Christian Islam expert Dr Jan Slomp: do not mix religion with ideological thinking

Sent On: 
Tue, 2020-06-23
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Dr. Jan Slomp


On the first day of our webinar we listened to an interview with Dr. Jan Slomp (88), secretary and chairman of the Islam in Europe Committee of the Conferences of European Churches between 1978 and 1994 and advisor to this Committee between 1994 and 1997 has been for decades a major partner in Christian-Muslim dialogue in various levels. Jan Slomp’s first visit to a mosque was in 1960 in The Hague. He studied Christian theology and Islam and lived between 1964 and 1977 in Pakistan.


On the question of what currently the most important issues are for a fruitful dialogue between Muslims and Christians Dr. Jan Slomp focused on two major needs for Muslim-Christian dialogue: firstly, do not mix religion with ideological thinking, - yet this happens all the time with disastrous consequences - secondly Muslims need experts on Christianity and Christians need experts on the Islamic world. These experts are much in need to explain to their own faith communities how to fight common stereotypes about the other faith community and help their own communities better understand the great diversity in the other faith community.


The focus of the interview was on Muslims and Christians because there are hardly any Jews left in Egypt but Dr. Jan Slomp is of the opinion that this is equally important for the dialogue with Jews and other religions. No religion, Slomp believes, can claim God for itself. All humans are children of God and God is at work in all religions.


Whereas Slomp is a strong believer in God he is extremely wary of the influences of various ideologies on religions. In ideology is a philosophy about the future for a particular group of people. “Ideology is a philosophy that promises, an ideal society. Religion is only used as far as it is useful for the ideology, what does not fit in the system is left out. Whereas religion has to do in the first place with revelation, our relation with God and our fellow human beings which is a different dimension.  In an ideology God is often only used to justify that ideology. To give approval of the ideas. So, there is an inherent tension between the two and of course the leaders of an ideology always claim, “no it is not against my religion.” But then you have to point out exactly how the ideology goes against the religion.”


“What revelation is, is something about which you have to seek a consensus. In Arabic you say Ijmah [Ijmāʿ]. Muslim scholars usually seek a consensus. In churches we do the same. During  the Second Vatican Council, of the Roman Catholic Church (1962-1965) bishops and theologians tried to find a consensus for the future of the church and that was a matter of theological thinking together, but at the same time they were also criticising the past.”


Dr. Jan Slomp calls Mawdudi’s Jihad fi al-Islam [Jihād fī al-Islām] his ideological handbook.  “Like Hitler had his Mein Kampf, so Mawdūdī had his al-Jihad and Theodor Herzl wrote Der Judenstaat (1896) which became the central book for the goal of Zionism, which I, following Hannah Arendt, consider to be an ideology.” This does not mean that all ideologies are the same, but for Slomp it is important to understand that religion and ideology are two different modes of thinking.


Mawdūdī highlighted the importance of the sovereignty of God. “But who was explaining that authority of God? That is what he decided to do himself through the more than 100 books he wrote. With his authority, he was going to tell Muslims what Islam was. But always in the context of his thought system or ideology. 


Revelation offers more space, openness and freedom whereas ideologies usually restrict. You can say ideology is an earthly thing whereas religion in the first place is vertical, is based on transcendence. On things not seen but believed. It is of a different category.” You can read the full interview here.



June 23, 2020


Cornelis Hulsman,

Editor-in-Chief of Arab-West Report