Brussels, Terrorism and Islam

I was born and raised in Brussels. When I landed in Tokyo last week, the news of the attacks of March 22 hit me like a bullet. It reminded me of the call of my youngest son in Hong Kong on September 11, 2001. Proximity to dramatic events hurt by their familiarity, the anxiety of the identity of the victims and the anger against those who believe they can murder, destroy and rape. Today, I want to look at something that is almost unspeakable: over the past fifteen years, most terrorist attacks have been made by people who proclaimed the name of Islam or Allah.

Is Islam a violent religion?

The history of Islam is brutal. Prophet Mohammed was a religious leader but also a warlord who imposed his beliefs through military actions. As the military leader of Medina, he was fighting the leader of Mecca for ten years.

The Quran contains at least 109 verses that call Muslims to war with nonbelievers for the sake of Islamic rule. "Fighting is prescribed to you" -- Quran 2-216

Schisms on the succession of the Prophet are the basis for the fight between Shiites and Sunnis that lasted for centuries and was revived by the Bush administration war in Iraq that would lead to the creation of ISIS.

Hezbollah is a Shi'a Islamist organization, Al Qaeda is a Sunni Islamist organization, Boko Haram is the Islamist West Africa Province, Daesh pretends to be the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham. All over its history, Islam has been associated with violence. Beheading and lapidating are part of Islam.

Islam is a religion, not a Church.

We would all want -- and so would moderate Muslims -- that there could be an overarching authority that would have the power to speak on behalf of the 1.6 billion Muslims around the world. There is no Pope for Islam.

While Islam does have many attributes of a church -- mosques, mullahs and imams, religious rites -- the lack of organization does not give any authority the right to act and define a common message.

Religions bring values and identity. The dogmatic part of religion is fairly similar -- creation of the world, rituals, deity, sanctity and revelation. The moral part is much more influenced by cultural and historical aspects. It is the field where the opposition in the daily life makes integration of religions a challenge. The right to kill, the place of women, the respect of the other religions, family and many other dimensions have created oppositions inside countries or between countries.

It is also where religion interferes with politics. Religious wars have often been the pretext of political conflicts, and continue to do so. They also create frictions with immigrants who bring other values.

The migration from Arab countries to Europe as a result of the conflicts that are leading to the disintegration the Middle East puts Christianity in direct opposition with Islam. It is extraordinary difficult to integrate Islamic values into the Western world.

Islam is accountable for terrorist attacks made in its name

After every terrorist attack in the Western world, the local Muslim communities go a long way to distance themselves from the crimes that are committed in the name of Islam. It is important, but insufficient. It does not absolve Islam from its part of responsibility.

In most cases, terrorists have started by being petty criminals and often have been in jail before becoming activists. It is through a form of radicalization that happens in Muslim circles and mosques that they turn into kamikazes, murderers or rapists. What do they hear? What is the message mosques are conveying? What is happening in families or other Muslim organizations?

It is important not to generalize and to refuse Islamophobia. But that should not make us blind. Islam is accountable for what, for fifteen years has been killed, destroyed or raped in its name. The Muslim leadership needs to find ways to organize itself and exclude possible terrorists from its ranks. That cannot be done by politicians.

If we want to reduce the risks of Islamophobia like the one that Donald Trump is preaching as part of his hatred and racist messages, our political leadership has to convey an unambiguous message to the Islamic leadership: they are accountable and responsible to find solutions to a problem that emanates from their beliefs and values.

It is a huge challenge that can only be met from within, with our support for those for whom religion is a way to connect in solidarity with other human beings.