Islamic civilisation and its profound teachings was the topic of a recent conference, organised by the International Study Centre ‘Dimore della Sapienza’ (Houses of Knowledge) and the ‘Link Campus University’ in Rome. In this conference titled ‘Islam and violence’, the distinguished guest speakers addressed a hall full of attendants at the Link Campus University
The conference moderator Tiziana Ciavardini, journalist and anthropologist, welcomed the attendants and guests for this special occasion.
The first speaker, Professor Mario Polia, archaeologist, anthropologist and historian of religions stated that during his numerous travels to Islamic countries, he had the opportunity to visit several Islamic religious authorities, and ordinary believers. This enabled him to deepen his knowledge about Islam in addition to simply reading books. He referred to many common points between Islam and Christianity particularly on spiritual matters. He focused on the common idea that God, besides being Creator, is also Guide and Educator of His creation which He does not abandon or isolate. Professor Polia underlined the importance played by all religions, especially the role of Christianity and Islam, saying that they should work together, while keeping their specificity, in order to face the prevailing onslaught of secularism against everything deemed holy.
The second talk was given by Carlo Corbucci, a barrister and expert in metaphysics and the scholarly works of Rene’ Guenon. Corbucci referred to the talk by Professor Polia adding that in order to really comprehend every religion, with special focus on Islam in our day and age, we need to focus on its fundamental and most profound teachings rather than more contingent aspects. He reminded us that Islam has in itself both the possibility of salvation for ordinary believers and liberation for those subjects more predisposed to an inner-spiritual way – that is the overcoming of human limits and achieving proximity to God.
The conference continued with a speech by Professor Anna Maria Cossiga, an anthropologist and lecturer of geography and daughter of an eartwhile President of the Italian Republic. Professor Cossiga said that the element of violence is undoubtedly inherent to most religions, and particularly monotheistic religions, as is evident from their holy books, but obviously the interpretation and the explanation of the verses related to such aspects must be taken into consideration. She quoted a book on ‘Jihad’ written by the Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan that she found interesting and relevant to the topic, saying that it is very significant that both Muslims and non- Muslims carry out the necessary responsibility of reciprocal acquaintance not only at the religious level but also culturally.
The fourth guest, Dr. Ghorban Ali Pourmarjan, Director of the Cultural Institute of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Italy, explained that the message of Islam is essentially peaceful, as is signified by the root of the Arabic word ‘Islam’ which linguistically denotes the concept of ‘peace’. A derivation of the root is used in the Islamic greeting that Muslims share when they meet each other, and is present in the ritual prayers performed daily by Muslim believers. Dr. Pourmarjan made a reference to the second letter of Imam Khamenei to Western youth wherein the Supreme Leader referred to terrorism as a ‘common pain’ between Muslims and Westerners.
Subsequently Hujjatulislam Abolfazl Emami, Head of the ‘Imam Mahdi’ Islamic Centre in Rome, explained that while some aspects such as justice and oppression have intrinsically their own values (the former positive and the latter negative), violence and non-violence are not positive or negative in themselves but subordinated to the absolute value for which they are utilised. He reminded us of the fact that no state in the world has declared violence as absolutely negative. The Shia scholar said that if violence is subordinated in the service of justice, it brings a positive value; therefore it is very important to understand the real meaning of justice and he quoted the words of Imam Ali(a) in this regard: “put everything in its right place”. Then Hujjatulislam Emami explained that the definition of the term ‘kafir’ used in the Qur’an with a negative connotation, which erroneously is often interpreted indicating all non-Muslims, but which actually refers to those who know the truth and knowingly conceal it. In his view most of the world’s non-Muslims should be classified in the category of the ‘mustad’afeen’ or “oppressed”
Next up was Omar Camiletti, representative of the Cultural Centre of the Great Masjid in Rome. In his brief speech he underlined three major causes of the current situation of violence and turmoil as; 1) a general incapacity of the political class at the international level; 2) a serious impoverishment of the populations; 3) millenarian and messianic trends which would like to create a paradise on earth.
The last speech was given by Dr. Pietrangelo Buttafuoco, a famous journalist, writer and intellectual, who denounced the grievous political and mass media demonisation of those who try to discuss, or even ask natural questions about facts and events that are affecting the world. By quoting TV broadcasts and articles published by some Italian newspapers, he pointed out the subtle attempts of mystification and Islamophobia exercised on the common Italian citizens in order to lead them towards hatred and rejection of Islam and Muslims.
The ‘Islam and violence’ conference was concluded by a lively and interesting debate between the attendants. During the conference the brochure ‘Messaggio all’Occidente’ (A Message to the West), including the two letters of Imam Khamenei to Western youth, was also distributed.