Cinzia Sciuto: Break the silence!
Radical Islamism benefits from the silence of moderate Muslims who see no reason why their faith implies a responsibility to condemn its violence. But Islamism also stands to gain from the blurring of boundaries between genuine Islamophobia and criticism of Islam where it departs from democratic norms. After last year’s Islamist terror acts in France and Austria, the same old script could be observed being played out yet again. On the one side, there were those who accused Islam of being an intrinsically violent religion; on the other, those who argued that Islamist violence has nothing to do with the Muslim faith.
This is a bit like responding to paedophilia in the Catholic Church either by shouting ‘Catholic bastards’ or by insisting that the teachings of Christ have nothing to do with child abuse. Neither leads anywhere. What the essence of a religion may be is of interest to theologians, historians of religion, and individual believers. But from the secular point of view, it is irrelevant.
What is relevant, however, is whether and how religions and religious hierarchies respond to violence committed in their name – not because this indicates whether they honour the foundations of their faith, but because it establishes whether they recognize the fundamental principles of civil coexistence. What concerns secularists is not the religious aspect of confessions, but their public role, their social and political impacts, and the use made of them by their adherents and representatives.
It is important that theologians and believers make an effort to reconcile their faith with the principles of democratic coexistence..