It seems clear to me that here we are facing a historical problem: a re-interpretation of Islamic tradition in the light of modern critical mentality. Every religion (and every ideology or culture as well) that has not undergone an internal process of re-interpretation will always be tempted to return to past models which have been (especially in the case of Islam) marked in the main by an ideology of conquest and domination and are, therefore, certainly not pacifist.
However, this re-interpretation of the Islamic tradition cannot be imposed from without. This was the error of many western political and cultural actions. As with all of the other great religious-cultural traditions, it must grow and mature from within. In this process certain core values must be saved, those which constitute the very identity of a religious tradition, while, at the same time, these values must be embraced in harmony with the needs of modernity, a factor that should not be disregarded as Muslim intellectuals often do. In particular, we are speaking about such values as the dignity of the person and his fundamental freedoms, respect for human rights, which are the same for everyone, and the freedom of science and critical research. The Church, in its turn, has had to take modernity into serious consideration, a process which has not been easy and which is in fact one that is ongoing. I believe that Islam needs to undergo an analogous process through 'enlightened' persons who know how to propose a serious re-reading of its tradition. The core values of this tradition (those of faith, founding moral values, justice, etc.) must be protected both from the hold of traditional legalism (which in the majority of cases connived with the imperialist politics of classical Islam) and from attack by a destructive secularism that wishes to destroy it, and thereby destroy the very identity of the Islamic conscience. It is in this area that a serious dialogue between religions and civilisations must be encouraged in order to find a 'human' base that is common to all and from which we can build a true human society. This is the new 'global humanism' that should fill the void created by the wild economic globalisation present today. Indeed the latter, with its nihilist valence, is one of the most powerful factors in provoking an exasperated reaction from most cultures and religions which, in order to protect their own identity, are forced to rely on forms of religious-cultural extremism: I will readily refer to them as forms of modern 'religious-cultural tribalism'. This phenomenon has by now become one of the most dangerous factors to threaten a pacific coexistence of various cultures in our global village.