BY KHaldoun Zino
translated by me ( Tareq Nouman )
We are witnessing a huge number of ‘fatawaa’ (legal opinions or rulings issued by an Islamic scholar) about what is forbidden and what is allowed in our society. Where did they come from and what are their aims, sources and references?
‘Fatawaa’, as we all know, are not new. They have been issued since shortly after the birth of religions on earth. It is clear that religious authorities have always held many alliances with political authorities, and ‘fatawaa’ were issued within a framework far from being religious and not being compatible with religion.
As a Christian priest I can talk about what has happened throughout the history of Christianity in the Byzantine Empire and in Europe; in the middle and in the modern ages, or in America. Many ‘fatawaa’ were issued based on the alliance between the religious authorities and the political authorities. Those ‘fatawaa’ have caused huge conflicts and dilemmas among the Christian people, because it pushed every man to wonder why religious people hadn’t thought about the doctrines of Jesus all that time. Why hadn’t they practiced what Jesus said: “Give to Caesar what is Caesars’ and unto God what is Gods’”?
In fact, the forbidding and allowing could be a product of present circumstances that aims to dictate a position or attitude according to place and circumstances. This attitude could be a weak attitude which is not convenient to a religious scholar, or a strong attitude which represents the real features of the religious scholar.
That’s why I can say that the silence of the Catholic Church in the USA of the last decades against the general American policy is nothing but a mass criminal allowance no one could stand against but the Cardinal of Boston Bernard l. I encourage the decision of Patriarch Sphenoid in which he forbade his people to visit the invaded Holy Land. I consider it a very strong and brave decision every Christian scholar should adopt, analyze and learn from.
What is the role that money and centers of power play in forbidding and allowing?
Money, as everybody knows, has become the key to many big and small things, and if Jesus said that money was a god 2011 years ago, what should he say about the current situation? It is right that religion is everywhere and believers are spread all over the world, but we all know that the real power lies with money. Money is the power. The ascendency of money has become so strong that no one can balance any longer between what could make God satisfied and what could still the insatiable appetite for the god called money. As I see it, all those who have money are controlled by it; they have an ability to justify all what their god of money can do; they have become slaves of money and they enslave everybody around them in order to increase their needs.
The big disaster is when such people have the chance to get money and authority at once; then the ultimate evil appears. The principles of God will vanish while the principle of the self-made god will take their place. These people worship the self-made god, talk to him and they will imagine that this self-made god tells them to do what they really wish to do, so they execute his wishes curtly and harshly.
Isn’t it the reality of the world these days, especially when George Bush was in charge of the USA?
I hope that the people who are responsible for protecting religion around the world can hold the whip hand in the face of those who have traded humanity for money, as Jesus did 2011 years ago when he held the whip hand in the face of the merchants of the temple.
What is the background of the ‘fatawaa’?
I assure you that the environment or the society has nothing to do with ‘fatawaa’, so it is the intuitive logic that every scholar and guide should rely on to decide on his doctrines, but when we are talking about someone who pretends to be a scholar or guide it is a different case. Here other logic takes place and other principles will be imposed, which will affect many people who assume that these pretenders are good and spiritual leaders. This other logic causes special ‘fatwas’ to be created for the people with power and authority.
History tells us that western countries have developed a better dealing with the ‘fatwa’ than eastern countries, because in the east many ‘fatawaa’ were issued under certain authorities, which hindered development in different ways. The price that western countries paid for freeing themselves from the authority of the governments and churches was high, but this has helped them to achieve their ambitions and dreams.
What about the true courses of religious education in schools or temples?
I will ask you; do you believe that true religious education could be without freedom? The reality says ‘no’. As the absence of freedom is enduring, the authority will have the chance to impose what it believes benefits them, not society, which means neglecting reality and sticking to the past. This neglecting could be justified in the mind of some religious people, which could make it a rule and everybody who will try to avoid this rule will be called a hypocrite. The situation gets dangerous when such neglecting is supported by external powers that could form a threat to the present authority and that is exactly what is going on in the Arab and Islamic world.
Martyrdom operations against the real enemy have been forbidden while other, similar operations have been allowed to carry out against citizens. What could you say about that?
