“Islam is a religion of dialogue”: it represents “a world that is open … and never tries to erect barriers between Muslims and others” On the contrary, Muslims should approach others with an open heart, with the aim of finding explanations of the issues instead of attacking whoever raises an objection, which never contributes to dialogue and understanding. A fervent defense of the contribution that Islamic civilization has made to the overall growth of humanity through the centuries was at the heart of the speech made to the inaugural ceremony of the Community of Sant’Egidio’s XXVIII International Peace Conference by the Grand Mufti of the Arab Republic of Egypt, Shawki Ibrahim Abdel-Karim Allam. The Grand Mufti believes in an Islam that does not consider itself superior to other religions, but rather considers all those “who work for constructive progress in the world” as “partners”.
Elected in February 2013 to the most prestigious post in the Sunnite theological hierarchy, the Grand Mufti of Egypt has always promoted moderate and enlightened ideas. In today’s speech he said that dialogue is “a responsibility assigned to Muslims by the very nature of their religion”, a virtuous practice that “we have learned from the clear, uncontaminated and scholarly lesson handed down by the great Al-Azhar University and not by some self-proclaimed believers who try to depict a distorted image of Islam as an isolationist faith”. “When Muslims turn to the Lord’s scripture and to the Sunnah of their Prophet – he continued – they discover that dialogue and not confrontation is their duty. Dialogue is a process of exploration and contact with others and it is also a way of explaining our points of view”.
As far as the supporters of an extremist and radical Islam are concerned, the Grand Mufti of Cairo considers them “secular people who proclaim to be religious authorities, even though they are unqualified to interpret religious and moral laws”; they have an “eccentric and rebellious attitude towards religion” that “opens the door to extremist interpretations totally extraneous to Islam”. Essentially, these are people to whom we should not attach particular importance. It is everyone’s duty to “eradicate this threat to the world”.
“Let it be clear – he concluded – that Islam is against extremism and terrorism in the most absolute terms, but if we do not understand the factors that contribute to the justification of terrorism and extremism, we will never be able to eradicate this epidemic.