Gestures of reconciliation with Muslims will not stop extremists 

gestures of reconciliation with muslims
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The image of a man, the father of a three-year-old killed in the Barcelona terrorist attack, embracing an imam from the city of Rubi, where the victim’s family lives, has moved the entire world. 

Undoubtedly, it takes a lot from a parent to go beyond the experienced loss, past their emotions, the desire of vengeance and hate.

I wonder, how many of those moved by the father’s gesture, remember Daniel Pearl, an American journalist kidnapped and killed by Al-Qaida in 2002? Pearl was first stunned with a blow to the head by the Kalid Sheik Mohammed, then Mohammed cut off his head in front of a camera. Pearl’s parents launched a foundation in their son’s name with the goal of promoting multicultural understanding.

Do similar gestures really change the world for the better and effectively lead to more understanding?

Driss Salym, the imam from Rubi, is not very well known. He is probably from Morocco, the mosque he leads belongs most likely to FEERI, Spanish Federation of Islamic Religious Organizations, considered to be more moderate to its competitor, The Union of Islamic Communities of Spain. He is probably a good man.

The father’s behavior, however, was received as a gesture towards the entire Muslim minority. It was interpreted as a call not to blame all Muslims for what had happened in Barcelona.

“Spanish fathers of all those children still alive would wish, however, to see any risk of violence to be fully eliminated”.

There is, however, an issue with the Muslim community in Catalonia. The city of Rubi itself was listed multiple times by the security agency’s reports as one of the growing hubs of salafism there. Additionally, from the city of Rubi came one of the Islamic State recruiters, a Moroccan, Samira Yerou. She participated in the process of radicalization of Muslims encouraging them to join jihad in Syria, she was also a broker in transfers of Muslim girls from Europe and Morocco to Syria. She got arrested when trying to reach Syria from Turkey with her three-year-old son, shortly after her husband informed the authorities about Samira’s plans.

Furthermore, the Muslim minority in Rubi was vigorously active in a court case that led to the annulment of the burka ban in public spaces, which the autonomic region of Catalonia was trying to put in place.

Salafi movements are not mainstream in Islam in Spain. Moreover, not all Salafi groups conspire to incite violence. Spanish fathers of all those children still alive would wish, however, to see any risk of violence to be fully eliminated. Mere participation in touching ceremonies cannot be deemed enough and expectations of safety should be clearly expressed.

Two years ago, in Rubi, A local TV station informed about an interreligious conference, organized by the platform Unite Against Fascism and Racism. From that stage, the Muslim community was calling for more tolerance and respect as an antidote to jihad. Are the Spaniards truly still not tolerant enough?


Jan Wójcik


Polish original: Gesty pojednania z muzułmanami nie powstrzymają ekstremistów.

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