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Emmanuel Macron inaugurated the Louvre Abu Dhabi, November 2017. SIPA. AP22127377_000002

No, the Islam of the Enlightenment is not the Islam of always

I believe that there is at Emmanuel Macron a genuine desire for greatness. Canon of the Lateran elected by universal suffrage inaugurating a humanist museum in Abu Dhabi! It is as improbable as it is magnificent. It is like an echo of Frederick II of the Holy Empire, who had verses from the Bible in Latin, the Torah in Hebrew and the Koran in Arabic embroidered on his ceremonial mantle.

Alas! It is not enough to want it to be "the astonishment of the world", stupor mundi. Symbols have real power, but a head of state cannot be just a preacher or a tribune. If he does not work for the political translation of his words and gestures, it is hollow marketing. And the power of symbols can turn against those who misunderstand them.

He quotes Dostoyevsky, but...

What was the point of going to Rome to officially take possession of the title of "first and only honorary canon of the major basilica of Saint John in Lateran", when the Council of State forbade the carving of a cross on the statue of 'a pope ? We can see a desire to reconcile opposites, a bold "at the same time", but I doubt its effectiveness, especially in the absence of a clear statement from the president in the current controversial climate.

As to Emmanuel Macron's speech for the inauguration of the Louvre in Abu Dhabi, I get a mixed impression, since inspired truths that elevate come together with approximations that, however well intentioned they may be, above all risk locking up in vagueness and ignorance, so that we need truth: you can only overcome a problem by being aware of its existence.

Read also: Louvre Abu Dhabi: the great planetary gloubi-boulga

It is a real pleasure to have a head of state quoting Dostoyevsky – “beauty will save the world” – and declares: “We have nothing more urgent in reality, nor more important to do than to promote culture, education, beauty, and what seems to us to express the highest degree of humanity. […] Beauty is in itself an education because it encourages us to aim higher, to come out of ourselves, of our condition; because it teaches us that we are in the world to act but also to contemplate, to reflect, to dialogue. Because it puts us face to face with our human condition in a world that works so hard to reduce us to the worst of ourselves. Because it teaches us that beauty is also from elsewhere and that beauty from elsewhere is sometimes so similar to ours. It builds a bridge between the continents that today some would like to divide, it builds a bridge between generations. »

Disagreements do not prevent us from seeing that sometimes we can be proud of our president!

If only it had stopped there….

Islam seen from Abu Dhabi

While the above passages were largely ignored by the media, many uncritically relayed two paragraphs from which the Head of State would have been better off refraining.

This Louvre of light and the desert is this message sent against all obscurantism, it is this message sent and this courage that you wanted, that of putting your religion back in what it has always done and that you come to remember with great courage.

This message of deep syncretism, we cannot love the religion which is yours here if we do not remember that in this region all the great monotheisms were born and that Islam was born from this palimpsest of cultures and civilizations which make that in an indissoluble, irreducible way, our religions are linked, our civilizations are linked; and that those who want to believe anywhere in the world that Islam is built by destroying other monotheisms are liars and betray you. 

It would be wonderful if that were true. But reality does not always bend to our good intentions, and Emmanuel Macron does a disservice to the dialogue between civilizations by denying the difficulties, and by propagating the fiction according to which “Enlightenment Islam” – that some are trying to build – would be the “true Islam” or “the Islam of always”. As for the evocation of the “great monotheisms”, it has about as much relevance as a lyrical flight on “the polytheisms” which would equate the non-violence of Jainism with human sacrifices to the glory of Tezcatlipoca.

“Return your religion to what it has always done”. In the Muslim world as in other cultures, there have always been enlightened minds and people who knew that “beauty is also from elsewhere”. But from there to making it the norm! The destruction of idols has been part of the traditions of Islam since its origins (it is an act very clearly valued at the same time in the Koran, the Sunnah and the Hadith), and "idols" of course designates works of art and historical monuments: statues, tombs, temples, books. Islam is obviously not the only religion to have encouraged this kind of crime – Christians stoned Hypatia and ransacked the great library of Alexandria, with the complacency, even the complicity, of the patriarch Cyril – but to let believe that Islam would not have done it is to encourage Islamist propaganda. As for the "bridge between generations", the vision of the past as jâhilîya, "age of ignorance", is very specific to Islam, the other monotheisms having never thus massively adhered to the systematic denigration of what brought them preceded.

No one waited for Islam

“In this region all the great monotheisms were born (…) in an inextricable, irreducible way, our religions are linked. » As far as I know, although both Hebrews and Arabs are Semites, the origins of the Jewish people are in the Fertile Crescent, and the northern Persian Gulf (where Abu Dhabi is located) did not join the Persian Empire until well after the period of exile in Babylon. Obviously, Jesus and his apostles never set foot there, neither did Paul of Tarsus. To qualify the link between monotheisms as “intricate” is to give reason a bit quickly to a version of things that is strongly Islamo-centric. This is to forget that Judaism had a very rich tradition long before the birth of Christ, and that Hillel did not wait for Jesus to state his Golden Rule: “What is detestable in your eyes, do not do to others. This is the whole Torah, the rest is just commentary. » It also means forgetting that Christianity, in turn, did not wait for the seventh century to think, create and act.

