in particular by Benedict XVI in his famous Regensburg address of September 12, 2006, such use of violence is an intolerable pretence that damages the image of God – and of course religion.
More particularly, unless the so-called “moderate” Muslims speak out against their fellow Muslims, publicly, in mosques and in the mass media, unless they hold protest rallies when violence is committed in the name of God, they cannot be called “moderate.” Tawfik Hamid even refers to “passive terrorism” to indicate all those who are silent in the face of terrorist acts.
This “deafening” silence of “moderate” Muslims and – worse still – the behaviour of Western intellectuals who implicitly tolerate, or even justify, Islamism simply in terms of freedom of thought and other politically correct arguments, are jeopardizing the lives of many Muslims who are struggling all over the world for an authentically peaceful Islam. These are the true Muslims that we must all defend and support, not the Islamists.
Finally, there is a contradiction within Western civilization itself. On one hand, Westerners present themselves as the champions of freedom, democracy, and international coexistence, etc.; on the other, as soon as there is talk of other cultures, and in particular of Islam, other norms are applied in the name of the respect for cultures and of multiculturalism, the latter a dogma of secular society! But culture is not an absolute value comparable to democracy, freedom, equality between sexes and races. Culture must also be criticized, as religion and secularity must also be. It is time for all those who want a truly convivial civilization to unite to defend it, and if necessary (as it currently is) to fight those who, in the name of God and religion, fight civilization and coexistence. And among those – no use denying it – we find Islamism, the source of terrorism.
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