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Islamic prayers on the streets and the rule of law

Posted by paulipoldie on March 24, 2010

by Samir Khalil Samir, SJ
A group of men stop to pray in the Milan Gallery. Municipal police called but say they can not stop them. But all public demonstrations must be authorized and the law must be above everything.

Milan (AsiaNews) – I read a news story the other day that made me jump. The scene is Milan, in the middle of the Vittorio Emanuele Gallery, Wednesday 17 March at 17:00. A group of 7 people stop in front of the Giorgio Bernasconi silverware shop. Take off their shoes and jackets, lay them on the ground and kneel on them. One of them is an imam who leads the group, which begins to pray the pray ‘asr. The shop owner asks them to move away from his window. Nothing. The owner calles the police, who reply “they are praying, we can’t do anything”.

Bernasconi explains: “In the Milan Gallery, any type of public event needs authorization. There are municipal police who even book artists for daring to put the foot of a tripod on one of the mosaics and if someone dares to ride a bike, they receive heavy fines. But they did nothing; they did not even check their documents”.  The Muslims explained that “when the time comes for prayer, wherever they are, they kneel and begin their liturgy.”

It is not an unfamiliar scene. In Viale Jenner it is a regular sight, as in many quarters of all European cities. It is obvious that, in this case at least, the action was planned and organized to give “testimony” to the “unbelievers” (kuffar) of the West!

It is a well studied act of religious propaganda!

But the scandal is not so much the attitude of the men in prayer. It is the reaction of the municipal police and the city. The street belongs to everyone, and nobody has the right to monopolize it, even for a quarter of an hour, without authorization. No matter what the reason: the procession of the Blessed Sacrament or prayer, political, social, sporting or any other kind of demonstration. The street belongs to everyone and can not be monopolized by anyone without prior authorization.

Beyond the fact that there is a question of principle. The law is above everything and everyone, even above religion. In this case, Muslims are not obliged to say their prayers immediately and on the street. The vast majority of observant Muslims, in Muslim countries, wait until they are home to pray. Furthermore, the Islamic Sharia authorizes the faithful to combine two prayers when the need requires it. So such behaviour cannot be justified by religious obligation. Anyway, it could not be used as an excuse! It is purely an act of propaganda and proselytizing.

The problem is twofold. On the one hand, Muslims often tend to think that religion is above the law and civil standards. This is because the concept of secularism in Muslim countries is almost nonexistent, despite the theories of some “orientalists” who claims that Islam, having no clergy like Christianity, is a secular religion, but we all know in our countries that clericalism in Islam is much greater than that of Christianity, even of Orthodox Christianity! In the common mentality, the “divine law” (but divine for whom?) exceeds the human law. Moreover, propaganda, Islamic Da’wa, is a religious obligation: every Muslim is expected to proclaim the profession of faith in the face of the wicked, and to invite them to Islam, the only true faith.

On the other hand, Homo Europaeus has become confused and has doubts about himself. Sometimes he behaves arrogantly in front of others, and sometimes he is silent and allows himself be droned out by the argument of others as if he felt guilty and was in need of forgiveness. Yet Europe, despite all its flaws (especially its spiritual emptiness) can be proud of its socio-political system. The mistake is to forsake this in the name of a false multiculturalism. The rules of the country, whatever they be, are binding on all. Even if they were wrong, they are valid until they are replaced by another lawful authority. Every concession is a step backwards for everyone.

We hope that this little incident will not happen again, and that everyone is made to understand what the Rule of Law means.


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