At present, Islam is opposed by a large percentage of the population. Although the religion has been present in Europe for centuries, it is now more visible than ever before. This phenomenon can be attributed to two different trends – firstly, immigration originating mainly from Muslim countries due to historical and geographical reasons and secondly, an ageing population that has placed Europe top of the world rankings in terms of age. Consequently, de facto multiculturalism has emerged for which nothing and no-one was prepared. This has resulted in tensions. It would be foolish to ignore the difficulties that have arisen with respect to such issues as secularism, gender equality and freedom of speech.
And of course the situation is exacerbated by an overwhelming tide of daily references to Islam by terrorist organisations. Their appalling acts of violence are deliberately shocking and perfectly designed to flood the media with horrific images, leading the public to equate Islam with barbarism. The attacks that shook France on 7, 8 and 9 January and those on November 13 have promoted the view that the two concepts are linked. Gradual polarisation is occurring, with “Islamists” on one side and “Islamophobes” on the other. The two factions are conspiring to obscure the truth, each citing the other as proof that it is impossible to live together, backed by a host of simple, dogmatic and therefore barbarous ideas. One side believes that Christians should no longer be tolerated in Muslim countries while the other contends that Muslims should no longer be tolerated in Christian countries. French jihadis and Anders Behring Breivik are the two extremes of this spectrum.
Despite this polarisation, we know we are going to live together and neither the French Republic nor Europe can abandon the noble values on which they are founded. This also means that no-one has to give up their spiritual beliefs. We must therefore explain, more effectively and in greater depth, that recognition and respect of spiritual beliefs are conditional on recognition and respect of republican values. This work and this discussion must involve everyone. In particular, we need to show a different reality of Islam, which is no less tangible, although rendered virtually invisible by the giant shadow cast by a loathsome brand of Islam. This other reality is neither truly recognised nor always known, even to Muslims themselves. We must never stop fighting ignorance.
The Fondation pour l’innovation politique is publishing its “Valeurs d’islam” series to help eliminate prejudice and shed light on the truth. The aim is not to assert that a humanist and progressive version of Islam exists. This fact is beyond dispute and should not be ignored simply because the brand of Islam in question lacks visibility. Indeed it is followed by precisely those Muslims who practice their faith without noise or clamour. The series therefore also aims to remind us of the reasons why this generous brand of Islam should be considered authentic and in synch with the original message. This message portrays mankind as being vulnerable yet inspired with a unique destiny and its essence may only be spread sincerely if individual dignity is recognised, sanctioned and safeguarded by all.
Texts in the series were published under the scientific editorship of Éric Geoffroy, an Islamic scholar at the University of Strasbourg celebrated for his prolific work. The authors Ahmed Bouyerdene, Mustapha Cherif, Beddy Ebnou, Éric Geoffroy, Bariza Khiari, Saad Khiari, Asma Lamrabet, Philippe Moulinet, Tareq Oubrou, Ahmad Al-Raysuni and mathieu Terrier, all firmly established experts, have agreed to share their thoughts and knowledge with a view to enabling continued co-existence through this gesture.
Finally, readers should also be aware that this series of studies would never had been published without the support and encouragement of Sheikh Khaled Bentounès. Those who have met him will know that it is no exaggeration to say that he is a man of exceptional character who is currently performing a very valuable role.
All the papers in the “Valeurs d’islam” series can be found below: Le pluralisme religieux en islam, ou la conscience de l’altérité [Pluralism in Islam or the awareness of otherness] by Éric Geoffroy; Coran, clés de lecture [Keys to understanding the Koran] by Tareq Oubrou; L’humanisme et l’humanité en islam [Humanism and humanity in Islam] by Ahmed Bouyerdene; Le soufisme : spiritualité et citoyenneté [Sufism: spirituality and citizenship] by Bariza Khiari; Islam et contrat social [Islam and the social contract] by Philippe Moulinet; L’islam et les valeurs de la République [Islam and the values of the Republic] by Saad Khiari; Éducation et islam [Education and Islam] by Mustapha Cherif; Les femmes et l’islam : une vision réformiste [Women and Islam: a reformist vision] by Asma Lamrabet; Islam et démocratie : les fondements [Islam and democracy: the foundations] by Ahmad Al-Raysuni; Islam et démocratie : face à la modernité [Islam and democracy: facing modernity] by Mohamed Beddy Ebnou and Chiites et sunnites : paix impossible ? [Shiites and Sunnis – Is peace impossible?] by Mathieu Terrier.