What are your views on the controversy over the Ground Zero mosque, or as it’s also been described, the Islamic cultural centre in New York?
I don’t have all the facts here, but the plan is to build a 15-storey centre and this is a Muslim project, even if it’s called a Cordoba centre and it’s for everyone and not only for Muslims. It is two blocks from Ground Zero with a mosque for 2,000 people and so on. Even if you say this project aims to build a greater understanding and a new dialogue with American Christians and so on, it is evident that any normal person will fear it. Ninety percent of the population will fear this project more than be attracted by it, even if Feisal Abdul Rauf – the imam responsible for the project – says it’s not aggressive. But humanly and sociologically speaking, you are putting up something where you destroyed something; you are putting up a Muslim tower and pretending that this will be a tower of peace and so on. It is psychologically wrong.
Some would argue that the 9/11 bombers were not real Muslims, but fundamentalist ideologues and terrorists?
Yes but this is the wrong position because radical Muslims are true Muslims. I’m not saying that the true Islam is bin Laden, this is not my opinion. But I would contend that bin Laden is a true Muslim – a true Muslim. Pastor Terry Jones [the evangelical pastor who has threatened to burn the Koran] cannot say he’s truly representing Christianity because you cannot find anything in the Gospel that says that. But all the positions of radical Muslims you’ll find in the Koran and in the tradition. You’ll find other positions, but this is one, and one that is very strongly presented in the Koran and in the Sunnah. Nine-eleven was a Muslim action even if for apologetic reasons, it’s said that this was a terrorist action and terrorism has nothing to do with Islam, that Islam means peace and so on.
Read the entire interview. I see that Fr. Samir is, in the comments section of Pentin's post, already being called "dangerous" and extreme and so forth, as if he is some sort of extremist with little or knowledge of Islam. He is, of course, nothing of the sort. He is one of Pope Benedict's advisers regarding Islam and he has lived in and close to Islamic societies his entire life. In his book, he makes very important point about the "ambiguity of Islam":
“When some fanatics kill children, women, and men in the name of pure and authentic Islam, or in the name of the Qur’an or of the Muslim tradition, nobody can tell them: ‘You are not true and authentic Muslims.’ All they can say is: ‘Your reading of Islam is not ours.’ And this is the ambiguity of Islam, from its beginning to our present day: violence is a part of it, although it is also possible to choose tolerance; tolerance is a part of it, but it is also possible to choose violence.” (p. 72).
You can read the Preface to 111 Questions On Islam at Ignatius Insight:
• The Ambiguity of Islam | Fr. James V. Schall, S.J. | A reflection on Fr. Samir Khali Samir's book, 111 Questions on Islam.
• Fr. Samir on the place of Islam in God's salvific plan (July 9, 2010)