02/09/2017, 14.08
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Morocco, ulemas against the death penalty for apostates. Father Samir: "very important step "

Islamic experts erase a fatwa from the past. Apostasy is to be punished only if it is equivalent to a "betrayal" of "political" nature, not a change of religion. For the Jesuit and scholar of Islam this is a significant decision with a view to modernizing the interpretation of texts. The task of Christians is not "to provoke", but "to help" Muslims to think and adapt their faith to the times.


Casablanca (AsiaNews) - The step taken by the ulema of Morocco "is very important" because they decided not to literally "apply", but to "reinterpret" sharia, Islamic law, adapting it to the current environment, says Fr. Samir Khalil Samir, a Jesuit Islamic scholar of Egyptian origin, commenting to AsiaNews on the decision of the religious leader of the North African country to remove the death penalty for those who leave Islam.

"It is a very intelligent thing - continues the priest and scholar - on the other hand the same King Mohammad VI of Morocco is an open man and of great culture; his wife as well, Princess Lalla Salma, a graduate in computer science, she always appears in public without a veil and this is considered in many circles a scandal for the current era ".

In recent days, the Higher Council of Ulema, the most important religious authority in the country, has proposed a new interpretation of the past that overturns a fatwa, that apostasy must be punished with the death penalty. In a document entitled "The life of the ulema", Islamic experts propose a new amended version of the "ridda", according to which apostasy is punishable by death only if placed in the context of a "political" betrayal.

Morocco, therefore, switching to another religion is no-longer to be punished with the death penalty - although the scope of conversion remains a minefield and proselytism punishable by law - but only if it is an "alignment" with the "enemy" that threatens the homeland. A political conversion, rather than an element of faith.

In the text the Muslim scholars they point out that "the most accurate and consistent interpretation" of Islamic law and example of Muhammad "is that death for the apostate regards those who betray the Ummah". Revealing "secrets", they add, in what the international law "defines" as treason. "

Speaking to AsiaNews Fr. Samir, former professor at St. Joseph University in Beirut and current rector pro tempore of the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome, welcomes the "reinterpretation" of the text made by Moroccan ulema. At the beginning of Islam, when the "Umma" [from the Arabic "umm", the mother] was the Muslim nation, the group of believers, those who rejected the faith actually "passed over to the opposite camp" and betrayed his Muslim homeland.

"The current problem in Islam - continues Fr. Samir - is that the imams take a word and apply it as it was, without assessing the context in which it was formed to understand its value. " And this is a process that must also apply to the Umma, apostasy and abandonment, today, of the Muslim faith for another religion.

"A text can only be understood by immersing it in its context - warns the student of Egyptian origin - and extrapolated from it, it may be wrong. What happens today is that you take a sentence or a word as such, rigorously applying it. Instead you have to assess how , when and where it was pronounced. This is the problem of the Islamic world: the inability to re-think their culture and tradition. "

The basic problem is the predominance of the Salafi and Wahhabi vision that takes and applies everything that was said or done at the beginning of 600, at the time of Muhammad (who died 632) to the letter. In fact, warns Fr. Samir, "it is not true that either, because they have not taken on the spirit of that era, but only its materiality, and they are imposing this on the Muslim world both through attacks and weapons (Salafis), and through money (Wahhabis) . Saudi Arabia and Qatar – he adds - buy people's thinking with their money. "

Today there are political and institutional organizations looking to modernize their societies and the context in which they are inserted. This is the case with the king of Morocco, as well as Egyptian President al-Sisi who "asked, unsuccessfully, the University of al-Azhar to cancel the norm of the so-called" divorce" in Islam, where a man only has to say the word "divorce" three times to repudiate his wife, without having to go to court. With all that follows from a legal point of view, child care and maintenance.

"Egyptian President Al-Sisi refered to the National Statistics Office data,  40% of the 900,000 marriages registered each year in Egypt end up, within five years after they began, with a divorce. To combat the problem, al-Sisi had proposed considering divorce legal only if it takes place in the presence of a religious representative authorized by the government to sanction both marriages and divorces. This request was rejected by al Azhar. We hope the situation changes, to give justice to thousands of abandoned women! "

"In the Islamic world - says Fr. Samir - there are personalities who seek change, but the clerical environment hampers this. Religious leaders always claim to have the last word. Then there are the Salafis and Wahhabi groups which with their money buy the public and mosques, only to have us believe that theirs is the true Islam. But is not so".

According to the priest and scholar the case of Moroccan ulema is not so isolated, "There are hundreds of thousands of people - he says – who want to change. The problem is that the power is in the hands of religious leaders, imams. And then there are the responses from universities such as Al-Azhar, which are manipulated and maintained by Saudi Arabia and traditional teaching and influence its decisions. There are millions of Muslims who do not want this, and many intellectuals who write and argue, but do not have the religious establishment on their side".

"Islam is experiencing the strongest crisis of the modern era - concludes Father. Samir - with absurd wars, divisions between Sunnis and Shiites, struggles always financed by the same people, who want to impose an Islam that is not Islam today.

"That is why the task of Christians is not to provoke or attack them, but to walk with them and say that Islam is not a retrograde faith in itself, but it is becoming one. Let's help them to think, so they may adapt the values ​​ to the times. In particular, everything that touches human rights is sacred: to recognize the Universal Charter of Human Rights is a vital first step, and in particular Article 18 on 'absolute equality between men and woman! . "(DS)

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