At the Great Mosque of Paris, future imams “unload their baggage”

The Grand Mosque of Paris
The Grand Mosque of Paris

“The best thing I heard this week, it’s what the Pope said. The press can’t say anything it wants, there are things we can’t talk about.” Students at the Institute of Theology at the Great Mosque of Paris cited Pope Francois when discussing the recent attacks at Charlie Hebdo. While flying to the Philippines the Pope said, “one shouldn’t provoke or insult the faith of others, or make a game of it.”

Every Saturday and Sunday at the Institute from 9 am to 7 pm adults take classes in order to become imams, or, for only two years in order to become a chaplain. Courses were suspended on January 10 and 11 due to recent “events” and restarted January 17.

Missoum Chaoui, a tutor and prison chaplain in Ile-de-France decided to facilitate discussion among his students, the “future leaders” of Islam. Men sit in one corner, women in the other. “Go ahead, unload your baggage,” encourages Chaoui in front of his first-year class.

The discussion is a reminder that Muslims “don’t have to excuse these crimes,” because the terrorists aren’t one of them. Or to clarify that “the Muslim community, it mourns these men but not the freedom of expression.” Another said, “It’s been said that there weren’t many Muslims who participated in the demonstration. They forget that ‘Muslim,’ isn’t written on our foreheads.” Some preferred to write “anger” on social media rather than “Je suis Charlie.” “Open your Facebook page, go on the Internet,” recommends Chaoui, “They took out their poison pens, take out pens of peace to show who the Prophet really was.”

Some expressed their frustration with “double standards,” such as the fact that “anti-Semitism is prohibited,” while Islamophobia is not. “It will come. We just have to work for it,” assured their teacher. “There will always be those who speak badly of the Prophet. He has already been called a sorcerer, a liar and he always pardoned them.”

“Caricatures, it’s just the beginning,” says one student. Examining the cartoons published in Charlie Hebdo he says, “The turban isn’t holy, it speaks volumes. For those who look hard, we see male genitalia, on the turban. And on the face…it’s like a woman’s private parts. It’s going around Facebook.” Chaoui interrupts and reframes: “Attention to what is open to interpretation.” Another older man doesn’t believe the media’s version. “The scenario, it was constructed in advance,” by others, he says. “It’s not what’s said, we didn’t see their faces,” he grumbles four or five times. “They’re at the forensic institute,” retorts the professor, “Then who is it?” he asks. No response. Another woman responds, “This newspaper was on the brink of bankruptcy, there are a lot of Muslims in France, we provoke an event…Now they have a lot of money.” Certain people nod their head, others don’t, but the whole room falls silent, even the professor. Two or three questions later the class is over.

Sudan ‘apostasy’ woman Meriam Ibrahim arrives in US

August 1, 2014

A Sudanese woman who fled to Italy after being spared a death sentence for renouncing Islam has arrived in the US. Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag arrived in New Hampshire on Thursday evening with her American husband and her children. Welcoming her on a brief stopover in Philadelphia, the city’s mayor, Michael Nutter, described her as a “world freedom fighter”.

He compared her to Rosa Parks, who became a symbol of the civil rights movement in the US when she refused to give up her seat to a white man on a bus in Alabama.

When in Rome, she met the Pope, who “thanked her for her witness to faith”, according to a Vatican spokesman.

Criticisms of Immigrants, Islam, the EU and Minister Kyenge in Italy

October 28, 2013

 

“We are not moderates” says Giorgia Meloni, but he did not need to specify this. You can tell immediately when Marina Ruffoni, part of the Venetian Brothers of Italy, begins by quoting Ezra Pound: “What you love will not be stripped.” Manuel Negri, of the National Project, referenced Flavio Tosi from Northern League of yesteryear talking about “immigrants who add nothing invade our shores asking for only rights and no contribution.” He continues: “Immigrants are not a resource because they work illegally or they do not work and engage in criminal acts, our jails are full of immigrants who should be transferred to prisons in their own countries.”

These are times in which the MEP Egyptian-born Magdi Cristiano Allam, a journalist who converted to Catholicism during the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI, and who has now left the church because it is “too relativist and open to Islam” says Negri. When discussing Pope Francis, Allam says he lauched his crusade in defense of “our civilization from immigration, doing good while the Islamic invasion continues and he [Pope Francis] naively favors the proliferation of mosques and places of indoctrination–so that there is no Islamic terrorist who has not attended a mosque [in Italy].” And amongst the ovation of those present, he concludes: “We should be proud of our Judeo-Christian roots, we will not allow Italy to become a land of African conquest.”

