Andrzej Tarwid talks with Bishop Rafał Markowski

ANDRZEJ TARWID: - More and more people commenting on terroristic attacks in Paris say that we could have expected them. In the academic thesis Bishop is dealing, among the others, with Islam. Did Bishop expect that something like that would happen?

BISHOP RAFAŁ MARKOWSKI: - In the context of the tragedy which happened in Paris, I think that a man is never prepared for this kind of experience, because it seems to him that it is simply impossible. Every form of violence, especially the ruthless one, arouses protest, and also fills one with sadness. So, I did not expect it at all. However, on the other hand, when one observes how the modern religious fanaticism appears in various regions of the world, one could expect that these kinds of terror acts might take place.

- The Islamic State which took responsibility for the assassinations in the capital city of France, began its speech sent to mass media with the words: ‘In the name of merciful Allah…’. Is this instrumental using faith by ISIS or Islam really a religion of violence?

- An alliance of the throne with the altar took place in Islam at the very sources of and was sanctioned by Koran. In this way ‘political religion’ appeared, which fundamentally changes the meaning of faith. Faith stops being a road leading a man to God, but becomes a tool of politics and a way of a fight for power. The Islamic terror disguises itself with these religious sanctions and ruthlessly uses religion for political purposes. Therefore, there still appear new ‘religious leaders’, like in the case of the Islamic State, which unscrupulously challenges all ‘unbelievers’ to wars and gives death verdicts so easily.

- It is incomprehensible from our perspective that ‘religious leaders’ find crime executors. These people must be totally blind from hatred and also convinced that ‘their God wants it’. How is it possible?

- This dangerous emotional entanglement was well-presented by Jean Delumeau, a French historian studying modern culture, religion and mentality. In the book ‘Fear in the culture of the West’ Delumeau writes: ‘Sacrum, freed from control of the reason, pushes a man into extremes: it arouses extreme hatred to enemies and extreme love to supporters (…). Nothing is so painful as sacral frustration. This pain makes every crime done in the name of sacrum, appear as a virtue, and every virtue against this sacrum is considered as blasphemy’.

- In the speech of ISIS it was also written that ‘soldiers of caliphate had attacked the capital city of perversion (…), hiding behind the sign of the cross’. Apart from the false of this statement – it is clearly seen that it expresses contempt towards the Christians. Is there such an attitude of Islam to our religion?

- In a doctrinal sense Islam negates two basic Christian dogmas – about the Holy Trinity and about Incarnation of Jesus Christ. Many Koran texts speak about it directly that the Holy Trinity is polytheism which in the context of Islam doctrine is unacceptable. As for Christ, it is the doctrine of Islam which treats Him as a prophet, acknowledges His power for doing miracles, but this is dignity of only a prophet, not God’s. As a result, Islam thinks that Christianity has distorted God’s Revelation.

- That is all about the doctrine, and what are its social consequences?

- The Muslims live with belief that they are to bring the world real revelation, that is, Koran. Hence there is expansion of Islam, which appeared in its beginning, that is, in the 7th and 8th centuries. It was not a missionary proclamation of Koran, but just an expansion. As a result, the Arabs invaded Northern Africa and areas of today’s Spain. They were caught by the Frankish armies only after the year 732 at Poitiers.

- A few centuries later these were the countries of Western Europe which started invading Muslim countries.

- From the times when Napoleon (the end of the 18th century) invaded the area of Egypt, colonization of Muslim countries by European countries began, and lasted till the end of the Second World War. Colonizers made strong economic, political and metaphysic penetration.

- The metaphysical one – in what sense? After all, they converted nobody.

- For many centuries the Muslims paid attention to the course of history. Their expansion, which had been taking place till the 11th century, was an expansion not only in a political or military sense, but was treated as the time of God’s blessing and confirmation of authenticity of Muslim faith. Analogically, the time of failures is perceived by them as humiliation in a metaphysical sense and arouses a dramatic question: why does God allow for it?

- Can this historical sense of harm be the source of the present terrorism?

- Undoubtedly, what had happened from the 18th to the beginning of the 20th century caused that the world of Islam became more prejudicial towards countries of Western Europe. Another kind of prejudice results from secularizing processes which took place in countries of Western Europe. They are evaluated by the world of Islam as betrayal of God and departing from God’s law. So, if we reflect on the sources of terrorism from the historical perspective, we will see it is a very complicated issue. However, regardless of reasons, there cannot be any justification for any kinds of violence or hatred.

- That’s it. After all, we, the Catholics, have a critical attitude to secularization, but we convert unbelievers with God’s word and our testimony of life, while they…

- …I am sorry for interrupting but I warn you against thinking that ‘every Muslim is a terrorist’, as it is not true. Whereas what is true is the fact that Christianity does not identify itself with any culture, civilization or ideology, because it is a religious system which concentrates on spiritual life of a man and cares about his eternal salvation. Whereas Islam is an ideology which not only comprises spiritual life of a man or defines religious values, but also – and this is a significant difference in comparison to Christianity – decides about political and social institutional rules. In other words – it enters brutally the contemporary time, to which, as I have mentioned, pays a lot of attention in the context of history. It was perfectly summarized by Józef Bielawski, an excellent Islam expert and a translator of Koran, who entitled one of his books: ‘Islam, religion of the state and law’.

- Is it why the Muslims, who arrive in Europe, do not get assimilated but live in enclaves and create their own groups?

- Indeed, when one observes how they function in Europe, it reminds of enclaves. It results from the specific character of their mentality and the very Islam.

If we look at the beginnings – Mahomet created a religious community which consists of structures of the Muslim country. The Muslims still refer to this ideal and it is a completely natural process that a religious community is a community of a country, and the community of a country is a religious community. It is based on a constitution which is Koran and Sunna, that is, Muslim tradition. They define criteria of Muslim’s behavior and everyday life. And this is an absolutely fundamental issue for them.

In the context of assimilation it means that merging of the Muslims into the European identity is an extremely difficult process. However, on the other hand, their presence on areas of Europe shows that it is possible.

- Maybe the fact that once coexistence was more successful than now results from the situation when Europe was Christian and today it is a continent which is secularized to much extent. Recently, even the chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel called the Germans to be active in their expressing Christian faith. Could the return to the spiritual source of Europe weaken these behaviours which we are afraid of from the Muslims?

- First of all, life hates emptiness. If there are secularizing processes and departing from God, there appears emptiness, which must be filled by a man. Then there appear various forms of distortions of religious life, which is exemplified with sects or signs of religious fanaticism.

To make it possible for inter-influence of religious systems, one must meet the fundamental requirement: it must be a meeting in an authentic environment of faith, in which one goes out to a man, not against him. This is the basic thing because no religious system can allow for any acts of violence or terror, otherwise it becomes a negation of religious life, that is, spiritual ascension of a man towards God. People who shout ‘Allah akbar’, while shooting at people, must understand it.

- And what should we understand from the tragedy which happened in Paris?

- The world needs a clear defining of borders between the good and the evil. So, what we find in the Gospel. And what is the essence of Christianity – the commandment of love.


„Niedziela” 47/2015

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: