Ibrahim Gabriele Iungo is a teacher of Islamic Sciences, engaged in dialogue between Christians and Muslims – both in the public sphere and on social networks – from his privileged position as a student of Philosophy he entered Islam in 2006. Disciple and representative of Shaykh Muhammad al -Yaqoubi, as well as the advisor of the Grand Mufti Emeritus of Bosnia Dr. Mustafa Ceriç, he has also collaborated on the edition of “Against ISIS”, an anthology of fatāwa against extremism.

We interviewed him to talk with him about Islam, about Italy and how to overcome the painful impasse in which we find ourselves today, so that being at the same time Italians and Muslims seems – to the most – impossible.


1) Good morning, Mr. Iungo. Your commitment to the clarification of the relationship between Italian Christians and Muslims, both immigrants and natives, is based – as you recently reiterated – on the mutual understanding of their respective religious and traditional bases. In this sense, do you think that the role of converts, who were born in one context and then entered one another, is “privileged” or only complementary?

The role of Western Europeans entering Islam lends itself both to risks and opportunities. On the one hand, in the absence of a previous familial Islamic education, they are in fact exposed to the risk of misunderstanding the acceptance of Islam with external assimilation and homologation to extra-European cultures – different according to the community context majority: Arabs, Pakistanis, etc. – with more or less serious repercussions on one’s personal balance as well as on the relationship with the others.

On the other hand, where the adhesion to Islam is instead correctly understood as the reconnection to a living spiritual tradition, essentially compatible with the historical and anthropological identity of Western Europe itself, the linguistic and cultural background of the European Muslim can certainly constitute an instrument of privileged mediation, within the context of inter-religious relations: as recently indicated in Turin by the Grand Mufti Emeritus of Bosnia Mustafa Ceriç, this instrument allows both to illustrate to Europeans what is the traditional perspective of Muslims, on the one hand, is to explain to Muslims what the distinctive characteristics of the European mentality are, on the other.


2) “European mentality” is a powerful but vague term, even for the same European identitarians. Often some barter the possibility of Muslims to live and prosper in Europe with an acceptance of European and Christian history and values. In your opinion, what side could native European Islamic tradition have instead, and to which “foundational myths” could it refer to?

The Islamic Tradition already expresses European realities that are completely autochthonous, in particular, between the Muslims of the Balkans and of South-Eastern Europe; to these realities – both ancient and contemporary – the historical and cultural heritage of the centuries-old Arab-Muslim presence in Southern Europe is juxtaposed, of which the flowering of the Arab kingdoms of Sicily and Andalusia constituted only the most shining and lasting example, and whose scientific and cultural influence represents a constitutive element of the same modern and contemporary European identity. The flowering of an autochthonous Islamic tradition of Western Europe is rooted, then, in this fertile heritage of culture and civilization, already fully European and Mediterranean; on the other, it reaches out to the culture and vivification of those European values ​​- depending on the cases, inspired by the classical traditions of Romanity, the spiritual oness of Christianity, and so on – with respect to which the Muhammadan Tradition does not arise at all, as an antithesis or substitute, but as a synthesis and definitive affirmation, in the face of the disintegration to which they are mortally subjected today, by a rampant individualism and an economicism elevated to the dogma of faith and system of life.


3) These themes that are part of the political capital of many conservatives and conservative parties and segments, and labeled as “Right”. The convergences between European conservatives and traditional Islamic environments on issues such as abortion, homosexual marriage and end of life are known, but these same parties often exhibit an Islamophobic rhetoric. Do you think that in the future the Muslim citizen can find in Islam a range of complete political values, from the Right to the Left, or do you think that now being Islamic must mean to stick to a vision of part?

Islamophobia represents the stumbling block or the original sin of many European conservative realities: this polemical predisposition – often rather superficial and propagandistic, hatched mostly for electoral purposes – deprives them of a natural and necessary interlocutor in the epochal confrontation with that a monolatry of the market that today unduly compromises natural balances and traditional identities of the whole world: faced with the serious social, cultural and even anthropological issues that are violently imposed on us, the rhetoric of the clash of civilizations should finally replace the logic of their alliance. On the other hand – even if Muslim citizens orient themselves humanly on the basis of personal sympathies, vocations of militancy or considerations of true or presumed political expediency – an authentic testimony of traditional Islamic doctrine, which is the doctrine of Unity, can only ask above and beyond the party sphere, working at most on the level of doctrinal presentation and social and cultural promotion. As Shaykh Muhammad al-Yaqoubi indicates, we do not distinguish between Right (Right) and Left (Left), but between right (right) and wrong (wrong).


