Wednesday, March 02, 2005 By Maryam
This is a very interesting article extracted from the Jerusalem Post. Once again, the roots of Sufism come alive and it reconforts to realize that scholars express what is perceived by a great majority without power of words. The following explains how Sufism could, in some way, give back the real sense of several important meanings of Islam, even though Sufism is better accepted or understood nowadays in western countries, and although Sufism has evolved itself, and sometimes gone far beyond its authentic meaning, Ibn el-arabi, once again, the master i feel so special always, brings out certain solutions, so many centuries later.
Letter to a Suicide Bomber, a new book by Algerian sociologist Khaled Fouad Allam, has a name destined to make newspaper headlines.
But for Allam, who teaches sociology at the universities of Trieste and Urbino in Italy, the book's ultimate measure of success will be the number of young men and women who will carry it – rather than an explosives belt – through the streets of the Middle East.
Allam, who is considered one of Italy's leading experts on Islam and is a regular contributor to the daily La Repubblica, presented his book Wednesday at the Jerusalem International Book Fair in advance of its publication in Hebrew.
Described in the Italian press as "a critical rereading of Islamic traditions and a lucid reflection that condemns barbarity and the culture of death," Letter to a Suicide Bomber is a personal letter addressed to an aspiring martyr.
"As a Muslim," Allam said, "I feel it is my historical responsibility to respond to this terrible phenomenon."
His decision to write a letter rather than an academic study stemmed, he said, from his belief that "in an era of political violence, we need to reach out beyond the academic world and give different kinds of answers."
The slim volume, which Allam defined as "an impassioned letter to humanity," was published in Italy by Rizzoli, and is due to be released in Spain and Germany. The book does not yet have an English-language publisher, but its author hopes it will soon be published in Algeria.
"I wrote the book in Italian, but it is most important for me that it appear in Hebrew and in Arabic," he told The Jerusalem Post.
Allam analyzed the social and political motivations that have led Muslims in both the Arab world and in Europe to feel solidarity for suicide bombers, but underlined that the true spirit of the Koran condemns barbarity and the spilling of innocent blood. He argued for the need to reclaim Islamic texts whose message, he maintained, is today being suffocated by fundamentalist teachings.
"There is tremendous cultural impoverishment in today's Islam," Allam said Wednesday at his book presentation. "Muslims are no longer familiar with their own culture, and aren't able to read the sacred texts of Islam. Metaphorically speaking, it's like losing the key to the door of interpretation."
In his book, Allam offered a series of solutions to the manipulation of the Koran by teachers he calls "the masters of horror."
The first solution is returning to the classic texts of Islam, such as Ibn El-Arabi's 12th-century Illuminations of Mecca. Such texts, he said, underlined the possibility of coexistence during earlier periods of theological and political conflict, and offered a model of religious identity that does not resist outside influences.
The big challenge, according to Allam, is to "define how peoples and cultures can communicate with one another," and "to offer a reading of Islam that is not about borders and violence but about openness and dialogue."
"I think the Muslim world is submerged in an intellectual night, but it's possible to emerge from it," Allam said.
Allam defined the martyr, or shahid, as a person who had been dispossessed of his own subjectivity, alienated from himself and made into a tool of destruction.
"Words are one thing that man can't destroy," Allam added. "Today more than ever, the world is in need of new words and forms of expression."
Menachem Perry, the editor of the book's Hebrew edition, underscored the importance of such a text being written by a Muslim writer. "It's easy to condemn terrorism from an atheistic point of view, and ridicule the religious promise that Muslim terrorists see in it, but it's another matter to condemn it through a dialogue that addresses the spiritual foundations of the Islamic world," Perry said.