Muslims in Europe have been the permanent victims of discriminations, especially against the practice of their religion. Entrenched in the minds of many is the fear that Islam would be a religion of war and intolerance. The debate started after the assassination of Theo Van Gogh and the cartoon controversy in Denmark, but it is a common scheme of propaganda of all far-right political parties during their political campaigns. We should therefore come back to the issue of islamophobia, i.e. the fear of Islam as a religion.

  1. I) The idea of Jihad

The idea of « Jihad » in Islam is seen as the main motive to legitimate intolerance, because it is sometimes interpreted as « outer physical struggle ». But Jihad is defined as al-ǧihādfīsabīlAllāh, or « to strive in the way of Allah ». At the EIILIR, we would like to argue that Jihad is actually identical to Friedrich Nietzsche's idea of the « New Barbarians », which the philosopher presented as a model for society. Nietzsche defended the idea that « barbarism » is the future of the individual, because getting « beyond good and evil » is actually the condition for freedom.

While Jihad is sometimes interpreted as a motive for combating the so-called « infidel », the Qu'ran has to be understood in the context of a society starting to organize itself and surrounded by other polytheist groups, in a desertic area. The Qu'ran has some very strong words against the « infidel », but these words were formulated in the context of the birth of the Arab society. They cannot be interpreted outside of a period, 1400 years ago, where the « culture of violence » was not the same as it is nowadays, where fightings between tribes were extremely common. Muhammad himself would have said, after a battle, that the “lesser Jihad” was over. He thought that Muslims, after that battle, should dedicate themselves mainly to the « internal Jihad » which he called the “greater Jihad”. This quotation has been very influential among some Muslims, particularly Sufis. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/islam/beliefs/jihad_1.shtml)

Those who interpret the Qu'ran as a motive for waging war against the Western World are actually what Muslims would call « infidels ». They may take refuge behind some surats of the Qu'ran, but the “holy war” is actually strictly a defensive process, not aimed at converting or conquering other nations. In other words, fighting the Western countries is strictly prohibited by Islam. Islam acknowledges the writings of the two other monotheisms, it recognizes that all of the anterior prophets also belong to the Muslims, and that they should not be divided other the topic of religion (see for instance Ash-Shuraa 42:13, which establishes a parallelism between Noah, Abraham, Moises, Jesus and Muhammad). Those who commit crimes of intolerance should be reminded that all of the religious texts, which they should in theory obey, can be interpreted similarly : in the Old Testament for instance, there are many circumstances in which God acts as an « avenger » : he commits horrendous crimes in the conquest of Canaan, together with the Israeli people. Therefore, while it is easy to take some particular Surats to propagate islamophobia, any other religious text can be interpreted the same way, and it is absolutely clear that the story of the conquest of Canaan, for instance, is a major legitimating tool for the use of violence in Palestine by the Israeli government today.

According to the BBC, a third Jihad is « the struggle to build a good Muslim society ». This idea goes hand in hand with the EIILIR's thesis that Jihad is nothing else than « presenting yourself as a model for society ». Against islamophobia, it should be widely spread that the idea of Jihad, nowadays, has to be interpreted as a motive for the betterment of society, for the amelioration of the human being, and nothing more.

  1. II) A philosophy of Islam

It is now known that Arab countries have been the shelter of Greek philosophy at times when Medieval Europe rejected it. It started at the 8th century, with for instance the “Mu'tazilas”, an Islamic school of theology based on reason and rational thought, implanted in Basra and Baghdad. SouleymaneBachirDiagne, a specialist of Islamic philosophy, explains (in Le Monde des Religions n°66, July-August 2014) that this school proposed the idea that the human mind can search for answers by himself, and welcomed the Greek philosophical, or “falsafa”, corpus.

