Is Europe on the verge of religious war?

Two men forced their way into a church in Normandy last week and killed a priest celebrating mass there. The IS has claimed responsibility. The attack prompts the press to discuss the potential threat of religious war in Europe.

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Corriere del Ticino (CH) /

Praying together not much good

Muslims and Christians gathered in many churches on Sunday to pray and commemorate the murder of the priest in Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray. This was a nice gesture but nothing more, Ferruccio de Bortoli laments in Corriere del Ticino:

“This gesture was more or less imposed by external circumstances. It was more a duty than born of a genuine need. … Such proclamations of harmony are spectacular, but ultimately they're as short-lived as they are forced. Far more lasting is true mutual respect - in awareness of the differences. Respect that strengthens ties in everyday life, by genuinely promoting religious freedom. By giving people the chance to exercise their faith in acceptable places rather than having to hide away in the cellar. At the same time we should not forget that in many countries of the Middle East churches are no longer being built. The few that remain are being destroyed and Christians there are literally facing extinction. Yet there is no sign here of grand declarations of solidarity on the part of the Islamic communities.”

The Malta Independent (MT) /

Maltese must overcome Islamophobia

Malta's history is peppered with religious wars and it is time for the Maltese to adopt an attitude of reconciliation vis-à-vis Islam, The Malta Independent stresses:

“Our history under the Knights, the history of the 1565 Great Siege, the bastions all around Valletta and Cottonera remind us of this past clash of religions in which Malta was in the foreground. The siege mentality which is the result of so many centuries of hatred, enmity and fighting, is still present in our psyche. In this day and age we may either go along with the Islamophobia that is part of our national DNA or we can try and follow in the steps not just of Pope Francis but also of Father Jacques Hamel who helped the Muslims in his parish build their own mosque only to be killed by two Isis members.”

Le Monde (FR) /

Islam in France suffers due to French secularism

After the terrorist attacks by radical Islamists, French Prime Minister Valls wants among other things a temporary ban on mosques being constructed with foreign financing. But this will be an extremely difficult undertaking, Le Monde affirms:

“The law of 1905 on the separation of Church and state is practically sacrosanct. ... Because it forbids state financing of religious communities, it makes it difficult for Islam - which lacks mosques and republican-minded imams, and which has a hard time organising itself for lack of a religious hierarchy - to 'catch up'. Consequently the equality between the Muslim and Catholic religions has no basis in reality. Even if foreign financing is marginal, it has contributed to funding and organising the Muslim religious community in France.”

Göteborgs-Posten (SE) /

Attack on Western society as a whole

Göteborgs Posten explains why today's Islamist terrorism is not comparable with the terrorism of the 1970s in Europe:

“The organisation of radical Islamists is completely decentralised and independent. There are no political negotiations that could put an end to Islamic State or stop the fighters. No political decisions or socio-political initiatives can moderate the fanaticism of this group. There is no country in Europe, no section of society and no minority that can be ruled out as a target. Therefore any comparison with the terrorism of the 1970s in Europe is unrealistic. The murder of the Catholic priest in Normandy, the attacks on Charlie Hebdo and the bombs at [Brussels'] Zaventem airport - these were all attacks on Western society as a whole. And this is how radical Islam conceives its role: it is waging an eternal religious war that only the devout can win.”

The Irish Independent (IE) /

Islam (still) not a religion of peace

Unlike Christianity Islam has still not overcome its history of violence, complains The Irish Independent:

“It is problematic that Islam is not fundamentally a religion of peace, despite its leaders frequently insisting the opposite. Christianity has been violent, too - the Crusades were authorised in the first place by Pope Urban II. But they happened between the 11th and 15th centuries and Christianity has since reclaimed its original ground as a peaceful religion. Meanwhile, Islam has had no Reformation or Enlightenment, unlike the Christian world, and it is too easy for some branches of Islam - not all practitioners, of course - to slam into reverse. Islam itself needs to seek ways to deal with this dilemma. While many clerics urge peace, some promote a holy war.”

Avvenire (IT) /

Churches won't shut their doors

The Catholic Church will continue with the mission of the murdered priest, the Catholic daily Avvenire promises:

“The open doors of our churches through which Father Jacques Hamel's murderers came stand in stark contrast to the barriers, iron bars and walls that are the fruits of fear. … In this church in Normandy, as in many others throughout France and Europe, we will guard the secret of a world that does not believe in walls and will not be seduced by violence. Perhaps these violent individuals find this part of the continent particularly repulsive. … This gesture of death is a call for Christians to pursue a new mission amidst the violence in Europe. The dream of reconciliation in society must continue: those who stand on the fringes, those who feel shut out by the community and are hostile to it must be integrated. This is a mission of reconciliation. This is not empty talk but a profoundly important task which the Church is called on to perform. Father Jacques' Mass, which was violently interrupted, must continue.”

Večernji list (HR) /

We can't let fear rob us of our reason

The murder of a Catholic priest by the IS is yet another instance of the terrorist group deliberately overstepping boundaries, comments Večernji list:

“A war of fear is being waged in Europe, even if we are refusing to talk about it. And that is precisely the quality of terror that Islamist extremists want to achieve. Security experts are repeating over and over again right across the country that such terrorist attacks are unforeseeable and that we cannot really protect against them. This reveals the powerlessness of our deeply shaken European community. But we cannot let this dizzying fear rob us of our reason. The planned and brutal murder of a French priest is a call to wage religious war on many levels. ... But if we start seeing every Muslim refugee as a potential terrorist we are only making it easy for IS idealogues to win the war on European soil.”

La Libre Belgique (BE) /

Learn to live with insecurity

Yesterday's terrorist attack shows that no one is safe anymore, and this leaves us no option but to hold tight to our values, La Libre Belgique insists:

“The fact is that it is impossible to keep watch over ever all cultic sites. ... It is even more illusory to think that we can identify and protect all the so-called 'sensitive' locations. The reaction to this barbarity therefore cannot be confined to heightened security measures, which are necessary but not sufficient. The answer is to uphold our values with more determination than ever. We must avoid tarring everyone with the same brush, curtailing our sacred freedom of opinion and succumbing to a base logic that would have us see the world through the prism of religious war or even a clash of civilisations. Equally we must prevent the terrorists from spreading an even worse and more dangerous evil: division and discord. We must simply continue to live our lives.”

ABC (ES) /

European Islam must reform

The conservative daily ABC calls for a paradigm shift in the war on terror:

“So far we have reacted to this war with passive protective measures: more security controls, more prevention, more surveillance. But we can't put a police officer outside every church. … The time has come to use exceptional measures. … European Muslims must take active part in the fight between good and evil, between murderous radicalisation and life. Europe's Muslim communities must fully support the principles of tolerance and freedom which have secured them a pleasant life in Europe. The Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray killers openly declared their intention to commit their heinous crime in a mosque, but no one took them seriously. Islam, or at least European Islam, needs to undergo a fundamental process of reform to ensure that such perverse acts no longer have a place within its circles.”