"We haven’t spent a dime on funding Islamic scholars... We have sold arms instead. "
In light of the Bastille Day terrorism in Nice, France, it seems right to consider this Vatican Insider interview with Father Giulio Albanese concerning the recent attacks in Dhaka and Baghdad. Fr. Albanese is a missionary, journalist and an expert on Africa, the Middle East and the world’s many “southern regions”. He recently authored a book published in 2016, titled “Vittime e carnefici nel nome di ’Dio’” (Victims and butchers in the name of ‘God’”).
Fr. Albanese, more attacks and more innocent blood and the serious problem of religious fundamentalism continues. But what is the political aim of this violence?
“I believe it is important not to fall into the trap laid by these people whom we might as well call criminals, terrorists, gangsters. Of course it is clear that there is an ideological, “doctrinal” system behind their actions and it grabs people’s attention, we know what an effect it has in people’s consciences: let us think of the second and third generation “foreign fighters” who come from middle to upper class backgrounds. We also know that in the case of Dhaka, the terrorists were all children of the Dhaka upper class. It is clear, therefore, that religion is being used for subversive purposes. I will never tire of repeating it. By telling these stories we run the risk, in one way or another, of playing their game without even realizing it.”
Are we being presented with a false picture?
“Anyone who is familiar with and has studied the Islamic world – I am thinking of westerners but also Islamic scholars – are aware of how important it is to avoid getting sucked into a clash of civilisations mentality. Because their actions are not only heretical in relation to Islam: they have nothing to do with the Islamic tradition, they completely contradict the Quran, not to mention the Sufi tradition, the tradition of Islamic mysticism in other words. And this, in my opinion should be strongly emphasized. Because if we look at the figures relating to the killings carried out by these criminals over the past 4 to 5 years, it is the Muslim world that has paid the highest price. It is therefore a war within the Islamic world, the effects of which have spread and are being felt in the west as well.”
Speaking of which, just as the Dhaka attack was taking place, another terrible one was being witnessed in Baghdad, claiming the lives of 200 people…
“Yes, 20 children died. And how much of a focus did this receive in the European, western press? The fact remains that what is causing dismay and concern at home, is a daily reality in that part of the world – as well as in Sub-Saharan Africa – these killings are an everyday occurrence in some contexts. And this is where Pope Francis is right to denounce arms trafficking and urge Chancelleries to work for peace, because what is going on in the Middle East is the West’s responsibility too: we know there is an open rivalry over the Syrian question, between Iran and Russia on the one hand and Saudi Arabia, US and Qatar on the other. ISIS has obviously found fertile ground in this strong argument, its existence is a by-product of geopolitical interests, no one has had the courage to speak out against deception.”
So war fuels terrorism…
“Violence begets violence. The Pope is right when he says that the only card to play is the peace card because if we go on thinking we can resolve this type of conflict with arms, we lose at the outset. This is the moment for diplomacy to take action because behind every conflict there are huge interests at risk.”
So, is the opening of negotiations between the different parties involved in the Syrian crisis one of the responses that are needed most urgently?
“Of course, because we need to take the oxygen away from these criminals. Otherwise they will go on speculating about geopolitical and global situations, since the induction of certain problems is such that it spreads like wildfire. We need only think of the dispute between Iran and Saudi Arabia which is not like the dispute between Shiites and Sunnis: here we are talking about specific components within the Sunni world. I am thinking of Salafists, Wahhabism and the same reasoning can be applied to Shiites. The problem is that the Islamic world has been in a crisis for decades and we have been acting as though nothing has been going on.”