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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Fr Samir Khalil Samir, SJ - Articles & Interviews

Fr Samir Khalil Samir, SJ is a professor of Oriental Theology at St Joseph's University in Lebanon. Born in Cairo, Father Samir also teaches at the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome, and is a founder and leader of the Centre for Arab-Christian Documentation and Research (CEDRAC).

In connection with our previous post I thought it would be beneficial to put together a compilation of his writings for further discussion.


  • West weak, Muslims mute when it comes to Islamism and terrorism April 19, 2007.
  • Islamic terrorism, a disease within the Muslim world April 17, 2007:
    The truth is that Islamic terrorism is caused by Islamism that is by a certain reading of the Koran and Sunnah, which has spread throughout the most famous Islamic schools and universities such as Cairo’s Al-Azhar. Islamic terrorism is caused by Salafism, that is a blind adherence to the tradition of the ancients, of those who went before us (salaf), a literal and immoveable reading, without life, without soul. This with regards to the Sunni world.

    In the Shiite world, the Khomeini theory of the “wilâyat al-faqîh” – according to which the ideal state is that which is governed by the most gifted faqîh, a shariah specialist – opened the door to the all forms of extremism, in the name of shariah, by deciding the daily life of the people and of society.

    It is important not to confuse Islam with Islamism, but it is just as important to urge Muslims to reject Islamism a san alteration of authentic Islam and to counter this violent and invasive tendency.

  • Islamism, a disease of the Muslim world April 13, 2007:
    Islamism, not to be confused with Islam, is a threat to the survival of the very religion it claims to represent and to the entire world. Until thirty years ago, there was one single word in the Arab language to refer to “Muslim”, and it was Muslim. Then, starting with Egypt, a second noun came into use which quickly spread, Islamiyy, separate from Muslim, which referred to a radical or fundamentalist Muslim who aims to create an Islamic project based on sharia. This neologism has been in place since, to define this new tendency within Islam, a tendency which has become increasingly strong, dynamic, and invasive and in the end violent and intolerant. . . .

    But islamism is not Islam: it is only an extremist tendency which presents itself as the true spirit of Islam. How does it succeed in attracting so many Muslims though? [...]

    The roots are part of the tree. Thus the disease is to be found within the tree, not without. The roots of the disease are to be sought within Islam itself, not outside. This root is double. The first is some of the texts of the Koran and some sayings and practices taken from the Sunnah (the muhammadiana tradition), which are the foundations of the official teachings of Islam. The second are the teachings of certain “men of religion” (rigâl ad-dîn) – an Arab – islamic term which corresponds to the western “clergy” – based on a certain determined choice made in the Koran and the Sunnah. These two roots need to be examined, if we want to identify the cause of the illness, better, if we – like good doctors – want to diagnosis the origins of the disease.

    Islam does not identify itself with radical islamism. But radical islamism is not foreign or separate to Islam: it is one of the possible readings of Islam (that is the Koran and the Sunnah); in short the worst possible reading.

    This is why it is not only essential that Islam and islamism are not confused, but that Muslims are encouraged to reject islamism as an unnatural alteration of authentic Islam, and to combat this invasive tendency.

  • Salafist Islam spawns Islamic terrorism April 12, 2007:
    Islamic terrorism is neither gratuitous nor brutal violence, it is a religious ideology. It is seen as a sacred duty, the concrete application of divine will, as clearly expressed in certain excerpts of the Koran and in some of the practices and sayings of Islam’s Prophet.

    Terrorists and Islamists consider the majority of Muslims who do not agree with this point of view to be hypocrites (munâfiqûn), as God himself defines them in the Koran, thus they are not worthy of to be called Muslims. . . .

    It is essential that the intrinsic link between Islamism and Salafism is understood, as well as the difference which separates them.

    Salafist thought is rooted in the Koran and the Sunnah, in other words it finds its justification and elaborates its thoughts and way of life within these texts. Salafist thought was not borne of this century, but goes far back to the early years of Islam. This tradition is one of the most interpretative of the Koran and Sunnah.

    The Islamist current basis itself on the Salafist interpretation of Islam and it radicalizes it, turning it into a concrete application, through intense propaganda and presenting it as authentic Islam. It renders Salafism extreme, by prescribing precise rules applied to the actions of daily living. . . .

    It is important not to confuse or identify Islam with Islamism, but is also necessary that we push Muslims to reject Islamism as an alteration of authentic Islam and to fight against this spreading tendency. Western society must defend Muslims from Islamism. For this reason, giving even minimal credence to the demands of the Islamists is a regression which only serves to open new terrorist fronts.

  • Church-Islam dialogue: the path starts from Regensburg's Pope January 16, 2007:
    Benedict's masterly lecture at Regensburg was seen by many Christians and Muslims as a false step by the Pope, a simple mistake, something to get over and forget, if we don't want to set off a war of religions. Instead, at Regensburg, this Pope traced, with his balanced, courageous and by no means trivial thinking, the basis for true dialogue between Christians and Muslims, giving voice to many reformist Muslims and suggesting to Islam and Christians the steps to be taken.

'Multiculturalism and Islam'


  • Islam walking a tightrope between violence and reform Sept. 4, 2006.

