DAMASCUS, (ST)- President Bashar Al-Assad on Monday inaugurated the Awqaf Ministry’s Al-Cham International Islamic Center for Confronting Terrorism and Extremism.
The President was welcomed at the center by Minister of Awqaf (Religious Endowments) Mohammad Abdul-Sattar Assayed , Syria’s Grand Mufti Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun, Chairman of the Lavent Scholars’ Union Muhammad Tawfiq Ramadan al-Bouti, Director of the Center Adnan al-Afyouni, who is also the Mufti of Damascus and Damascus countryside, and senior scholars.
Following a tour in the center’s sections, President Al-Assad met with a number of Damascus scholars who attended the opening .
President Al-Assad said that fighting terrorism and extremism in Syria has started years ago and since terrorism appeared in Syria.
“All the Syrian people are fighting terrorism and extremism through their steadfastness, our valiant army has been battling terrorism which is the production of extremism and our scholars have been combating extremism which produces terrorism,” President Al-Assad made it clear, noting that opening the center comes within the country’s counter-terrorism efforts.
President Al-Assad added that the situation in the Syrian society is not only better than it was at the beginning of the war, but it is even better than before the war.
“I can say with complete confidence that the situation is better and I say this depending of facts,” said the president, adding that the war has been a tough lesson to all the Syrians and a tough shock that forced all to reconsider and reassess all the elements which led to this war.”
It is true that the war on Syria was launched by external parties, but the elements on which this war was based were internal, said President Al-Assad, pointing out that this revision has made the Syrians, with all their categories, to boost communication to further know each other.
“The lesson we got from this war has taught us how to differentiate between things. At the beginning of the war or before the war, we couldn’t distinguish between religion and fanaticism- and this is as far as men of religion are concerned- we couldn’t distinguish between a religious man and a fanatic. Some used to think that the more they push towards fanaticism the more religion is protected. But later and we started to differentiate between religion as a building factor and fanaticism as a destruction factor,” President Al-Assad made it clear, stressing “this why the situation is better than the time before war… today we are more capable to distinguish as a society from the stage before war.”
Extremism is not a religious product.. it is a social product
President Al-Assad went on to say that extremism is not a religious product, rather, it is a social product, but it uses covers, tools and titles and religion is only one of the titles of extremism, because there is religious extremism, political extremism, ideological extremism and national extremism as well as social extremism based on traditions.
“What we have suffered during this war was linked to religious extremism..as you know, extremism has received the world attention after September 11 events in New York and Wahhabism and its machine have contributed to deepening this image to become a reality,” President al-Assad said.
“Even terrorism in Syria was not originated by the Syrian traditions, it came from outside, but it became a reality in the country,” the president added, calling on men of religion to do their best to treat the gaps that exist in the Syrian society and which produce extremism.
President Al-Assad underscored that fighting terrorism or extremism starts from true religion, but true religion is seen only in a healthy and balanced society, so, this is the point where work should start.
President Al-Assad stressed the need to enhance morals in society to protect religion against distortion, noting that ethics can be boosted in society through social work that should go in parallel with true religious work.
“True religion needs a balanced society. Some people who misunderstand religion, think that religion came to give up man’s needs and desires. This is not true as religion came in complete consistency with man’s needs and desires, but at the same time it came to organize them,” President Al-Assad said, adding that this contradiction those people experience creates imbalance which at the end leads to a sort of extremism.
Religion needs open-minds
The president went on to say that religion needs open minds, because closed minds are narrow with limited understanding. Religion is wide and deep and closed minds take from religion its peels whereas open minds take the essence of religion, he pointed out, clarifying that closed minds make religion unacceptable to others, thus lead to fragmenting societies, while open minds make religion acceptable to all and help it be a unity factor.
President Al-Assad affirmed that “awareness is the only way to protect any society or individual against mistakes or deviation, because it tells us that this talk is extremist and that is moderate..this talk is logical and that is illogical, so, without this awareness we can’t protect ourselves.”
“We also have to deepen dialogue, because a religion without dialogue is nothing but rituals with no content. Therefore, I say that religion is a divine system serving mankind and is linked to man’s mind, psychology and needs and without understanding this psychology we can’t understand religion,” President al-Assad said.
He concluded by saying that if true religion is the bridge that leads to moderation, the healthy society is the bridge that leads to the right practice of religion and that protects religion from deviation or distortion.
The center’s sections include the National Institute for Qualifying the Imams and preachers in all cities, the International Institute for the Arab and Religious Sciences for those who wish to study the religious sciences from countries of the Levant as well as the section for monitoring extremist mentalities. It also includes a section for combating the extremist mentality, a center of scientific Research, a library and a number of auditoriums.