A Muslim writes to the pope: Dear Pope Francis . . .
by Kamel Abderrahmani

He admires the charity shown by the pontiff towards Syrian Muslim refugees, and his push in favour of love and against hatred. Islamic scholars are not like this, he says, they do not denounce Daesh’s hatred and do nothing for Christians. He calls on the pontiff to press President to Sisi and Al Azhar to reform Islam. Without this Al Azhar risks being the academy of world fundamentalism. Here is the letter from our friend and collaborator Kamel Abderrahmani.

Paris (AsiaNews) – Kamel Abderrahmani is a young Algerian Muslim, known to our readers. He wrote a letter to Pope Francis on the eve of his visit to Egypt. In it he thanks the pontiff for his courage to go to Egypt despite terrorist attacks and for his commitment to peace in the world.

The letter expresses admiration for the Pope's act of welcoming Syrian Muslim refugees and wonders why Islamic scholars have not done anything similar for Christians.

The young man asks the Holy father to press Al Azhar and Muslim institutions to modernise themselves. They can start by condemning violence and reforming Sunni teaching that leads to violence, as well as share life with Christians and members of other religions to make coexistence possible in a world at peace.

Dear Pope Francis,

Before I start this letter, let me introduce myself. My name is Kamel Abderrahmani, and I am a young Algerian Muslim who has been studying at a French university for about two years. I am greatly interested in the burning issues that disrupt people’s lives. With my modest contributions to the AsiaNews.it website, I try to further peace and religious rapprochement between Christians and Muslims, in the West and in the East.

Despite the hardships I have encountered, the lack of means and my difficult personal and financial situation, I will not stop believing in a better world, where we cannot live but in harmony, peace and brotherhood.

Earlier this month, I was invited to Rome by my friend, Fr Bernardo Cervellera, and it is thanks to him that I learnt of your plan to visit Egypt at the end of April, not only to meet Coptic Christians but also senior Muslim officials at the Al Azhar.

This is a good news, given the disturbing conditions in which Copts live today, these Copts who continue to resist not only the attacks carried out by madmen of Allah but also the denial of their rights (such as the ban on building churches) at the hands of the Egyptian government. There is also the problem of coexistence severely put to the test by Islamist activism.

Everyone knows that Copts and Muslims have always lived together: a peaceful coexistence that has lasted for centuries before the advent of destructive Islamism that become a serious threat to such a life together. This is just an example of how all Eastern Christians live. We have all seen the executions of Yazidis in Syria and Iraq, tortured, forced into exile, at least those who managed to do so.

It is a crime, a disaster committed before the eyes of the world, something that you have denounced and firmly condemned, unlike my co-religionists who have done nothing. They have not even lifted a finger to denounce this crime against humanity and against God. What’s worse, even Al Azhar, the official institution that represents Islam, has not dared take a clear position. Yet this institution is well-placed to denounce Daesh or even excommunicate it. Instead, it continues to view these barbarians as Muslims! But can barbarism have a religion? Can one live with terrorism? I am a Muslim, but this institution, in my eyes and those of millions of Muslims, has lost all credibility.

What I am certain, dear Pope, is that hatred is not innate; it is inculcated and taught by our theologians and that is the whole problem. Most Muslim institutions, in fact, continue to regard Christians and Jews as unbelievers, and this appears to give carte blanche to the "soldiers of Allah" to attack Christians and all those who do not think like them. Indeed, I was flabbergasted by a prayer recited last year in Makkah during Ramadan, when the Imam prayed for Daesh and against Jewish and Christian "unbelievers." All this is mind-boggling!

As you welcome Syrian Muslim families in the Vatican, dear Pope, the Islamic State exterminates [others] in the name of Islam without any official institution ever issuing any condemnation. I have noticed that every time you intervene to douse the fire in the Middle East, our “Ulamā” (Qur‘anic scholars) intervene to pour petrol on the fire. We live in [a situation of] theological anarchy that dare not acknowledge its name. This translates into the systematic rejection of those who think differently. Islam, dear Pope, needs to be shaken out of its jurisprudence. It is so sick and split that today we need an institution like yours. Yes, an institution that updates it, modernises it, and takes it out of the hands of ignorant people and barbarians.

If I address myself to you, dear Pope Francis, it is not to complain or criticise gratuitously Muslim institutions. I am doing this to convey my dissatisfaction and my anger towards those who represent official Islam and who engage in double talk. I believe in you (whilst remaining Muslim), but I do not believe in them! unlike our Ulamā, I love peace and dream of a world in which religions would be but paths towards peaceful coexistence and universal wisdom.

I remember that once you said “that life is attained and matures in the measure that it is offered up in order to give life to others. This is certainly what mission means." In fact, you have made this mission the heart of your work, without fear of anyone. The proof is that the recent attacks in Egypt have not scared you off and you have kept faith in your trip, which will undoubtedly be a message of love and peace between all the segments of Egyptian society and the Middle East, which is the heartland of monotheistic religions.

In this brief trip that you are making with the blessing of the Lord, the Muslim that I am hopes that it will bring peace and tolerance, above all carry a clear message to President al-Sisi, who must do everything to ensure freedom of worship and expression, and allow Christians to build new places of worship.

As for Al Azhar, I hope you can convince them of the need to reform Islamic jurisprudence, and the programmes taught to students in that institution, and above all modernise and update the religious discourse, since the current one only lays the ground for Islamic terrorism. In other words, Al Azhar must cease to be the world’s academy of fundamentalism. This means putting strong pressure on al-Sisi and Al Azhar.

Dear Pope Francis, as a Muslim, I admire your courage and your bravery. Indeed, how could I be indifferent when on Easter Sunday, before more than 60,000 faithful in St Peter's Square, on the occasion of the Urbi et Orbi's blessing, you asked for God's help to end the conflicts and wars in the world, as well as arms trafficking and the suffering endured by the weaker. "May he grant peace to the entire Middle East, beginning with the Holy Land, as well as in Iraq and Yemen,” without forgetting once more, the Syrian tragedy where the civilian population is "prey to a war that continues to sow horror and death." Once again you stand out compared to our "Ulamā" to denounce the heinous attack on fleeing refugees that took place the day before in the Aleppo region, Syria, with a heavy toll of 110 dead.

On the 14th of this month, in the Colosseum, you strongly criticised all the crimes that are committed around the world. "Ashamed of all the scenes of devastation, destruction and drowning that have become a normal part of our lives; Ashamed of the innocent blood shed daily of women, children, migrants and people persecuted because of the colour of their skin or their ethnic and social diversity or because of their faith in You,” you said on Good Friday.

I admire your views, they are just, human, wise. They inspire love towards you, towards the Christians of the whole world, and also towards the noble institution that you represent, the Vatican.

Dear Pope Francis, I turn to you in a simple language with a sincere heart, full of faith and hope in you and in your desire to propagate peace in this world. Your charisma, your wisdom, your high spirituality and sincerity give me hope for a better world, for a fraternal world.

I salute you, and may God bless you, accompany you and help you in everything you do for the good of humanity!

Kamel Abderrahmani

Paris, 20 April 2017