Let me clarify some things. First, I hope those who have forbidden martyrdom operations know the real reason behind them. Second, I wish that those who have forbidden martyrdom operations had the strength to confront the real source of them. Third, I wish that those who condemn martyrdom operations, especially in western countries, found some people from eastern countries willing to face them and teach them about the danger of the western countries’ behavior in the Arab and Islamic world, which is political, economic, educational and social injustice and no one could describe it but by carrying out individual martyrdom. And fourth, there is no one on earth or in heaven who could stop a martyr from killing himself because he lost everything –his home, his friends, his family, his future and his dignity. A martyr has been faced with humiliation, hatred and despair, day after day for years. No one can stop him from doing what he decided to do to take revenge of his enemy and to shout…that’s enough.
The real example of what I have just described is Montazar al-Zaydy, who had the power and the courage to hit Bush, the former president of the United State, with his shoe during a press conference on 14/12/2008 in sight of the whole world; a very courageous and huge challenge to the authorities.
What about the Zio-Christi; their inception, relocation and symbols?
This expression is not even a right one because those two words are contradictory. Zionism is a political, religious, Jewish, racial, expansive and terrorist movement. This is the original definition of Zionism; we have known it for about 90 years. Christianity is a religion that explains and depends on the biography of Jesus; his acts and his doctrines. Jesus is the comprehensive and ultimate love.
But about the appearance of this movement Zio-Christi; it has developed due to many factors related to the nature of the western society especially that of the USA, where they love to take advantage of it and invest in its doctrines to support Israel, even though it contradicts the Christian doctrines.
As all media in the USA are owned by Jewish people, and as the American administration depends on a Jewish hegemony, this movement sprung up and looked so suitable to the society and the American policy. All these illegal things are allowed and not prevented by the church in the United States of America, especially by the Catholic Church. This is in addition to the weakness of the Arab media in the USA and the west, which confronts us with a big but useful contradiction, especially as the expatriates in the west are not strong enough and subjected to some disputes which traveled with them from the Arab world and is harming the Arab interests.
Now I should insist on the role of the Arab churches in the west and on what they could do if they gathered and united their efforts. It would be a huge and useful act to create a new strong attitude and am not talking about illusions. I can mention what the Syrian bishop Josef Tawil al-Demasqi did after the war of 1973; he managed to make many calls and organize many individual and collective meetings in a very short period of time in order to issue a statement that supported the Palestinians and the Arabs, coming from the College of Catholic Cardinals and Bishops, which was held in Washington on 13/11/1973. For further information about this you can read my book ‘For Palestine’.
Please, tell us about the historical role of the Christians in the Arab world in safeguarding national unity in the face of the waves of occupation and their role in keeping the Quran safe by hiding it in the churches during the days of the Ottoman Empire.
I will talk about two major things.
The first thing is the reality of the Christians. The monasteries and the churches have been spaces for praying and education and they house many libraries which contain many rare files and many old and modern books about different subjects such as Grecian, Latin, Persian and Jewish Christians and Muslims. All of them have been translated to many languages by monks who were committed to very strict authorities.
The second thing is the appearance of Arab nationalistic thoughts by many Arab scholars in the Levant and Egypt. Those scholars want to ridden their societies of ignorance and to make steady steps forward, away from the four centuries of recession during the Ottoman Empire.
What about Syria and its efforts of developing humanity?
History tells us about the conflict between the Byzantine Empire and the Christians of Syria, which laid the foundations of a long and rich history of coexistence between Christians and Muslims. This coexistence met some restrains, which however vanished during the age of Saladin and returned during the age of the Mamluks and the long reign of the Ottomans, but they vanished again at the end of World War I. Since then coexistence has been solid; it was solid during the age of the French mandate and it manifested to the fullest in the national fighting for freedom. It has got better and better during the Arab-Israeli conflict, as a new national Christian face has appeared, which has worked to achieve secular parties and Arab unity, involved Christians being people like Antoine Saade, Michel Aflaq and George Habash.
What do you say about the thesis of Priest Jean Aodozi; ‘The gift of Palestine’?
This thesis is very important. The priest presented it in the year 1974 to obtain a certificate of Theology at the Catholic University in Paris and it is great; the author attacks and defeats all Zionist allegations about the divine promise of the land of Palestine.
I feel sorry to say that we as Arabs couldn’t take an advantage of such a thesis or its author, especially since he spent more than one year in Damascus after he obtained his doctorate in Theology. We lost many chances.