Fiamma Nirenstein

How extremist Islam tries to silence criticism

Magdi Allam has been accused of Islamophobia by the Italian Journalist Association, which decided to open a disciplinary proceeding against the famous journalist, politician and writer of Egyptian origins, following a series of articles on Islam published by the daily newspaper “Il Giornale” between April 22 and December 5, 2011.


When Magdi Allam was still working for “La Repubblica”, one of his reportages from June 6, 2003, at the times of the “Second Intifada”, made me feel that I was not the only one trying to explain the threat of terrorism. And he explained it analyzing an Imam’s speech held in the Great Mosque of Rome.

With courage and accuracy, Magdi reported what he had heard: “Wipe out the enemies of Islam”, “We will destroy…”, “Kill, dismember…”. It was Magdi who, for the first time in Italy, exposed Islam’s verbal violence, its total condemnation of the West, and the astonishing use of sacred texts to justify its theological hatred. Although, even at that time, Italy and Europe abhorred the connection between terrorism and Islam and were refusing to consider it a legitimate subject for debate, Allam did not want to bow to this surprise. Many of those who acted like him, myself included, did this for the sake of intellectual honesty and the public’s need to know, and then were forced to get security protection from the authorities.

From Magdi to “Charlie Hebdo”, from Theo Van Gogh’s murder to the persecution of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, or the voluntary exile of people like Malala or the Iranian writer AsarNafisi, that system of death threats became a paragraph of our times, an episode only linked to groups of crazy people, even though it actually affects every latitude.

On the other hand, the attacks in New York, Madrid, London, Burgas, Toulouse, became the systematic framework of the global outbreak of extremist Islam with its earsplitting battle cry, committing atrocious homicides against Christians, Jews and Muslims in the name of its sacred texts. This has been happening for years, with a new development consisting in the circulation of terror through a cascade of videos intended to intimidate us. Successfully.

Islamophobia charges against Magdi prevent from considering Islam as an origin of violence, while ascribing him a prejudice. But it was Magdi himself that, in 2004, organized a group of moderate Muslims. He just intended to bring to the world’s attention what he knew for experience, being a Muslim first and then a persecuted Christian, and for his knowledge of the Arab language and culture. A very difficult task, to be carried out under constant threat.

Every religion has, in its origins, some elements of hostility toward different peoples or toward women. But the doctrine from three thousand years ago has transformed, paying a toll of blood and tears through the centuries, until State and Church, or the Synagogue, finally separated. In Islam’s case, on the other hand, there have been various attempts to detach from Shaaria, from the literal reading of the Quran as a law of the State, from memorizing it without discussion. But the relationship of the Arab and Iranian world with the Western society pushed again élites and masses toward ancient interpretations.

The great traditionalists, Al Wahaab, Al Maududi, Sayyd Qutb (who wrote his text while coming back from a trip in the United States, which he found hideous), marked the more conservative path, more appropriate to a VII century’s world view. As Father Samir Khalil Samir points out from Lebanon,“what has been missing is an education to constructive criticism”, the Quran and Mohammed can never be discussed. And to be an apostate – as they call Magdi Allam, who converted to Catholicism – corresponds to a death warrant: “Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him”, says hadith 84:57 from Bukhari’s collection.

As for the massacres ISIS and other groups are perpetrating in the name of the Quran, they believe they are administering justice to “apostates”, being them Shiites or Sunni enemies, Kurds, Christians or Jews. So, Hamas militants, wearing hoods on their heads, executed eighteen people in the middle of the road, accusing them of being Israel’s spies, ex-Muslim apostates, and “enemies of Allah”. It is said in the Quran, even though someone could deem these points to be questionable, or obsolete. But ISIS does claim the Quranic roots of its current terrorist exploits: this is the political Islam in its tensest version, but the application of Shaaria, ratified as law in every Islamic country, is political as well. Some of them apply it mildly, as they do in Egypt. But in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Sudan, and in other Islamic countries is quite a different matter, and the law foresees punishments as the death penalty for apostasy or adultery, hand cutting and the persecution of homosexuals as well.
The lack of separation between politics and religion is still in very vogue in Islam, leading to bloodshed when are terrorist organizations that claim justice on behalf of the Shaaria law. Hamas Charter is just quoting a hadith when it says: “The Last Day will not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them”. That text is still in use, and the Imam from San Donà di Piave, who recommends to kill all the Jews, is also part of our present, like the sermon in which the Imam Bilan Bosnic explains (a sentence repeated in thousands of mosques) that all Muslims are fighting their war so that the world, the Vatican included, will be conquered by Islam.

From European countries are coming insurgents who are living today as in Muhammad’s times, seeing themselves as an army guided by the Prophet himself, in a world that has not changed from the VII century. While in 1948 the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was drafted, in 1981 in Paris, in 1983 in Dhaka, and in 1990 in Cairo the Islamic world decided instead to draft its own Charters. Women are less than men, homosexuals are punished, honor killing is tolerated, and when those traditions are brought to us through immigration, the tolerance becomes complaisance and fear, it hides behind a tolerant multiculturalism, except when, with a double standard, it snaps at Magdi Allam’s right to freedom of expression.

About the Author
Fiamma Nirenstein is a journalist, author, former Deputy President of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, and member of the Italian delegation at the Council of Europe.