This position did not disappoint the lawyer and former Minister of Defense Ignazio La Russa, defying logic, and claiming a determined opposition to every kind of technical government, and then questions why Cécile Kyenge has been appointed health minister. And, emphasizing Kyenge’s opposition to the abolition of the crime of illegal immigration, La Russa says: “They made a Minister of Integration [who is not Italian], that person would be better as a person of Italian origin if nothing else because of the color of his skin.”

 

L’Arena.it: http://www.larena.it/stories/Cronaca/581862_critiche_agli_immigrati_allislam_alla_ue_e_al_ministro_kyenge/?refresh_ce&scroll=1710

Francis calls for mutual understanding between Christians and Muslims in letter to Al-Azhar

September 18, 2013

The Nuncio to Cairo, Mgr. Gobel, has delivered a letter to the Imam of Cairo’s Al-Azhar University calling for a steady return to dialogue

The Al-Azhar University in Cairo – considered one of the most important centres of Sunni Islamic learning  – has announced that Pope Francis has sent a personal message to the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed Al Tayyeb. The most important Catholic website in Arabic, www.abouna.org, published the communiqué issued by Al-Azhar, which mentions that a meeting took place yesterday between Al Tayyeb and the Apostolic Nuncio to Egypt, Mgr. Jean-Paul Gobel. During the face-to-face meeting the Nuncio delivered the message of wishes Pope Francis sent to the Muslim world for the end of the month of Ramadan, along with a personal message from to Pope to Al Tayyeb.

According to Al-Azhar, in his message the Pope stressed the Vatican’s respect for Islam and said he hoped every effort would be made towards achieving “mutual understanding between the world’s Christians and Muslims in order to build peace and justice.” Al Tayyeb apparently replied that the message Al-Azhar wished to get out is one of “respect for people of every religion and the safeguarding of human dignity and the highest values described in the Quran and the Sunnah.” He also said that Muslims are willing “to collaborate to help justice and progress grow among the people of the Earth.”

The communiqué issued by the University of Al-Azhar is important in light of the tensions between the Sunni centre of learning and the Vatican, which exploded in January 2011 after Benedict XVI’s strong condemnation of the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral of Alexandria. This led the university to announce it was suspending dialogue with the Holy See. Prior to this, a university delegation would hold meetings with the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue every two years. Today’s communiqué alluded to this incident, saying that Al Tayyeb apparently told the Nuncio that casting Islam in a negative light is “a red line” that must not be crossed.

The communiqué does not make explicit reference to the resumption of dialogue. But it is important to bear in mind that in June Al-Azhar said it was waiting for a response to the message of congratulations which Al Tayyeb sent Pope Francis after his election. And it expressed the hope that there would be “a clear demonstration of respect for Islam and Muslims”. This was clearly demonstrated in today’s message. The President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran responded by saying that it was Al-Azhar that had interrupted dialogue with the Holy See. The Holy See had kept the door of dialogue open.

The facts seem to suggest that this rift is healing fast: Al Tayyeb and the University of Al-Azhar have proven to be an important reference point for Christians during the difficult past few months in Egypt. Even during Mohammed Morsi’s presidency the Great Imam had tried on more than one occasion to act as a mediator with Christians, attracting the wrath of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Then, after the 30 June demonstrations he openly supported the ousting of the Islamist president by the military. Importantly, when Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan attacked him for this, the Secretary of the Council of Churches of Egypt, Fr. Bishoy Helmy came to his defence. The Apostolic Vicar of Alexandria, Mgr. Adel Zaki told Fides news agency that “a strong collaborative agreement between Al Azhar and the Council of Christian Churches is being registered.”

Christians, Muslims pray together

Muslims and Christians together pray in St. Peter’s Square, each with the words of their own religion. For many it is a “miracle” born by the appeal of Pope Francis who encouraged fasting for peace against the war in Syria. In St. Peter’s square, in the late afternoon, a hundred thousand people came to accept the appeal of the pope. A silent ceremony, with flags ranging from the Syrian flag to those of the color of the rainbow of peace and the Chinese flag to Argentinian flag, the country of the Pope.

An atmosphere of silence, made almost surreal by the presence of Syrians and Muslims in the square: several hundred according to the Arab Community in Italy. Some of them recited the Qur’an: while at the same time came Ave Maria rising from the square. A fusion of faiths and prayers in the name of peace. The verse recited says that Allah has set up a people and a community so that we can know each other – explains Salameh Ashour a Palestinian – The noblest man who loves and fears God refrains from any violence.” Egyptians, Libyans, Syrians, Palestinians, Iraqis and other Arabs mixed on the streets with African, South American and Italian.

