And The Difference Is…?

Dr. Hesham A. Hassaballa

Posted Jul 27, 2005      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version
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And The Difference Is…?

In the Name of God, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful

The July 7 suicide bombings and the botched (thank God) suicide bombings of July 21 have rocked not only London, but metropolitan centers across the world and across our country. They have also rocked Muslim communities the world over, most especially in Britain. Already Muslim leaders in the U.K. have met with Prime Minister Tony Blair, and they have had two meetings among themselves to discuss the terrorist attacks.

Both meetings condemned the terrorist attacks in London, as they should, but Muslim leaders could not agree on whether suicide attacks forbidden by religious law. One group, according to the Associated Press, said “yes,” and the other group said “not always.” Lord Nazir Ahmed, a Muslim in the House of Lords, said: “There is a very clear split between what the Islamic leaders said about whether suicide bombing is right or wrong in places such as Palestine, Kashmir, or Chechnya.” In an interview with AP, Lord Ahmed said such a split makes it easier for extremists to take root.

Britain’s largest Sunni Muslim group met in Birmingham and issued a fatwa, or edict, condemning the suicide attacks in London. They said, according to the AP, “the Quran forbade suicide attacks and called such terrorism a sin that could send the perpetrators to hell.” Another meeting of 22 imams and scholars, however, also condemned the bombings but stopped short of condemning all suicide bombings.

“There should be a clear distinction between the suicide bombing of those who are trying to defend themselves from occupiers,” said Sayed Mohammed Musawi, head of the World Islamic League in London, “which is something different from those who kill civilians, which is a big crime.” Hmmm…very interesting.

So, let me paint a scenario for you: a young, misguided, ugly man places a bomb in his backpack, boards a bus or subway train in London and blows himself up: killing dozens of people on their way to work with him. This is wrong, correct? Correct. Say this occurs in Madrid; wrong again? Yes. Say this occurs in Jakarta; prohibited by Islam? Most definitely. Say this occurs in an American city (I shudder to think of it); is it barbaric, not to mention un-Islamic? Absolutely. Say this occurs in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv; is this allowed?


Many - too many, in my opinion - answer this last question, however, in the affirmative. Why? How can your moral stance change with the change in venue? How can your humanity be checked at the door once you enter Israeli airspace? What is the difference?

Because there is “a clear distinction between the suicide bombing of those who are trying to defend themselves from occupiers,” I am told. Really? It does not seem that way with me. To me, the crime is the same, no matter where it occurs. I mean, the Qur’an prohibits suicide, right? Yeah. It is a crime in Islam to take innocent human life, right? Yeah. The Qur’an does not - despite what anyone may claim to the contrary - sanction the murder of “infidels,” right? Yeah. So, why is it any different when the civilians are in Jerusalem on a bus returning from the Western Wall? Or at a pizza parlor in Tel Aviv? Or a cafe in Netanya? There is no difference. It is wrong; and if it’s wrong, it’s wrong. Period.

“But, but,” I am told, “Imam so-and-so said it is ok. And Shaykh such-and-such said Islam allows it. And Mullah whatchamacallhim said it is permissible.” That is irrelevant. God says it is not. And last time I checked, the words of Imam so-and-so, Shaykh such-and-such, and Mullah whatchamacallhim are NOT the word of God.

Now, SO MANY people equate my refusal to accept the legitimacy of suicide bombing as denoting indifference and contempt for the suffering of Muslims across the world. Their logic is this: because I say suicide bombing a bus in Jerusalem is wrong, then the occupation of Palestinians is somehow ok. That is not true. Palestinians are suffering under Israeli occupation: that much is clear. I pray that the occupation ends, and that Israel and Palestine can finally live side-by-side in peace. The same goes for Kashmir and Chechnya.

But that does not mean that you can, then, kill civilians. No. Now, I fully realize that I write this from the safety of living in America. I am not going through what the Palestinians, Kashmiris, or Chechnians are going through. I pray their suffering ends. But, Muslims have to be consistent with their moral values. If it is wrong in London, then it is wrong everywhere.

Having said that, the world needs to work hard to end injustice. No one should live under military occupation. No one should have their rights taken away. No one should be deprived of their freedom. No one should have their human dignity degraded. And no one should be given the license to kill innocent human beings. No one.

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