Moslem declarations against terrorism
The phenomenon of Islamic terrorism and the growing diffusion of religious radicalism in the Moslem countries must be fought in the most adequate way, identifying the real "culprits". The only strategy which can bring to a close the fight against terrorism is that which implies a real condemnation of terrorism in all its forms. The declarations of disapproval of the terrorist act, by certain Islamic religious leaders, are not sufficient to define these latter as our allies. In fact, as is better explained in the article, the very same Ulema who condemned the attack on the Twin Towers, after September 11th, were the authors and promulgators of fatwa, more or less underwritten, against both military contingents and Western civilians in Iraq, and against any liberal Moslem who dared to criticize the extremist interpretations of the Koran. The Islamic jurists, through issued legal opinions, often instigate terrorism and justify suicide attacks under the banner of Islam. At this point, it is necessary to identify and distinguish, once and for all, between the real condemnation of terrorism, coming from the liberal Moslem groups, and the opportunistic condemnation from certain well-known Islamic religious leaders.
Following the 11th of September, 2001, innumerable declarations were made in both the Western and Eastern countries, condemning terrorism. Just as many debates and discussions took place (sometimes, bordering on the absurd) on the significance, in general, of the term “terrorism” and, in particular, the expression “Islamic terrorism”.
Emblematic is the document presented a few months ago by Gijs de Vries, the delegate for anti-terrorism of the European Commission, inviting the E.U. governments to replace, everywhere, the expression “Islamic terrorism” with “terrorism which unlawfully invokes the name of Islam”, and to cancel the use of the terms “jihad”, “Islamist” and “Islamic fundamentalism”: forgetting that these terms are used daily in the Arab and Moslem world by those who condemn, without any “ifs, ands or buts”, the Islamic extremism and radicalism. Forgetting also that if there is vocabulary which must be reformulated, it is necessary to start from the head word of the expression, in this case, from the term “terrorism”, and from the words belonging to the same semantic area.
If we analyze the reality of the Islamic world, we must recognize the presence of different types of terrorism. The first among them, and the most evident, is the jihadist terrorism, in the founding document of which is expressed the following: “Declaration of the Islamic World Front against Jews and Crusaders”, of the 23rd February, 1998, and bears, as one of the first signatures, the name of Osama bin Laden.
One of the passages reads as follows: “It is the duty of any Moslem who is able, to kill the Americans and their allies, be they civilians or military, in whatever country they are found, and this, until the moment that the mosques of al-Aqsa and the grand mosque of the Mecca are liberated from their influence, and until their armies are out of every Moslem territory, with their hands paralysed, their wings broken, unable to threaten a single Moslem, in accordance with His wishes (blessed be the Lord!): But fight the idolaters with all your might, as they fight you, and know that God is with those who fear him”. And further: “We call, God permitting, every Moslem who believes and desires to be awarded by Him, to comply with his wishes to kill the Americans and sack their property, wherever they are and in whatever moment. We beseech the Moslem Ulemas, their chiefs, their young and their soldiers to attack the cursed American soldiers and their allies, firebrands from Hell, and disperse them; so they will remember.” (1) .
It is an explicit declaration of war, the consequences of which we have experienced and continue to experience. A declaration of war which, with time, has been extended to Moslems and the Islamic states accused of betrayal and apostasy.
Under the definition “terrorism” in the Treccani Italian language dictionary, we read: “Action and method of political struggle (to defend or, more often, to subvert or destabilize a power structure) which, to impose itself, makes use of acts of extreme violence, such as attacks and sabotage, hijackings, kidnappings, robberies, injuries and murders, urban guerrilla warfare against the forces of law and order, but above all, against innocent people, in order to sow panic and provoke the emotional reactions of the population”.
A clear and unexceptionable definition: just as clear and unexceptionable as the message that can be deduced from the emblem of the Moslem Brothers; a Koran enclosed in two crossed swords pointing upwards and with an inscription at the bottom reading “Prepare”, which is taken from the initial phrase of the Koran verse: “And prepare against them, forces and horses as many as you can, to terrorize the enemy of God and your enemy, and yet others, which you do not know, but God doth know, and whatever you have spent on the path of God will be repaid and no harm will come to you” (Koran VIII, 60) (2) .
To diffuse their own ideas to reach the conquest of power corresponds to terrorizing the enemy, resorting to any means, including dissimulation (in Arabic, taqiyya)
Published announcements and comments against terrorism offer confirmation to what has been previously stated. In reply to the attacks, communiqués of every nature have been published in an effort to calm the waters. For example, a communiqué published in the Arab daily, al-quds al-arabi, on the 14th of September 2001, reads: “the undersigned of the present communication, representatives of the Islamic communities, are very concerned about the events of Thursday, the 11th of September, in the United States, which resulted in the attack, killing and destruction of innocent civilians.
We express our grief and regret. We condemn with strength and determination these events deriving from Islam, which are contrary to all human and Islamic precepts: precepts which forbid the striking down of innocent people” (3) . Words, taken out of context, read according to our western code and above all, without pausing to reflect on the thinking and ideology of the signers, could seem satisfactory and reassuring. Unfortunately, when it is a question of condemning terrorism, we cannot be superficial, but must look more deeply into the words.
