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​Milan responds to dread and fear

the remarks by Giuliano Pisapia on 18 November

Following we publish the speech delivered by Milan’s mayor Giuliano Pisapia at the special ceremony of dedication of a tree at the Garden of the Righteous to Khaled al-Asaad.

These are difficult days. Days in which the world seeks a response to horror. These days we ask ourselves in awe why, once again, we come across hatred and terror. These days we need a great deal of courage. And we need a lot of wisdom to look ahead. These days there is no room for easy reactions or propaganda, but we need to reflect. We need such moments as this one.

Today, here in this wonderful place, we remember a free person who paid his defence of history, culture and civilisation with torture and in the end even his life. And he was a Muslim who talked to all world’s nations, and was awarded among else of the Order to the Merit of the French Republic, the Republic of Poland and the Republic of Tunisian .

The tale of Khaled al-Asaad and his wile murder – he was beheaded in public by the ISIS – teaches us that there is no room for semplifications. Symbols matter. And a tree is a symbol of life. So Khaled al – Asaad today lives here, in this place of memory and civilisation, in our Garden of the Righteous. A place that is now in the history of Milan and we feel belongs to everybody.

The Association for the Garden of the Righteous of Milan made this choice because those who die for everybody’s freedom live in the memory of each of us, without any differences. The fact that the tree for Khaled al-Asaad grows and blooms here is first of all a sign of our unity: a unity with deep roots and that no deadly madness will be able to break up.

Khaled al–Asaad did not love the stones of Palmyra only as an archaeologist or historian. Khaled loved them because he understood that those stones talked. They talked about civilisation. They talked and still talk about places where the East and the West have coexisted for centuries.

The macabre campaign of destructiion of memory, started in Afghanistan with the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas, and carried on in Ninive and many other places of culture, came to an end in Palmyra, with the death of Khaled.

So the enemies of Palmyra are the same enemies of Paris, New York, Madrid, London, Mumbai, Nairobi, Tunis, Ankara and Beirut, all places where terror has sewn death. They are our enemies.

The choice of Khaled shows us the way to win over awe and terror. Terrorism is no fatality, it is not unbeatable. We can oppose terror, also at the price of life. Terror lives and spreads based on our fear, our inability to create a true integration, a true dialogue. A dialogue whose shared basis should be the most rigorous respect of legality.

On these frontlines Milan has proven to be exceptionally strong, committed and united, drawing many important plans for the future. We have not remained still in the face of the enormous problems that history and current affairs put before us. We have welcome – as it was humane and right to do - those who flew wars and dictatorships. We have built dialogue networks between cultures and religions. We have created projects and rooms in which the different communities would feel a strong belonging to a shared city. In neighbourhood, schools, in the administration we have been determined to build an open city, though severely shut to those who wish to bring here messages of violence and death.

Milano is there when it comes to working for freedom, with pride and total love for the rule of law, democracy and life. Milan is there and will always be there to bring always and everywhere our hugs and our willingness to cooperate to anybody who is fighting for the peaceful coexistence between men and women from all courses of life. And thus we today are here to say thanks to Khaled. Thanks for what you have taught us. Thanks for helping us reflect. Thanks for being here, amidst us, a Righteous among the Righteous.

23 November 2015

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Resistance against fundamentalism

Moderate Muslims in front of jihadist extremism

Valentina Colombo, Professor of Geopolitics of the Islamic world at the European University of Rome and curator of the collection of essays by Tarek Heggy The prisons of the Arab mind, says:

"The transition from fundamental principles of Islam to individual Muslims, is essential to be able to grasp the reality where the extremist interpretation of the Qur'anic text , which coesxists with personal faith of an individual. This is moving from the Islam in general to individual Muslims  -  we call these muslims the "Righteous". [...] it is necessary to trace and highlight those Muslims who struggle, even putting at risk their own lives, in the name of freedom of all human beings without if and buts. [...] "Righteous" in the Islamic world is the one who believes in freedom of religion and expression, those who are not deflected by ideologies that deprive man of objectivity in judging the Other. "Righteous" can be an intellectual, a politician, but also a simple person whose sensitivity, whose humanity prevail dominant ideology. in the contemporary Islamic world to defend a Christian or a jew, write a poem about the Holocaust, travel to Israel, and claim equal rights between men and women are increasingly risky. Unfortunately silence on national and international level does not protect the "righteous" in the Muslim world,
Telling the stories is the start of a list of "righteous"; it is crucial to help these people and to make sure that they are exemplary to others, giving courage. This way the ranks of "righteous" is being extended . We should fight together in the name of universal human rights regardless of ethnicity or religion. "

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Khaled al-Asaad

the keeper of Palmyra