In a public manifestation in Rome on Saturday, several hundred Muslims came from all over Italy to protest the actions of the Islamic State, calling it a “cancer” and insisting that it did not represent the position of Islam.
The rally took place under the title of “Not in My Name” as a public refutation of ISIS as representative of the majority of Muslims, while another similar protest was taking place in the northern Italian city of Milan. The demonstrators came from near and far, braving the rain to gather in Rome’s Santi Apostoli Square, and began the manifestation with a minute of silence dedicated to the victims of the massacres of Paris.
At intervals the protesters chanted, “No ISIS, no terrorism.” A large banner read: “ISIS is a cancer on the body of Islam. What they did is an attack on the entire community.”
“It is our duty to assume a clear, non-negotiable position against the promoters of terrorism. It’s the duty of every Muslim to condemn violence and terrorism, and in this Muslims must assume their responsibility,” announced the secretary general of Rome’s Great Mosque, Abdellah Redouane.
The protesters seemed especially anxious to impress upon observers that most Muslims do not identify with the Islamic State.
“ISIS is outside Islam,” said Saye of Burkina Faso, a woman who has been living and working in Italy for eleven years, “but I’m also here to understand something else. Who builds the weapons for ISIS? Who sells them to them? Do Europeans ask themselves this question?”
Several Italian politicians and Muslim leaders were present for the event, rallying the protesters and praising the efforts to distance themselves from the Islamic State.
A member of the Chamber of Deputies, Fabrizio Cicchitto, took the microphone and addressed the crowd: “The majority of Muslims are against the terrorists who killed Catholics, Jews, Muslims and lay people, without distinction. You give an answer to those who say that Islam equals terrorism. This event has a great political significance. The solidarity that unites us is strong,” he said.
The Italo-Moroccan deputy of the Democratic Party, Khalid Chaouki, shouted from the stage, “You cannot kill in the name of God. We are not afraid of anyone. Muslims, Jews, Christians, institutions: we want to tell ISIS that we will not allow you to destroy our community. We will stand together against terrorists.” Chaouki, who has been traveling with a police escort after receiving threats, concluded by saying that “no threat stops the work we are doing to overcome prejudices against a possible coexistence.”
The Vatican also recognized the importance of the demonstration of the Islamic Community on Saturday. Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin said, “I think it’s very important. The unequivocal condemnation of Islamic terrorism must come mainly from the Muslims themselves. We have to get together to fight. I think it is important that they are insisting and publicly demonstrating their distance, rejection and repudiation of terrorism.”
In a statement, the promoters of the event said: “We Muslims of Italy strongly condemn the recent massacre in Paris, expressing the deepest feeling of closeness to the French people and to all the families of the victims who were killed so brutally.”
“We invite all Muslims to a mobilization to isolate even the slightest form of radicalism, and particularly protect young generations from the consequences of preaching hatred and violence in the name of religion,” they said.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.