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​ The therapy of Goodness

by Gabriele Nissim

The ceremony in memory of the victims of Dhaka

The ceremony in memory of the victims of Dhaka

Once again, after the bloody terror attack at the Holey Artisan Bakery of Dhaka, the world is breathing an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty, because of the seeming lack of a political project that can eventually mark the defeat of a phenomenon that appears to be more and more globalized – from Paris to Orlando, from Brussels to Istanbul.

People used to thinking rationally about the importance of a cultural struggle to establish a common front between Europeans, Arabs, Christians, Jews and Muslims, to tackle such a complex challenge from the bottom, are still very few. Two are the reasons of such delay that prevents from the terrorists' defeat, not only on the “military” field, but also on the one of ideas.

First of all the underestimation of the “ideal power of attractionthat murderous fundamentalism keeps on exerting on so many young people, as for the rest it has already occurred in history for many totalitarian ideologies that fascinated entire generations in Europe. This way we fall short not only of a moral response that may baffle their ideas, but also of coming to terms with a kind of thought, which is more refined and articulated than we might suppose. Even though we do not accept it, we should admit it takes a strong conviction to decide to commit suicide and not feel any pietas at mass murdering people picked casually.

Secondly, we often forget that those who pay for the consequences of this ideological drift are above all the Arabs and Muslims, both in their own countries where the economic crisis worsen due to the vertical fall of tourism, and in Europe, where the fear of terror attacks feeds indifference and rejection toward migrants, making it easier to pander for consent to walls and fences.

This is why the initiative that Gariwo, together with Italy's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is to hold on 15 July in Tunis, inside the Italian Embassy run by Raimondo de Cardona, retains such a great moral and political value. For the first times, with the help of the Tunisian authorities and Peace Nobel Prize Winner Ben Moussa, the first Garden of the Righteous in an Arab country is to be inaugurated.

The signal is very strong. First of all because the Garden of the Righteous is a place of peace and meditation that honors and brings about the examples of those who have had and still have the courage to defend Goodness and human dignity, and then because of the choice of a country which is at the forefront of the resistance against fundamentalism. Tunisia, in facts, today is threatened because, after the Arab Springs, it not only chose democracy as a stem against terror, but has also been able to build secular institutions, separating politics from religion. The very Ennahda party, of Islamic inspiration, in its recent congress decided to undertake a pathway of opening to modernity and asked its members to separate their public function from the preaching of religion.

Of great significance is the choice of the people to be honored at the Garden, which will be situated in the courtyard of the Italian Embassy, to seal the union between the shared values of our diplomacy and the aspirations of Tunisian society.

By planting a tree in his honor, a greatly symbolic recognition, a few hours after the massacre of the Italians at the restaurant of Dhaka, will be bestowed on Faraaz Hussein, the 20-year old Muslim student who refused the way-out terrorists had offered him, in order not to leave his friends Abinta and Tarishi, who were having dinner with him. Hussein did not accept that dreadful credo, already dear to Nazis, according to which only part of the humanity would have the right to live. Faraaz had rather face death, for the opposed principle to that, which leads the suicide terrorists: his love of the human plurality. Ambassador De Cardona set out to make it possible for the student's family to attend the ceremony of planting of the tree, so that the world knows that Italy, albeit mourning its victims, is the first country that sets out to bring about the Muslim Righteous. Grief should not make us forget that there are young people who already now represent “the alternative” to the plans of the fanatics of totalitarian and murderous Islamism.

Two olive trees will be then planted for the heroes of resistance against the ISIS. Hamadi ben Abdesslem is the Tunisian guide, who during the terror attack against the Bardo rescued some forty Italian tourists from a certain death, finding for them a way-out through the underground corridors. This is an important recognition – also because this figure has been too soon forgotten in Italy – and it would be retain a great significance if the people rescued by his brave gesture seized this occasion to publicly express their gratitude.

Khaled al-Assad is the archeologist from Palmyra who lost his life to the attempt to save the archeological site from the terrorists' savagery. When I talked about him with Ben Moussa, the Nobel Prize Winner remained pleasantly surprised, because he confessed that this story, which has been talked about a lot in Italy, had not been popularized in the Tunisian society. Only little information circulates in the Arab world concerning the figures of those who dare resist terror.

For the first time in an Arab country, a tree will be planted in honor of a Muslim who rescued some Jews during World War II. He is Tunisia's Khaled Abdul Wahab, who during the Nazi occupation hid in his farm in Mahdia 24 Jews, who were doomed to be deported. This is a topic that had been considered a taboo until recently, because anti-Zionist propaganda repressed any expression of altruism of the Arabs towards the Jews. Remembering this today is an important response to the fundamentalists who present Jews as the most dangerous enemies of Ilslam.

Then we will honor Mohamed Bouazizi, the young street vendor who, like Jan Palach during the Soviet occupation, immolated himself with a sensational gesture to affirm the right to human dignity, thus giving rise to the Tunisian Spring, which led to the fall of Ben Ali's regime.

Proposing today these tales of Righteous people in an Arab country means set against the ISIS fanatics the moral figures who behaved their righteous way for the sake of beauty, life, friendship. They are moral examples that prove actually, to those who follow the fascination of hatred, that you can live much better when you welcome the other and feel joy for the human plurality. The memory of the Arab Righteous retains the value of a moral therapy also for those Europeans who are eager to believe in the demagogic view of all Muslims as potential terrorists. The recognition of our common humanity is today our biggest force to defeat terror and all the prejudices that are fed by those who want to split the world between friends and enemies.

Questo articolo è comparso sulle pagine di Avvenire il 5 luglio 2016

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