RIMINI, Italy — Referring to the label “Nazarene” marked on houses of Christians in Iraq by the militant Islamic State, a Muslim scholar also called himself Nazarene in solidarity, maintaining that many people in the Muslim community are identifying with Christians as well.
“Millions of Muslims have used the Arab letter ‘nun,’ or ‘n,’ which stands for Nazarene, as their profile picture in Facebook and Twitter, thus identifying themselves with the testimony Christians have given in Iraq,” Wael Farouq told CNA Aug. 25.
A professor of Arabic language at the American University of Cairo, Egypt, Farouq was among the 200 speakers scheduled at the annual meeting of the ecclesiastical movement Communion and Liberation, which takes place in the Italian town of Rimini Aug. 24-29.
A major event with more than 100 conferences, 17 shows, 14 exhibitions and 10 sporting events, this year’s meeting holds the theme: “Towards the peripheries of world and existence.”
Addressing the Christian plight in Iraq, Farouq stressed that “terrorists and criminal are not the main characters of the Iraqi scenario,” since the real “heroes are those who have chosen to stay faithful to their faith and to abandon everything they have to keep their faith.”
A declaration issued by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue Aug. 11 asked religious leaders — Muslims in particular — to take a strong stand against acts that offend God as well as humanity and to nurture a culture of peace.
Farouq dismissed claims that “the Muslim world is silent about what is happening in Iraq. Many religious leaders have condemned what is happening.”
For example, “the grand mufti of Egypt and even orthodox mufti like the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia,” he said, adding, “What is happening is the enemy No. 1 for Islam.”
The ISNA — Islamic Society of North America — and the Center for American-Islamic Relations have also strongly condemned the actions of the militant Islamic State.
“Beyond political and religious leaders, what is more important to me is the reaction of ordinary people,” Farouq reflected.
According to him, “It is happening for the first time that interreligious dialogue starts from a form of identification with the other,” as is happening today while “ordinary people, millions of Muslims, are identifying with Christians.”
Despite this, Farouq explained that “terrorists are not, however, isolated,” since in several countries there are “terroristic groups that use religion to justify their violence,” and this does not happen by chance.
“As a Muslim, and also as a Muslim scholar, I must say that the Islamic thought, the Islamic practice today, needs a deep reform to the conception of every Muslim that violence is against the principles of our religion. A reform for the Islamic world is needed,” Farouq maintained.
On the other hand, he says that terrorists gain the sympathies of some because of the extreme secularism and double standard of the Western world.
“Even the Western world is responsible for what is happening in Iraq,” Farouq said.
“These terrorist groups are receiving, every day, $3 million from Western companies who buy oil in the black market. They are armed by Western companies,” he said.
According to Farouq, this is not something “related to Islam or the Middle East. It should be a problem for all of us, for all the world. Everybody is part of the problem for what is going on in Iraq.”
Andrea Gagliarducci is the Vatican observer for Catholic News Agency/EWTN News.