‘Islam, It’s Also Our History!’ exhibition: Europe’s response to terror on its land‘Islam, It’s Also Our History!’ exhibition: Europe’s response to terror on its land

The exhibition sends a clear message that Europe has no qualms about accepting Islam as part of its culture and history.

Common roots. Poster of “Islam, It’s Also Our History!” exhibition. (Islam, It’s Also Our History!)

2017/12/17 Issue: 136 Page: 13

The Arab Weekly
Raouf Kobeissi

While some of their Muslim citizens have joined the ranks of the Islamic State (ISIS) and per­petrated terrorist attacks on their homeland, European countries are not shunning the crucial role that Islam played in shaping their his­tory and development.

“Islam, It’s Also Our History!” is a unique exhibition in Brussels, curated with the support of the European Union. Open through January 28, the exhibition de­picts links between the West and Islamic civilisation that go back hundreds of years.

Through the exhibition, Europe­ans, who are frequently branded by Muslim extremists as infidels, acknowledge the role Islam has played in shaping aspects of their civilisation, including medicine, philosophy, architecture and sci­ence.

Isabel Benoit, a historian at Tempora, the organisation that designed the exhibition, told the Associated Press: “We want to make clear to Europeans that Islam is part of European civilisation and that it isn’t a recent import but has roots going back 13 centuries.”

The exhibition sends a clear message that Europe has no qualms about accepting Islam as part of its culture and history, provided that its adherents demo­cratically accept others regardless of religion or beliefs.

Brussels and the Europeans are not ashamed, after what political Islam has done to them, to say that Islam is part of their history. They do not deny this history but try to draw a parallel between Europe and Muslims based on tolerance.

Spain, Italy, France and Belgium, which were officially Roman Cath­olic countries in the past and are secular at present, have allowed the construction of hundreds of mosques — France alone has more than 1,000. Muslim fundamental­ists, however, want more. They want to spread their brand of Islam in Europe, the brand that resulted in regression in poor countries in the Middle East.

Muslim fundamentalists may say whatever they want about infidels but what they are doing is nothing but distorting their religion and heritage and inflicting the greatest harm on their countries, cultures and peoples.

It is untrue to say that most Muslims in Brussels and other European capitals are extremists. The vast majority despise extrem­ists and consider their ideology divorced from true Islam.

What, however, is the true Islam that most European Muslims want?

The picture is not clear to them nor to Europeans because the kind of reform movement that transpired in Christianity has yet to begin in the Islamic tradition. Indeed, there is nothing on the ho­rizon to indicate that it has started.

Here lies the basic quandary in Islam’s relationship with Europe and Europe’s position on con­temporary Islam: Unless Muslims begin this reform movement and make the recommendations to cre­ate a European Islam that accepts all religions and people of differ­ent spiritual and non-spiritual doctrines, the consequences will remain unpredictable.

Islam in Europe will not make Europe Muslim but it can become European if it frees the minds, adapts to European traditions and becomes a faith devoid of customs and forms that have nothing to do with it.

When we talk of “adaptation,” we do not mean to touch the essence but to go to the gist of the faith that guarantees human freedom and accepts those of all creeds, including the secular and atheists, and takes different rituals and forms.

History tells us that all reli­gions, including Islam, adapted to the countries they moved to. In “Near East in History,” Lebanese- American historian Philip Hitti wrote that Christianity in Rome had to become Roman before calling on people to be Christians. This means that Christianity that saw the light in Palestine did not spread in the world until it became Roman.

This is what must happen to Islam in Europe to settle in peace and become part of the culture of Europe, as it is part of its history.

Raouf Kobeissi is a Lebanese writer.

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