17 years of AsiaNews.it, the Nice attack and Islam
by Bernardo Cervellera

Our online news agency receives over 20,000 individual visits per day. In 2020, as of November 1st we have had more than 7 million visitors. Reports into Islam and its evolution (or involution) around the world. Many are reducing the Nice attack to Islamic terrorism targeting Christians and call for a "crusade". “Religious wars" only serve the political powers. Benedict XVI: the enemies of peace are religious fundamentalism and relativism. The positivist pride that despises religion relegating it to the obscurantist wastelands of history, is just as dangerous as the beheadings of the Islamist terrorist.

Rome (AsiaNews) - Yesterday 1 November was the 17th anniversary of the founding of AsiaNews.it online news agency. I would have liked to dedicate this space to sharing the successful results reached by our service: over 20 thousand individual visits per day, for an annual total (in 2019) of almost 5.5 million visitors. Moreover, already in 2020 by November 1, we have registered more than 7 million visitors! We would like to express our sincere gratitude to all of our readers, who appreciate our "balanced, accurate information, which loves the truth more than alignments with the trends and powers of the moment", according to some of the messages that we are happy to receive here in our editorial office.

However, the events taking place in France and how they are being interpreted, impel us not to linger, but to delve into the heart of matters in order to pursue our mission as Christians. Moreover, AsiaNews.it was born with the situation of Islam and its evolution (or involution) in the world at heart.

On the morning of October 29, a young 21-year-old Tunisian, Brahim Aouissaoui, entered the Notre Dame Cathedral of the Assumption in Nice; with a 30 cm knife partially beheaded a 60-year-old woman, and slaughtered the sacristan, Vincent, 55, married and with two children. Another woman, 44, was stabbed several times by the killer, but managed to escape to a nearby café. She died shortly after, leaving a message of love for her children. The horrific carnage came on the heels of the beheading of Samuel Paty, the professor from a town near Paris who, in a lecture on freedom of expression, showed a satirical cartoon about Muhammad, sparking a hate campaign against him.

Many Muslims in France are asking for any teaching of radical Islam to be marginalized and prohibited, only allowing an Islam "of illumination", which integrates with modernity. But others - especially in the media, including Italians - are demanding a war on Islam, which seems to have the suppression of Christians as its goal. These voices maintain that a new religious war is already underway in different parts of the world and that it is being completely neglected by Western governments. The fact that this "religious war" is politically motivated to ensure the stability of governments - as Erdogan's statements in Turkey or Mahatir's in Malaysia reveal - doesn't seem to register at all. The curious fact is that even the head of counterterrorism in France, Jean-François Ricard, declared that "the target is the Catholic Church". Pitting one religion against another is a all too common technique as history has shown many times: in Lebanon, Syria, Pakistan, India, Myanmar, Indonesia, Vietnam, China ... The "religious war" serves to divide, exhaust the population and then take hold of power, be it political or military. The fragility of political powers in the world is evident: a "religious war" - like a pandemic - can give them the aura of being saviours and generate the support they need.

But if a "crusade" is not advisable, what can be done? President Emmanuel Macron has drawn up a program to stop radical Islam: block state funding for Koranic schools, stop funding from abroad, extradition of dangerous individuals, verification of a teaching according to the ideals of "the Republic". All of this is appreciable, but I don't think it is enough. An integration of Islam into modernity is necessary, but an integration of Enlightenment reason into the world of religion is equally necessary. It is curious that in France (and not only) freedom of expression is defended, including the freedom of blasphemy. I was impressed by the teachers who defending the work of Samuel Paty, defended the programs of the Republic, which "rightly" showed the errors of religions.

 “Muslims - it has been said - should not be offended by the cartoons. There is also satire on Catholics and other religions!".

Here lies the crux of the problem: in France - and now in much of the West - religion is presented as a collection of errors, without allowing any room to question whether the fact that billions share a belief in God could have some connection to truth. We must not forget what Benedict XVI wrote in the Message for the Day of Peace 2011: that the enemies of peace are on the one hand religious fundamentalism and on the other relativism, which despises religions and marginalizes them. The Islamist terrorist who makes his law his idol is dangerous. But the positivist pride that despises religion relegating it to the obscurantist wastelands of history is equally dangerous. Beheadings and marginalization do not make any society more human.