Why Allah sounds so angry in the Koran
Mohamed El Bachiri: "Love is my anger"
Mr. El Bachiri, you are a believer. And regardless of whether you are a Muslim, a Christian or a Jew - do you sometimes doubt God at such a terrible moment as you have experienced?
Every person got to doubt. It is normal to ask questions and doubt. This enables us to search for the truth and find God.
Did you also ask yourself: Why did this have to happen to me?
Of course I asked myself this question. Some people have said to me that I am called to be an example of the message of love and humanism. But I don't want to rise to be a prophet. I just want to create connections across all religions and dogmas. I believe in a universal and spiritual humanism.
That is why you wrote the book "My Jihad of Love". They want to meet the hatred of the Islamist terrorists with love. Can you love your wife's assassins?
A lot of people ask me if I'm not angry. But love is my anger. The message of unconditional and universal love for all people, whether believers or unbelievers, is quite violent for the fanatics. I think my job is to tell people that the path to love and repentance is possible.
Is it arrogant when I say this message sounds pretty Christian?
She is even divine! (laughs) God is Love and mercy. You can find that in Islam too. Muslims are also looking for peace. But the current tensions in Europe prevent them from expressing this love. There is a mood of fear that causes Muslims to withdraw and some of them to become radicalized. They build fronts between "you" and "we". And I want to break through that. For me religion is a spiritual place, regardless of belonging to a group. All great men, whether in Christianity or Islam, were initially mystics. Mohammed, for example, retired to a cave to meditate. Christ also went into the wilderness. It is important for man to turn within himself to search for love and peace.
With your very tolerant attitude, do you belong to the majority or to the minority within Islam?
I think to the majority. First and foremost, people want to be loved, have a job and live in harmony and peace with other people. But of course, if you live in a situation in which you don't feel accepted, you run the risk of withdrawing and isolating yourself.
You write that one has to look at the warlike passages in the Koran from the point of view of their genesis and under no circumstances should they be universally valid. How many imams are there who preach such a thing?
It's a question of training. If the imam has been trained in Saudi Arabia - which is unfortunately the norm in Belgium - he will have a very literal interpretation of the Koran. That does not mean that he is necessarily for war, but that is how he will read the Koran. That remains a problem because this reading can lead to violence.
I learned from your book that the Arabic word “jihad” does not mean war of faith at all, but simply an effort to lead a good life.
Yes, there are also children with that name. In the meantime, however, not so many because the connotation has changed.
After terrorist attacks like the one in Brussels, I often thought: You Muslims, take to the streets and show that you don't accept what the Islamists are doing. But that didn't happen. Can you understand that this gave the impression that ordinary Muslims also support Islamism?
As someone who was affected by the attack in Brussels, like all other citizens, I simply did not understand that something like this is done to innocent people in the name of God. That was awful. We talk about it among ourselves, but the idea of joining forces for a demonstration would have struck us as absurd. These people are not us. It would be like justifying ourselves to be Muslim. Throughout our youth we children of Moroccan immigrants had to prove that we are innocent - just because we are Moroccans. I couldn't go into any discotheques and the police kept checking me. You have to endure a lot of frustration. And now should we justify ourselves again for who we are just because there are criminals who murder in the name of God? We feel like citizens of Brussels. So if there is to be a demonstration - then with everyone!
In your book you write about your father that he had to see how he “connected our religion with the values of the country”. What were the difficulties in combining the two?
A practicing Muslim does not eat pork, drink alcohol, and pray at home and in the mosque. Actually, it's not difficult - we made it harder than necessary because we needed to go back to our roots. The people in Europe, however, are the bigger traditionalists. You are constantly afraid of losing something. We Muslims in Belgium combine two cultures. For example, at Christmas I have a Christmas tree. In Morocco, too, there are Christmas trees in department stores at Christmas. That is not an issue there. Nobody is afraid that their own culture could be endangered.
Many people see Islam as a backward religion - for example because women do not have the same rights as men. Can you understand that?
I can understand it, but you have to put that into perspective. Latin culture is also quite a macho culture. There is still a lot to be done here, too - let's just take the differences in salaries. There is still a lot to be done with the Muslims. The veil is at the center of the discussion. I find the focus on this a bit weird, but I am in favor of women having to decide for themselves whether they want to wear a headscarf or not. The prophet was, by the way, a feminist compared to the circumstances at the time. Newborn girls were murdered, they were just worthless. And in this situation where women had no rights, the Prophet asked men to take responsibility for them. They were now entitled to part of the inheritance. That was a revolution back then. There is still a lot to be done, but I think we are going in the same direction.
Mohamed El Bachiri was born in Belgium in 1980 as a child of Moroccan immigrants. He grew up in the Molenbeek district of Brussels. In the attacks there on the metro in March 2016, he lost his wife Loubna, with whom he has three children. El Bachiri then wrote the book "My Jihad of Love" (Fischer-Verlag). Now he has been awarded the Konstanz Council Prize for his commitment to tolerant coexistence in Europe. The prize is endowed with 10,000 euros. El Bachiri was proposed by the Belgian politician Herman Van Rompuy, former EU Council President. The second book by El Bachiri has just been published, initially only in Flemish (“De Odyssee van Mohamed”). (esd)
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