Avicenna, the first main philosopher of Islam, has also promoted the activity of re-reading the Qu'ran at the light of Aristotelian philosophy. If Jihad is “striving in the way of Allah”, Mr. BachirDiagne says there is a direct parallelism to be established with a “path toward truth”. This reinforces the above-mentioned argument that Jihad is a process of self-construction, and never, ever, a process of destruction. Averroes, the other great philosopher of that era, also developed the idea that  religious mysticism and philosophical rationalism could be re-conciliated. And the adepts of the “Ilm al-Kalām”, or the “science of discourse”, do not only try to prove the existence of God, they also have a “philosophical pulsion” pushing them to go beyond that sole activity, according to philosopher AbdennourBidar.

In the contemporary era, according to Mr. BachirDiagne, philosophers like Syed Ameer Ali in “The Spirit of Islam” (1891) have also denounced an era of “intellectual petrification”. He notes, paraphrasing Kant, that another philosopher, al-Afghâni, encouraged Muslims to awake from their “dogmatic sleep” ; al-Afghâni explains that the Sunni tradition, for instance, has become its own destiny, and tool of all knowledge, which is why he called for a reform re-activating critical spirit and opening itself to the great issues of modernity, i.e. secularism, democracy, liberalism.

And both academics, interviewed by journalist Fabien Trécourt, agree on the value of the teachings of the Pakistanese poet and philosopher Muhammad Iqbal, who encourages the development of a “thinking in action”, directly oriented toward the present, against the mythologization of the past. God is, in his perspective, the “ultimate individuality”, that he is both personal and transcendental. Every man would be able to produce something new out of darkness, that could become his own “raison d'être”. This is almost an existentialist theory, even though Sartre was a declare atheist, and there is a literature building bridges between the two philosophies, for they both promote human freedom (read for instance a review of “Iqbal and Sartre on Human Freedom and Creativity” by Dr. Latif Hussain Kazmi at http://www.allamaiqbal.com/publications/journals/review/apr00/05.htm).

Conclusion : Islamophobia as a consequence of poverty, inequalities... and state manipulation

The main cause of intolerance toward Muslims is certainly the imperialist ideology that has been developed to conquer and colonize Arab territories, during the Crusades and the colonial era (see our article on that subject with the French case http://www.eiilir.eu/politics-strategies/europe/france/102-how-to-face-racism-the-case-of-france). In turn colonialism prompted the conditions of economic under-development, and violence spills from inequalities (see our article on that subject at http://www.eiilir.eu/publications/123-inequalities-the-ever-forgotten-cause-of-violence).

Islam is a perfect political scapegoat nowadays, able to unite Western societies behind their government. Intelligence agencies are extremely interested by the opportunity to support their own radical foes in order to create the conditions of a reduction of civil liberties (see http://www.eiilir.eu/global/human-rights/europe/122-anti-terrorism-in-france-pretext-to-a-reduction-of-civil-liberties)... and perhaps to ensure their budgets would not be reduced because of the surplus of work. The FBI has worked to create the illusion of a terrorist foe in the USA (http://www.eiilir.eu/politics-strategies/topics/terrorism-security/121-u-s-counterintelligence-and-the-manufacturing-of-domestic-terrorism). And many Islamists have received support, training and arms from Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, in agreement with the West, in a process which was in theory aimed at combating Bashar al-Assad but which also has the purpose of letting grow ISIS, in order to set up the conditions of “creative anarchy” (as Condoleezza Rice once said) to ensure the continuation of the Western domination in the area, and to have perhaps a “Sioux reserve” of terrorists available to maintain a “state of war” in the minds of citizens (see http://www.eiilir.eu/global/international-relations/middle-east/139-western-powers-have-manufactured-the-islamic-state-to-revive-the-clash-of-civilisations-in-the-middle-east).

Intelligence agencies have allowed for the financing of terrorism in order to cultivate islamophobia in the minds of the citizens. Islam is not a religion of war, but like all other religions it has been mis-interpretated by tyrannical religious leaders. Muslims are the ultimate victims on both sides.

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