  • Violent fatwas worry Muslim governments Sept. 5, 2006.

  • Imams' ignorance holds back cultural development of those who want to live according to Islam Sept. 6, 2006.

  • Training European imams is Islam's toughest challenge Sept. 7, 2006.

  • Islam needs renewal from within, not withdrawal into itself, to overcome its crisis Sept. 8, 2006:
    no one is denying the reality of a profound crisis in Islam. It is rendered even more serious by international conflicts, which risk resolving the crisis through a short circuit of holy war. But there are increasing numbers of figures who are pointing to problems within the Muslim community.

    The first problem is the lack of a recognized authority. Attempts are made to get around the problem by recognizing the Organization of Islamic States (which has no legal authority); or else, the European association of muftis is relied on, but it too is without authority.

    The second problem is the ignorance in which the Islamic religious world has fallen. How can all this be reformed? We have seen various attempts: better training for imams; reopening the door of interpretation; suspension of Koranic law, at least "temporarily": in order to reduce the negative impact on the most fanatical elements of the population; recognition of human rights or at least the attempt to integrate them into Islamic principles...

    In concrete terms this means problems pertaining to democratization at the political level; social justice problems at the socio-economic level; family law and women's rights at the basic level. At this point, everyone recognizes that the Islamic system that covered all these fields is out-dated, is no longer managed, nor is it manageable.

    Being challenged by other cultures, Islam needs a renewal of its thinking from within, in order to regain strength. Instead, for the very reason that it feels weak, it protects itself by closing in on itself, thinking that it can save itself by going back to a "golden age" of the first caliphs.

  • Islam humiliates religious freedom of Christians and human rights of Muslims. It's time for change March 29, 2006:
    The time has come for a choice. If there is incompatibility between human rights and the rights set out in the Koran, then – I’m sorry to say – the Koran must be condemned; or else it must be said that our understanding of the Koran puts us against human rights and freedom of conscience, and so the interpretation must change. One thing is certain: we can no longer keep silent. The European bishops decided in recent days to dedicate the forthcoming year to studying the problems of Islam in Europe and Islam in the world, relations of European Union countries with Muslim-majority countries, from the perspective of international justice and reciprocity. But if European countries keep silent, reciprocity can never be requested.


  • Fundamentalism: "diabolic" union between religion and politics. Sept. 1, 2005:
    In a certain sense, Westerners are deceiving themselves when they define these people as "Islamic." Certainly, this movement claims its Islamic quality, but what defines them is the desire to take power, in the name of God. Marxist ideology was the same thing but without God, as was nationalism: they were all forms of ideology where the aim becomes power. This is, in point of fact, anti-divine, diabolical, even if done in the name of God; it is anti-human.

    The problem is that Wahabi fundamentalists refer to Mohammad and his Medina experience, in other words, an Islam that is conflated with politics. Islam would need to be helped to reread the Koran in an historical and sociological sense, to separate religion from politics, but unfortunately this step is accepted only by a minute Westernized minority.

    Islam has never made the distinction -- typical of Christianity -- between what is Caesar's and what is God's. . . .

  • Islam condemns violence? Sometimes it's only opportunism Sept. 6, 2005.

  • Islamic terrorism: a result of what is being taught at madrassas Sept. 8, 2005.: "Terrorism is not the unexpected result of Islam, but the direct result of what is being taught at madrassas, traditional schools. And not only because many schools give training in terrorism and guerrilla warfare, but mainly because they educate in fundamentalism."

  • Islam and Christianity: encounter/confrontation, but also conversion AsiaNews.It. Sept. 16, 2005:
    I am certain that hope for the Islamic world can come only from an Islam that has been acculturated in the West, and specifically in Europe. The only way for Islam to have a place in the modern world is by assimilating modernity with its critical spirit and its distinction between religion and politics, reason and sentiment, etc, in a sense that it westernizes, without disavowing faith.

    There are many Muslims who westernize, but they only get so far. They do not understand that faith needs to defended with an interior choice. Unfortunately, if these Muslims are not able to synthesize Islam and modernity, as soon as a fundamentalist imam comes along, everyone will follow him. But which West can help Islam to modernize?

    A part of the West maintains an attitude of total closure toward the Muslim world. In answer to Islamic violence in the world today, they close themselves off to any dialogue and Muslims are driven back into fundamentalism. . . .

    A Christian who achieves harmony between modernity and faith can help a Mulsim achieve this same harmony. I would like to point out however that another path is not to be excluded. If a Muslim is not able to achieve a synthesis between his faith and modernity, he could also decide to become Christian.

    In the encounter with Christians, Muslims discover that, due to the Incarnation, Christianity has united heaven and earth, the divine and the human, religious culture and scientific culture. The Incarnation also suggests that there is no opposition between divine and human: there can be difficulty, but synthesis is possible.

    First of all, I will try to help a Muslim find a synthesis between modernity and faith, in his Islamic faith; but if this does not happen, if this is too difficult, I can also propose the Christian path. There exists more than just the rejection of modernity in the name of religion, or the rejection of faith in the name of modernity: there is also the path of synthesis offered by Christianity and witnessed by Christians.


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