People inspect the damage at a site hit by what activists say was a car bomb in Raqqa, Syria, Aug. 29. (CNS photo/Nour Fourat, Reuters)
The National Catholic Register’s Edward Pentin has an
interesting interview with Father Samir Khalil Samir, SJ, a professor at
St. Joseph University in Beirut and the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome
and author of many books, including the excellent 111 Questions on Islam. Father Samir is
a native of Egypt and a renowned expert on Islam; as such he has a fascinating perspective
on the current situation in the Middle East, including his native country and
What is your view of the
chemical-weapons attack? How certain can we be that it came from the Syrian
army, as the U.S. government says?
It could be
from both sides. Personally, I would never decide on such an important point
without proof. We have seen what happened with Iraq 10 years ago. And those who
will pay the price are not the West but the Syrians. … The situation in Syria
now is very bad, very evil, but how can we be sure that an intervention will
result in something better? This is the question. It’s not a kind of game where
we succeed or don’t succeed. It is a matter of life or death for tens of
thousands of Syrian people.
It’s not clear what the path to
achieve peace in Syria is?
clear at all, and for me what makes the situation more unclear is that there
are too many interested parties involved who are not unified. …
solution is to say: Okay, we have two Syrian positions. We have the government,
with people supporting the government, and we have the opposition, with people
supporting the opposition. The only people who can decide are the Syrians
themselves, but cannot do so without the help of the world community.
Now what is
the aim? It’s to come to a common decision, respecting both positions to find
an honest compromise between the two. If one party wins, either Assad or the
opposition, we will have war or we will have a prolongation of the war.
You are a native Egyptian. What
are your current concerns about your homeland?
I must say,
as I’ve said elsewhere: What I hear from the West is absolutely wrong. When I
hear, “Finally, Morsi is the first democratically elected president” this is
a nonsense! If you take it juridically, he was elected democratically, but,
juridically, so were Nasser, Sadat and Mubarak. Since 1952’s revolution, we had
an elected president. So to say this statement, that he’s the first
democratically elected president, is one only a non-Egyptian can make.
know there are reasons to explain why Mohammed Morsi was elected: because the
youth [the main drivers of the 2011 revolution] were not organized as a party
and because those associated with Mubarak and the old system were excluded. So,
finally, the only group who was organized politically and who had the right to
be elected was the Muslim Brotherhood. But where is the democracy?
… I am sure
that Egypt and the Egyptians are willing to start a new stage in their
political life. They are willing to have a more democratic government. They are
willing to ban discrimination between men and women, Muslims and Christians,
rich and poor, etc.
This is the
true revolution, and I am convinced this is the wish of the people.
interviewwhich also includes Father Samir’s thoughts on the relationship
between Islam and violence, and the Muslim Brotherhood in particularcan be
Regarding Syria, Father Samir’s
belief that dialogue and compromise are the only route to peace echoes the
words of Pope Francis on the issue. Today the Holy Father met with King
Abdullah II of Jordan and discussed Syria; according to the L’Osservatore Romano summary of the meeting, “it was reaffirmed that the path of dialogue and negotiation
between all components of Syrian society, with the support of the international
community, is the only option to put an end to the conflict and to the violence
that every day causes the loss of so many human lives, especially amongst the
helpless civilian population.”
After leading the Angelus on
Sunday, Pope Francis made a
particular appeal for the people of Syria:
The increase in violence in a war between brothers,
with the proliferation of massacres and atrocities, that we all have been able
to see in the terrible images of these days, leads me once again raise my voice
that the clatter of arms may cease. It is not confrontation that offers hope to
resolve problems, but rather the ability to meet and dialogue.
From the bottom of my heart, I would like to express my
closeness in prayer and solidarity with all the victims of this conflict, with
all those who suffer, especially children, and I invite you to keep alive the
hope of peace. I appeal to the international community to be more sensitive to
this tragic situation and make every effort to help the beloved Syrian nation
find a solution to a war that sows destruction and death.