AFRICA/EGYPT - The Imam of al Azhar: even Judaism and Christianity have a history marked by violence

Wednesday, 1 March 2017 dialogue   islam   extremism   religious fundamentalism  


Cairo (Agenzia Fides) – Even "Judaism and Christianity have a history of violence", and all religions have been complicite in acts of violence and murder. This is how Sheikh Ahmed al Tayyib, Grand Imam of al-Azhar, wanted to highlight that the connection between religion and violence not only marks the history of Islam, but also characterized the historical paths of the two other "Religions of the Book". Al Tayyib spoke during the Conference on "Freedom and citizenship, diversity and integration" organized by the University of Al Azhar in Cairo, a prestigious academic theological institution of Sunni Islam, which brings together senior Islamic and Christian representatives to also discuss the coexistence of religious communities in the Middle East. The Grand Imam of al-Azhar, in his speech, made explicit reference to the Crusades, but also to the recent Balkan wars and violence suffered in that context by the Bosnian Muslims, and rejected the tendency to put only Islam on the "bench of defendants" for the violence of religious nature. "To place religions at a distance from terrorism is no longer sufficient, in the face of the challenges of barbarism we have", remarked al Tayyib, recalling the responsibility of religious leaders, noting that the mistrust between them "has no raison d'être", and "if peace is not achieved between those who preach it, it cannot even be transmitted to other individuals".
On several occasions, Pope Francis refused the equation between violence and Islam. "I", he said as the Bishop of Rome on July 31, during the press conference on the return flight from the apostolic trip to Poland "do not like to speak of Islamic violence because every day when I open the newspapers I see acts of violence, here in Italy: someone kills his girlfriend, someone else his mother-in-law… And these violent people are baptized Catholics! They are violent Catholics… If I spoke about Islamic violence, I would also have to speak about Catholic violence. Not all Muslims are violent; not all Catholics are violent. It is like a fruitcake, there is a little bit of everything, there are violent people in these religions. One thing is true: I believe that in almost all religions there is always a small fundamentalist group. Fundamentalist. We have some ourselves. And when fundamentalism gets to the point of killing – and one can kill with the tongue (these are words of the Apostle James, not mine) as well as with a knife – … I believe that it is not right to identify Islam with violence". (GV) (Agenzia Fides 01/03/2017)