For many it was a moment of peace. “Today we have fasted” says Ismael, wrapped in a flag of Syria “we are here because Francis has shown an understanding for our people.” “Unprecedented” for many Catholics “the sort of miracle of Pope Francis.”

Minas, a Syrian wearing the chador and honeymooning in Rome went to St. Peter with her husband for the event: “I just hope” he says “that when we return we will not find Damascus destroyed by bombs.”

 

Muslims of Cagliari Stand Together through Fasting and Prayers against War, After a Call made by Pope Francis

From Cagliari, an appeal for peace: The Muslim community of the Sardinian capital reacts to the appeal of the Pope. September 7th will be a day of fasting and prayer against war in the Middle East. This was announced by the spokesman of the Muslim community of Cagliari, Sulaiman Hijazi, and the president of the Province of Cagliari, Angela Quaquero.

“In Cagliari, after the appeal that Pope Francis addressed to all people of good will against war in the Middle East, the Muslim Community of Cagliari decided to join with a day of fasting to be held on September 7” says Sulaiman Hijazi. This is a concrete step showing intercultural goodwill.

 

Muslims Respond to the Pope’s Letter for Best Wishes during the end of Ramadan

August 8, 2013

 

With “extraordinary pleasure” Muslims of Italy accepted the goodwill message sent by Pope Francis which acknowledged the end of Ramadan and in particular, best wishes for the feast of Eid al-Fitr. The Union of Islamic Communities and Organizations in Italy (Ucoii) wrote today in a letter to the Pope; the organization wanted to emphasize the “kindness” of Pope Francis: an attitude which, along with education and respect must “become part of our daily practice, often a smile is worth a thousand words.”  Ucoii expands by saying “we are strengthened by the purification period which has just ended and we want to express to his Holiness our gratitude for the message which he personally sent.”

The theologian Mokrani: Message from Pope Francis adds new energy to the dialogue between Christians and Muslims

August 3, 2013

“We need to train our young people to think and speak in a way that respects other religions and their followers” is one of the key steps of the message that Pope Francis has addressed yesterday to Muslims around the world to mark the end of Ramadan. A very significant gesture, as pointed out by the Muslim theologian Adnane Mokrani, an Islamic theologian from Tunisia who teaches at the Vatican’s prestigious Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

Mokrani – First, as a Muslim I am very happy to receive this message of peace and wishes from a great Pope. His name indicates interest in interreligious dialogue: Saint Francis is a symbol of dialogue with Muslims. So, the choice of the same name was a positive sign for interreligious dialogue. And it’s the first time that a Pope signs a letter so alive, so beautiful, open, a plea for mutual respect as a common basis of friendship, then, an appeal to young people respect other religions, and the leaders of other religions …

Pope Francis, who is returning from the experience of World Youth Day in Rio is addressing with particular attention to young people, their training, education …

Mokrani – This special attention to young people is very important to educate young people to dialogue, coexistence, common values ​​for humanity and a more peaceful, welcoming attitude … According to me, this is a common task, a common commitment that should be the goal of interreligious dialogue for the coming years.

How is this gesture seen in the Muslim world, from the media’s point of view, specifically how are these gestures of kindness, by Francis Pope taken by the faithful of Islam?

I believe that they receive positive reaction, despite the fact that the Islamic world today is taken by so many problems and challenges, and then the media is more interested in what is happening in Egypt, Tunisia and Syria: it is an very difficult. But in my opinion, this message may encourage people who are working in the field of interreligious dialogue, to move forward, to have hope and to find new energy. In my opinion, it is a message that gives hope and helps people who work in this field.

Pope Francis Writes to Muslims, I feel like your brother

August 2, 2013

“As you all know, when the Cardinals elected me as the Bishop of Rome and Universal Pastor of the Catholic Church, I chose the name of Francis, a very famous saint, deeply loved by God and every human being, to the point of being called the ‘universal brother.’” The Pope wrote in a message “to Muslims around the world” on the occasion of “the conclusion of the month of Ramadan, chiefly devoted to fasting, prayer and almsgiving.” In the text, the Pope follows a tradition that, on this occasion, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue sends a goodwill message, accompanied by a theme offered for joint consideration. “This year, the first of my Pontificate, I decided to send this message to you, dear friends, as an expression of esteem and friendship for all Muslims, especially those who are religious leaders.”