4) In a 2015 interview for “The Dissident Intellectual”, he recalled how much of the history of Italian Islam and almost all of its current urgency are linked to the issue of immigration. Often we tried to confuse the waters, mixing the themes in a pretentious way. In your opinion, to this day, with what words should a Muslim address the problem of immigration?

First of all with a word of clarity: although most of the Muslims present in Italy today come from other countries, Islam is not a migratory phenomenon or an extra-European culture, but a spiritual tradition of universal character, which is combined with natural and necessary processes of adaptation and inculturation. Secondly, with a word of responsibility: on the one hand, the religious bond with many migrants imposes on the Italian Muslims a moral and material support towards them, as far as possible – to be understood not only as a dutiful human solidarity, but also as linguistic and cultural mediation with the Italian context, as well as effective contrast to abuse and lawlessness, as the Prophet said (Peace be upon him): Supporting one’s brother, when he is a criminal, [does not mean being conniving, but] means to stop him from crimes . On the other hand, the civil connection with the Italian society – which in Islam is a sacred bond, whose respect is spiritually obligatory – imposes just as much solidarity with its fellow citizens, and with the difficulties caused by unregulated migration policies, above all to the detriment of the weakest sections of the population: it is not true believer who neglects the condition of his neighbor, and the problems of Italian citizens are to be considered the problems of Italian Muslims themselves.


5) Without going into details, how do you judge the temptation of some Italian (but also non-Islamic) Islamic environment to create more or less confessional movements or parties? Could they be transmission belts for some necessary laws (such as a clear pact on Islamic places of worship, for example) or risk becoming alienating elements?

Although this intention has never been explicitly expressed, I think it was a mistake that if it were ventilated even the simple possibility: certainly not because the Italian Muslims should not consider themselves endowed with full political rights, like any other citizen, but because any solution the party would be inherently divisive and conflictual, further giving rise to Islamophobic propaganda and reinforcing the general perception of Islam as an alien, intimately opposed and potentially hostile to the rest of non-Muslim citizenship – an experience that, to a large extent, marked recent fate of the some Islamist parties in the Arab-Muslim countries, with consequences that are visible to all.


6) Other European nations – like France – that, for various historical reasons have had to deal with an “Islamic Question” before us, have made courageous steps forward, such as the recognition of the “Military Imam” in aid to the members of the French army of Islamic faith. On the other hand, organs such as the “Consulta per l’Islam italiano” are troublesome and, frankly, not very suitable for the Italian Islamic reality. The Italian government could refer to similar European experiences or does the Italian Islamic community have specific problems, entirely its own?

The Italian Islamic communities face a double deficit, both of historical presence and of cultural representativeness: on the one hand, because of a recent immigration compared to other European contexts, and on the other for the persistent lack of educational and sapiential institutions representative of the classic tradition. To this is added the considerable heterogeneity of the countries of origin of the Islamic communities of foreign origin (Morocco, Egypt, Pakistan, etc), as well as the significant presence of various Islamist political movements – both elements of further fragmentation of the identity and prospects of Community cooperation.

Although the previous European experiences can offer constructive insights, the formal recognition of the Islamic presence in Italy should therefore be based, above all, on the qualified advice and direct collaboration of the main Islamic sapiential institutions – the University of al-Azhar, that of al- Qarawiyyn, etc: the authentic representatives of that “widespread authority” and polyphonic that distinguishes the Islamic tradition – and therefore the adequate cultural mediation of Italian and Italian Muslims, whose relations with these institutions should therefore be facilitated and incentivized. An authentically European Islam can not fail to take root in the fertile soil of traditional wisdom – rootedness which is the main antidote to radicalism, and which would also allow us to cultivate and vivify our country’s historically and geopolitically Mediterranean prospects.


7) An important way to promote serious dialogue at high level between cultural and religious realities could be a good integration of Italian Muslims in the system of teaching courses in History of Islam and History of Islamic Countries. What would you recommend to a Chancellor or to a Ministry of Education who wanted to deal with this topic? Is it sufficient to continue with the training of trained teachers or do you need a different, less academic but more widespread education?

Today, membership in Islam is often an obstacle from the working point of view – especially in the university, where it causes mistrust and prejudice: we should therefore operate above all to overcome this problematic, intellectual and cultural.


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