Institute for Culture and Society


"Extremist Muslims read the most violent verses from the Islamic tradition without historical context"

Marco Demichelis, Marie Curie Fellow at the University of Navarra, organized a workshop on Islamic violence

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Marco Demichelis
FOTO: Manuel Castells
13/12/18 17:08 Natalia Rouzaut

"Extremist Muslims read the most violent verses in the Koran and from the Islamic tradition without historical context. This is the problem,"according to Marco Demichelis, a Marie Curie Fellow at the Institute for Culture and Society (ICS) of the University of Navarra, on the occasion of a workshop on Islamic violence in history and the contemporary era held December 14-15, 2018.

The expert mentioned that historical contextualization helps us understand that the idea of ​​holy war has not always been related to jihadism. For example, he noted that the first Arab conquests can be understood as a migratory expansion of the peoples of the Arabian peninsula—Islam itself had witnessed previous expansions—and not as an expansion of religion since there were no immediate conversions.

"Jihadism is an exclusively contemporary phenomenon and has no equivalent in the history of Islam," he stressed. "The first religious-terrorist act against civilians in Israel, the work of Hamas, happened on a bus in 1993," he noted and then wondered, "if we can compare 25 years with 14 centuries of history."

He believes that the appearance of extremists in Europe is due to a "systematic, and not just a security, failure." In his opinion, the problem begins with a family that fails to guide its children, then continues with a deficient educational system and with a lack of integration.

To fight against this, Professor Demichelis advocates for integration projects based on mixed schooling, which could favor integration while at the same time stopping Islamophobic ideologies. And he is hopeful in that sense: "Islamic communities in Europe have every possibility of integrating themselves and of strengthening European Islamic thought—which already exists and is very important for the Islamic world."

Islamic violence up for debate

Demichelis argued as such in the framework of a conference on “The Narrative of Islamic Violence in History: Creation, artifice and reality,” which he organized at the Institute for Culture and Society of the University of Navarra. It is part of a research project funded by a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Grant, one of the most competitive funding programs within the European Commission.

Among other topics, scholars addressed Islamic conquests and wars in history, violent verses in the Koran and Islamic tradition, and the role of the West in the creation of the Islamic State. Participants included experts such as Fred Donner (University of Chicago), Mehdi Azaiez (Catholic University of Louvain), Andrea Mura (Goldsmith, University of London) and Ali Mostfa (Catholic University of Lyon).

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