Books: the Islam that 'frightens' a false one, Ben Jelloun

Author decries inaction before advance of extremism

25 February, 19:26

    Writer Tahar Ben Jelloun Writer Tahar Ben Jelloun

    (by Cristiana Missori) (ANSAmed) - ROME, FEBRUARY 25 - The author Tahar Ben Jelloun's latest work, which centers on Islam at a time when terrorists invoke 'Allah' with frightening regularity, will be presented on Tuesday at the Institut Français-Centre Saint Louis in the Italian capital. In an imagined dialogue with his daughter, the writer of Moroccan origins who has lived in France for years describes the indignation of moderate Muslims before 'criminal fundamentalism', explaining the concept of jihad and what the Islamic State (ISIS) is, how it was created and how it recruits from among the young and those feeling lost amid unemployment, moral wastelands and poverty. Attacks in Paris and Copenhagen, as well as the recent beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic workers, has often caused fear to overshadow all else.

    Ben Jelloun stresses, however, that ''Islam is not this. It is not violence or terror. It is rather an approach towards others''. Like many Muslim intellectuals, the author of 'Islam Explained' says that ISIS fundamentalists have interpreted Islam as they saw fit, in order to gain power and territorial control, noting that ISIS makes headway in areas where government institutions are fragile or nonexistent.

    ''Iraq, Syria, Libya,'' and parts of the Sinai, he said, ''have already fallen, while other territories are in danger, such as southern Algeria.'' Ben Jelloun notes that Arab nations and the Muslim world in general have done little to resolve the conflicts raging throughout the Middle East. ''I see immobility and regression. The Muslim world cultivates divisions and does not move forward, and the will for true reform just isn't there,'' he said, noting that throughout the centuries ''anyone who tried to reform Islam either wasn't listened to or was eliminated.'' Even today, he said, ''there is an 'intellectual terrorism' that stops intellectuals of Muslim culture or origins from expressing themselves freely. Anyone who has dared to speak out has been threatened.'' In his book, Ben Jelloun criticizes Westerners as well, who are often indifferent to the serious problems faced by immigrants and their children - who are frequently attracted to the temptation of jihad - or who benefit from an Arab world weak and riven by divisions. ''If the US actually wanted to get rid of ISIS or Boko Haram, it would have already done so. It has the full ability to do so,'' he says. A united, strong Arab world, Ben Jelloun states, ''wouldn't be convenient for Israel and, consequently, Washington''.


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