Terrorists Betray Islam’s Peace – OpEd

Reading about the 305 people, including 27 children, murdered during Friday prayers at a Sufi mosque in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula, I felt despair. For the last several years the largest number of victims of terrorists, have been Muslims murdered by other Muslims. But with the rise in white supremacist anti-immigrant hate movements in the U.S., and Europe, and Hindu Nationalist groups in India; we can expect to see much more anti-Muslim hate group terrorism in the future.

Then I remembered an article by Ali Al-Bukhaiti, a Yemeni politician, that gave me hope. Ali Al-Bukhaiti wrote: “The fight against terrorism requires a single, consistent standard that prohibits the targeting of civilians, wherever they are, and whatever their faith, be it Muslim, Christian, Jewish, any other religion and even atheists. Without such a common standard we won’t be to convince anyone that targeting civilians is inherently cowardly and a crime against humanity.

“Those who issue fatwas that allow killing Israeli or American civilians (like prominent Muslim scholars Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi in Qatar, and Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah in Lebanon, and others Sunni and Shia alike) are in fact issuing fatwas that allow killing all civilians, even those in the Muslim world.

“It’s all the same logic. A killer will inevitably find a pretext or interpretation that allows him to apply the same religious reasoning anywhere on earth, and against any civilians, regardless of their faith or race. This is not hypothetical, it is borne out by the facts on the ground. The idea that permitted the targeting of Israeli civilians also permitted the targeting of religious minorities like the Yazidis in Iraq and Syria, and the Copts in Egypt.

And this same idea led to the targeting of Shiite Muslim civilians in Iraq, and Saudi Arabia, Sufis in Egypt, and the Zaydis in Yemen as infidels. Moreover, it is the same idea that frees a terrorist to strike even civilians of his own faith if need be when they are in the vicinity of those whom he consider to be infidels. Deviation generates more deviation.

“Those who clap and cheer when a suicide bomber blows himself up on a bus carrying students in Tel Aviv, or at the World Trade Center in New York, or in a train station in London or in Paris, should not then cry when civilians in Mecca or in Sana’a or Egypt come under such attacks. The protection of civilian lives is an inviolable precept, regardless of geography, religion and political conflict. And if this precept is diluted or applied unevenly we will not be able to defeat terrorism. It will reach everywhere and will be visited upon everyone.

“When it comes to the deliberate killing of civilians, there is no difference between Mecca, London, Berlin, Paris, Tel Aviv, Orlando, Cairo, Islamabad, Sana’a and other cities in the world. Unless we apply a single standard for dealing with all civilians in the world, we will not succeed in combating terrorism.

“Action against terrorism that targets civilians starts with a serious stand against every one of those who have issued and continue to issue fatwas for targeting any civilians anywhere. From now on, they must be deemed accountable unless they retract their fatwas; they must be off limits, their movements must be restricted, their media appearances prevented, the sale and circulation of their books banned, and any acts of support or financing for their charities — or even hosting them — criminalized.

“Furthermore, there must be strict laws stipulating that any fatwa or justification for targeting civilians anywhere – even inside Israel – shall be deemed a punishable offense. In addition, school books must be revised to excise fatwas and religious views that in any way justify the targeting of civilians.

‘Clarity, courage and transparency, along with the acknowledgment of past mistakes and the upholding of a single standard for everyone are the right way to begin countering the extremism that targets civilians. Without this we will remain caught in a vicious circle, and terrorism will be visited upon everyone.”

Khaled Abou El Fadl, Professor in Islamic Law at the UCLA School of Law has written: “Al-Qaeda, ISIS, Boko Haram, and of course their theological “teachers”, methodically and systematically destroy everything beautiful in Islam. They target and destroy the artifacts and historical sites that defy their pedantic and false sense of history. These are the true radical extremists. They and only they are the true enemies of Islam.”

Only the active joint co-operation of religious leaders from the Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities can keep the hate spewing terrorists of the world from becoming an apocalyptic Ya’juj and Ma’juj (or Gog and Magog) nightmare. We all better get to work.


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Rabbi Allen S. Maller

Allen Maller retired in 2006 after 39 years as Rabbi of Temple Akiba in Culver City, Calif. He is the author of an introduction to Jewish mysticism. God. Sex and Kabbalah and editor of the Tikun series of High Holy Day prayerbooks.

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