Mario Alexis Portella, a native New Yorker, is a priest of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Florence, Italy. He has a doctorate in canon law and civil law from the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome; he also holds a M. A. in Medieval History from Fordham University in New York, as well as a B. A. In Government and Politics from St. John’s University, also in New York. He is the author of several books, Islam: Religion of Peace? — The Violation of Natural Rights and Western Cover-Up; Ethiopian and Eritrean Monasticism — The Spiritual and Cultural Heritage of Two Nations; and Abyssinian Christianity: The First Christian Nation? — The History and the Identity of the Ethiopian and Eritrean Christians.
Fr. Portella has written articles for The Clarion Project, Il Mantello della Giustizia, Latin Mass Magazine, the European Conservative, and Faith and Freedom International. Some of his political assessments have appeared on La Verità, Jihad Watch, The New American, The Voice of Europe, The Italian Tribune, and Europe Israël News.
Exclusive Interview with Mario Alexis Portella printed by the Italian newspaper La Verità on November 22, 2018
“I Have Seen the Massacres in Iraq and I Say: Having a Dialogue with Islam is Impossible”
The American priest, presently Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Florence, speaks after having published a book Islam: Religion of Peace? The Violation of Natural Rights and Western Cover-Up on the “falsity” of the “religion of peace.” He says: “The violence is to be found in the pages of the Quran. There is no single authority who speaks for them, this facilitates the extremists.” — Interviewer Marcello Mancini
What type of dialogue can one have with those who want a woman, such as Asia Bibi dead — her crime offering a cup of water to other Muslim women?
It is not a dialogue with the religion but with those who speak for the religion. Ever since Ataturk eliminated the caliphate in 1924 many Islamists have taking advantage of the political vacuum to represent Islam in their own manner. Here is speak about heads of state, and above all the imams. Since there is no central authority representing Islam altogether, it is difficult to individualize an interlocutor.
Islam is not a religion of peace, as sustained by many Muslims. How can it be that they command ferocious “holy wars” of conquest and terrorism that upholds “holy martrydom?” And yet, there is a “Western cover-up,” which you speak of in our book?
The cover-ups are for financial reasons simply because be so-called petrodollars take priority. Here one must see the profits to be gained from natural resources, such as gas. The Western reasoning is according to the realpolitik; the governments limit their rapport to that between states by which human rights are sacrificed. For example, Donald Trump criticizes Islamic religion that has generated terrorism but at the same time he sells arms to Saudi Arabia and Nigeria; these are two countries that systematically violate human rights not only against Christians but against their own people.
Fr. Portella, you’re an American and have been to Iraq. You have seen how much Christians are persecuted and churches reduced to nothing. What expectations to Christians have of us in the West?
From their side there’s a great disillusion because after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003 and the American invasion, the West has left them in political state of anarchy. In diverse villages and cities where Christians still live, the Shi‘te and Kurdish militias—many of them sustained by Iran—are officially in charge of security but in reality do not provide it. Hence, Christians live in fear because they are harassed by Muslims who now occupy the posts vacated after ISIS. In fact, many priests are unable to dedicate themselves to their pastoral ministry because they are in a continual struggle with local government officials to defend the Christians.
We have set that Islam is a religion engaged in a holy war against the infidels. We are all infidels and we are in danger. And yet many apologists continue to justify Islam and provide false stories.
Only one has to look at the original Islamic texts that speak the truth; those texts however are ignored by scholars and activists who maintain that they are being misinterpreted by those who terrorism and the Islamization of the world. It is simply not true.
Father Portella, can you provide an example?
It suffices to read the content of along in the fifth verse of the named sura (the last fundamental chapter of the Quran) which indicates how Muslims are supposed to behave with Christians, Jews, and other non-Muslims: And when the sacred months have passed, then kill the polytheists wherever you find them and capture them and besiege them and sit in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they should repent, establish prayer, and give alms, let them [go] on their way. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.
You have said that it has been the weakness of the West is to have essentially stripped our rights of freedom of speech end of religion, categorizing anyone who questions Islamists’ intentions as an Islamaphobe.
Here it is necessary to distinguish a Muslim from an Islamist. The former is he who submits to the religion of the prophet Muhammad, while the latter is an intellectual, such as an imam who takes upon himself to speak for Islam. In practical terms, Islamists have infiltrated government posts and lobbyists, such as the United Nations, and from that strategic position they have been able to convince the heads of state through the soft law, to criminalize any sort of criticism against Islam. In this manner they can embed themselves in society even more.
Pope Francis has been accused by his critics for having betrayed the Church with Islam? What are your thoughts on that?
The pope has done very well to bring the gospel of Christ to the Islamic world, as his predecessors Benedict XVI and John Paul II. Christianity, however, is based on the peace and love of God, while Islam justifies killing and war in its sacred texts. This makes it difficult carve out a constructive path with Muslims. It is more of a political problem than a religious one.
Francis, nevertheless, has invoked dialogue via a reciprocal understanding between Muslims and Christians. How can we then dialogue with those who do not speak the same language of peace?
The problem is with their representatives. When the Holy Father meets with certain individuals, such as Imam Ahmed el-Tayeb, the Rector-Emeritus of al-Azhar University—the most prestigious university in the Sunni world—he cannot rely on what he says; he speaks of peace with him, but when el-Tayeb goes back to Egypt he says something else. President el-Sisi himself tried to convince el-Tayeb and the religious body of the Islamic world in 2014 to see and interpret the Quran in a historical context because Muslims cannot continue the path where they justify violence from the verses. But he was blocked by el-Tayeb.
Is there any type of credible outlook?
In order to have a reciprocal dialogue, it is necessary for the imams who sustain the words in the Quran in a fundamentalist manner to revise their book. Above all, they must correct the hadiths (the sayings and acts of the Prophet) which justify violence.
From what you have explained, I understand why the discourse of Pope Benedict XVI at Regensburg shook-up certain people. Ratzinger mentioned that Muhammad, early in his preaching of having allowed the freedom of choice. Once, however, he gained power, he used the sword to convert others. He was right.
The reaction to his discourse demonstrates that Islam does not tolerate any critical analysis.
Father Portella, what future do Christians have in Iraq?
The United States can still influence the political issues of the central government in such way that Christians can have the same rights as Muslims and Kurds. Having said this, even if Iraqi Christians do not trust the American government, they maintain great hope in their hearts. The decision of Trump to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal instituted by President Obama can be a way to constrain the Iranian regime. Pressure them even economically to the point that the militias they sustain lose their influence and stop persecuting Christians.