It is not a question of denying the subsequent influences, which were numerous and reciprocal, nor the current links, which would be a sterile withdrawal into oneself. But overestimating these links, letting people believe that in their essence the three main monotheisms are inseparable, is disrespectful with regard to each person's own genius, dangerous because it maintains a confusion that only serves political Islam, and above all totally false.

“Those who want to believe anywhere in the world that Islam is built by destroying other monotheisms are liars and betray you. » By not necessarily destroying, but by submitting as soon as possible, and denying very often! Moreover, Islam presents itself as a rectification of other monotheisms intended to supplant them. Moreover, still happy that Emmanuel Macron said "other monotheisms" and not "other religions", the Koran being unambiguous on the obligation imposed on Muslims to annihilate by force any form of polytheism.

To the good memory of “misplaced Islams”

Here again, Islam is not the only one to behave or to have behaved in this way. The Emperor Julian would have much to say about the open-mindedness and tolerance of the Christians of his time, just as the contemporary philosophers of Theodosius I, and the Saxons who venerated the Irminsûl know that Charlemagne did not build his gets worse only by inventing the school. But Christianity has since very clearly turned away from this violent intolerance – which was also contrary to its original teachings. Among Catholics, the last popes have even asked for forgiveness for many faults of the past. Unfortunately, this is by far not the case with Islam, because while many Muslims live their religion and their faith in a peaceful and tolerant way, those who go so far as to self-criticize and question dogma are still in the minority.

To the permanent call to war that is sura n°9, it must be added that, in fact, Islam only tolerates the existence of other "religions of the book" insofar as it sees “proto-Islams”, or more exactly “misguided Islams” that it is up to him to correct. Without forgetting a part of negation, when he rewrites their texts in his own way, the example of the sacrifice of Isaac/Ishmael being particularly revealing. The initial expansion, including during the Prophet's lifetime according to the Sunnah, was accompanied by a number of massacres and forced conversions. “You have the choice between conversion, submission and death, because I come with men who love death as you love life. As for the vaunted tolerance of Al-Andalus, she is far from living up to her legend, far too repeated without verification and often exploited.

Read also: Jews, Christians and Muslims: medieval Spain was not the multicultural Eden we believe

Abu Dhabi, not really a paradise

Furthermore, our President cannot ignore that Abu Dhabi is not, strictly speaking, a model of respect for human rights. Of course, compared to Saudi Arabia, it's a humanist utopia. But it's grimly dark compared to pre-revolutionary Iran or Ataturk's Turkey – or Putin's Russia!

Even for foreigners criticizing Islam or the government is prohibited, and risks leading to jail. Freedom of the press is therefore a chimera. An unmarried man and woman cannot occupy the same hotel room. Ramadan fasting is obligatory, at least in public, even for non-Muslims. Women victims of rape have been sentenced to prison terms for illicit sexual relations. Kissing in public can be punished with a whip. Homosexuality is prohibited. Apostasy from Islam is prohibited. A Muslim woman has no right to marry a non-Muslim.

The glass is therefore half full and half empty. This country is probably one of the most tolerant of all the states of Arabia, and seems to show a real desire for openness… by the standards of the region. He fights the Muslim Brotherhood and many jihadist groups, but the enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend, he is an ally of circumstance whom it would be unwise to trust blindly. Connecting with Abu Dhabi is great, as is acknowledging its positive developments. Braiding him undeserved laurels is not.

So far all is not well

We must not confuse what this country is with what we would like it to become – are we so sure that its inhabitants have the same desires?

We must not confuse what Islam is with what we would like it to be – what it is moreover in the hearts of certain Muslims, here and elsewhere, but unfortunately neither in its reference texts, neither in its doctrine, nor for a very large part of its faithful.

I have not visited this new museum and therefore cannot judge the relevance of the reviews by Yves Cassignac. Unfortunately, I guess they are fairly broadly founded. The articulation of the particular and the universal is a delicate art, and for my part I also appreciate seeing what a civilization has that is unique and therefore irreplaceable, feeling an atmosphere that belongs only It is up to her to discover what brings her closer to other cultures, or to identify the particular forms taken by the invariants of our humanity. In a region of the world where too many preachers challenge the simple human dignity of those they call disbelievers, infidels, kuffars, even clumsily emphasizing the universal is undoubtedly salutary.

And if the "Louvre of Light and Desert" is good "a message sent against all obscurantism", he then deserves to be admired and praised in all truth, without complacent approximations.

The “Louvre of light and the desert” is a remarkable achievement, “a message sent against all obscurantisms” which deserves to be admired and praised in all truth, without complacent approximations.

The real liars are those who want to pretend that everything is fine, that there is no danger, and try to dull our vigilance. They betray not only the peoples against whom political Islam has declared war, but also those among the Muslims who work to eradicate from their religion the totalitarian temptation, fanatical arrogance and the thirst for conquest. But it is only thanks to these courageous reformers that the works of beauty of Islamic civilizations will also be able to contribute to saving the world.

by Aurelien Mark

Polytechnician and senior civil servant in charge of security issues

The Louvre Abu Dhabi, a new universal museum?

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Source: ©  Macron's Islamo-centric discourse in Abu Dhabi – Talker

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