Open letter to the Muslim world

Abdennour BIDAR

Philosopher specialist of contemporary evolution of Islam

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Extracts. Publication: 15/10/2014 Huffington Post Quebec (updated 9 Jan 2015)
Dear Muslim world, I am watching you from France where so many of your children live today. I watch you with the critical eye of a philosopher nurtured since childhood by taçawwuf (Sufism) and by Western values. I see the pain and misery that you suffer, and it fills me with infinite sorrow and makes my judgement as a philosopher even harsher! Because I can see that you are in the process of creating a monster, which calls itself “Islamic State”. I see you wasting your time and losing your honour by refusing to accept that this monster was born of your indecision, your endless dithering between past and present and your inability to find your place in human civilisation. “That is not Islam!” you cry. But that is not good enough at all! Because you are hiding behind your self-defence mechanism instead of shouldering the burden of self-criticism. You are content just to voice your indignation when you could be using this historic opportunity to take a long, hard look at yourself!
But in fact, behind the metaphorical monster lurks an enormous problem: the roots of evil that are taking hold inside you. And new monsters will emerge in the future, for as long as you refuse to face up to the truth!
There are many men and women in the Muslim world who are eager to reform Islam. They know all too well that Al Qaida, AQMI and the “Islamic State” are merely the severest and most visible symptoms of an enormous body riddled with chronic diseases: the inability to establish durable democracies that recognise freedom of conscience as a moral and political right; the moral and social prison created by a dogmatic, immovable and sometimes totalitarian religion; the chronic difficulty of improving women’s lives by giving them more equality, responsibility and freedom; the inability to release politics from the stranglehold of religious authority; and the inability to respect, tolerate and acknowledge religious pluralism.
Do not delude yourself into thinking that once we have put Islamic terrorism behind us the problems in Islam will disappear just like that! Everything I have just described is too often an inherent part of mainstream, everyday Islam, which in the midst of its own pain is causing too many consciences to suffer, and of traditional Islam, which is stifling the Arab Springs and smothering the voice of the young. When are you going to have a real revolution?
This denial of the right to freedom is one of the roots of the evil inside you. This religion that rules with an iron fist is forcing whole societies to live with unbearable violence. It is imprisoning your sons and daughters behind bars of lawfulness (halal) and unlawfulness (haram), which none of them want but from which they cannot break free. It is crushing free will, controlling minds and preventing or hindering personal freedom of choice.
If you want to stop producing such monsters, you must start by completely changing the way you educate your children and by imposing universally-accepted values on every single one of your schools and every single one of your places of learning and power: freedom of conscience, democracy, tolerance and rights of citizenship for people of all backgrounds and beliefs, gender equality and women’s empowerment, and a culture of free critical reflection on religion in universities, literature and the media. When you have completed this colossal task, no more abject monsters will be able to come along and tarnish your image.
I am just a philosopher, some may say a heretic. All I want to do is to let the light shine forth again.
I believe in you, in your contribution to making the world of tomorrow a more human and more spiritual place to live in! Salâm, may peace be with you.

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Learning to be brothers
In his most recent work “Appeal for Brotherhood”, Abdennour Bidar invites us to open our eyes on ourselves and face our shared responsibilities without further excuses.
The “burst of conscience” (following the 11th of January) must be pursued in an “examination of conscience”. The trouble is to be found in “the way we live together”, in the “polar cold of our societies”. We have to “provide a warm heart to our cold principles”. Our societies do not offer enough; they lack a sense of purpose, sharing and hope, mostly for those that feel abandoned and that we have, objectively speaking, abandoned.
This awareness has to transform itself into a project of society, of civilisation. Brotherhood has to become a durable “common good” in our coexistence. However, it is not enough to “talk about values”, brotherhood has to be learnt in practice. This starts at home. Europe (and not only France ed) has to be “the pioneer of a brotherhood civilisation integrating Muslims.”
Abdennour Bidar suggests, among others leads, training for teachers that would help them instruct students in the ethics of discussion, the “art of freeing speech without triggering hostility”, leading politics of opening-up to achieve greater social mobility and diversity, entrusting every child with a responsibility to participate in service aimed at others beyond the “community” of origin…

Anne Macey, Confrontations Europe

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