Khalil Samir, a professor at the Oriental Pontifical Institute of Rome
and St. Joseph’s University of Beirut, said this week that in order to
change the Islamic mentality, “which is fearful of reality,” an
“enormous educational effort” is needed at schools and universities,
while paying special attention to textbooks and teacher formation.
In statements made to the Italian daily “Avvenire,” Father Samir, an expert in Islamic issues, said, “The enlightened West should help the most liberal Muslims to be heard in their countries and contribute to the spread of their ideas by fostering the circulation and translation of their works, inviting them to speak in Europe.”
“Above all,” he stressed, “an enormous educational effort needs to be initiated at schools and universities,” with special attention to textbooks and teacher formation.
“This is a task that would require generations to slowly change a mentality that is fearful of reality. As Christianity teaches us, reason is not an enemy, but rather an ally of faith,” he added.
Father Samir explained that in Islamic schools, “the teaching methods are based on repetition and memorization more than on logical reasoning. In the family, parents do not give their children motives for obedience; rather, it is imposed, sometimes through violence.”
The Koran, he continued, “is learned by heart and applied in a mechanical and literal way since, according to Islam, the text has been revealed directly by God to Mohammed and contains all that is necessary for life, and no interpretation is allowed.”
“If somebody says an effort is needed to find a better application of it to today’s world, he is accused of being a traitor of the most authentic spirit of Islam and even deserves death for apostasy.” The result, he said, is world that is “fearful of modernity.”
Father Samir explained that such a mentality is “easily manipulated by the statements and orders of radicals, who use religious sentiments for political purposes and identify the West with the Great Satan.”
The recent controversy over comics depicting Mohammed, he pointed out, was an example of this situation in which reprisals were carried out not only against the authors, but also “against the governments of those countries in which they were published and, by extension, against the West or Christians, with the tragic consequences which we have seen, such as the assassination of Father Santoro.”
“This type of mentality neglects the value of the person, drowning him in the group. Reason must be exercised rather than letting oneself be led by emotions. Unfortunately, reason is asleep in Islamic countries,” Father Samir stated.