In the above document, the word “terrorism” is never mentioned: it is avoided by making a generic condemnation for the killing of innocent people. Furthermore, to be able to interpret the message correctly, it is necessary to pay extreme attention to the identity of the signers of the communiqué. In the first positions are:- Mustafa Mashhur, at the time, guide of the Moslem Brothers in Egypt; Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Sheikh of the Arab satellite television, Al Jazeera and at the moment, President of the European Council for the fatwa and research, with seat in Dublin; Husein Ahmad, Emir of the Gamaat al-islamiyya in Pakistan; the Sheikh, Ahmed Yassin, founder of Hamas and last, but not the least important, Rashid al-Ghannushi, Head of the Tunisian movement, al-Nahda, at the moment al-Ghannushi is in exile in Great Britain. They are all representatives of the Extremist wing of Islam, tied to the movement of the Moslem Brothers; holders of a very precise and limited conception of both the terms “terrorism”, which they frequently define “resistance”, and the expression “innocent victims”.
On the 27th of September, 2001, Yusuf al-Qaradawi hastens to issue an umpteenth fatwa, a juridical Islam reply, which declares: “Al Moslems should unite against those who terrorize people who are in peace, and who spill the blood of those who are not in war without reasons foreseen by the Islamic law” (4) .
Also in this case, it is necessary to ask what the reasons are, which are foreseen by the Islamic law.
The answer is supplied by the same al-Qaradawi, in the month of September, 2004, during a convention of the Egyptian press syndicate, in Cairo, when he expressed his own judgement on the status of the American civilians in Iraq: “All the Americans in Iraq are combatants: therefore, it is a religious duty to fight them until they leave the nation”. Not only, but the Sheikh was keen to clarify that “there is no difference, whatsoever, between U.S. military personnel and U.S. civilians in Iraq, because both have invaded the nation […] and the civilians are there to serve the occupying forces” (5) . Consequently, American military and civilian personnel in Iraq do not come under the definition “innocent victims”.
The same criterion is used when it concerns condemning the suicide attacks in Israel. On the 8th of July 2004, when al-Qaradawi was interviewed by the BBC, he stated: “It is not a suicide: it is a martyrdom in the name of God; Islamic theologians and jurists have debated the question and consider it a form of jihad […]. The Israeli women are not like the women of our society because the Israeli women are militarized. Furthermore, I consider this type of martyrdom operation an indication of the justice of Almighty God. God is just. Through his infinite justice, he has given to the weak what the powerful do not possess, that is, the capacity to transform their bodies into bombs, as the Palestinians do” (6) .
It ensues, therefore, that the condemnations of terrorism by people like al-Qaradawi and his followers, represented in Italy by the UCOII (Union of the Islamic communities and organizations in Italy) are only seeming and dangerous condemnations, which play with words, succeeding, at times, to appear moderate.
Of quite a different value and interest are the edited texts in the form of articles or posters by single or groups of Arabs and liberal Moslems. One of the most explicit articles was the one published in the Corriere della Sera daily newspaper, on the 2nd of September, 2004, signed by a number of representatives of Italian Islam: “We, the Moslem men and women of Italy are totally and absolutely against the terrorism of those who are exploiting a distorted and extremist interpretation of Islam, and by using ideological fanaticism have unleashed an aggressive war of terror against the entire world and the common civilization of man.
In the third anniversary of the tragedy which bloodstained the United States of America, a time in which terrorism is now globalized and strikes indiscriminately all those who have been condemned as enemies of an insane “holy war”, be they American, European, Arab or Jewish, Christian, Moslem or any other religion.
We, the Moslem men and women of Italy, firmly, unequivocally and decisively state our faith in the sacred value of the life of every human being, regardless of nationality or religion. For us, the sacredness of life is the discriminating principle between the common civilization of man and the barbarity of those who preach and pursue the culture of death. We are aware that the sacredness of life must be equal for everyone, otherwise, if this principle is violated, it will rebound against the whole of mankind. Only the common embrace of the culture of life will allow the salvation, peace and well-being of humanity”.
The central concept of the entire article is the sacredness of the life of everyone, with no exception. It reconfirms the fact that we do not need to know the identity of the victim before we can establish whether the cause of death is or is not, a result of terrorism.
It is not just a casual statement because until terrorism struck the Moslem world in a direct way, with attacks from Morocco to Saudi Arabia, in that area, they usually used expressions such as “martyrdom” - it if concerned Israel - or “suicide attacks”, or “resistance “or again, “so-called terrorism”, this last expression is still used by the Al Jazeera journalists: the same for the communiqués of the Moslem Brothers and affiliates.
The concluding paragraph of the article states that only with the sharing of the culture of life and liberty can the Western world and the Moslem world be freed from terrorism
“We, the Moslem men and women of Italy feel profoundly involved in the international undertaking to counteract the war of terror which had its major human, mediatic and political impact on the 11th of September, 2001. We aspire to a better world where all the peoples, including the Moslem, can live in liberty, justice and in respect of the fundamental human rights. To this end we hope for the advent of new ethics in international relations which favour the emancipation of the peoples of underdevelopment and obscurantism, as well as the formation of governments which are authentically representative and democratic”.
We are aware that the globalization of development, of rights, of peace, of freedom and democracy is the best guarantee, so that these values can be safeguarded in every corner of the earth, through dialogue and reciprocal respect”.
The importance of freedom is the central theme of the Freedom Manifesto, published in Paris on the 16th of February 2004 by a group of “men and women supporters of the values of secularity and of the sharing in a common world”, united “to Islam in a different way”, which, “having understood the serious crises which it is passing through” has decided to mobilize “to create the political and intellectual conditions of a culture of freedom”. In this document – which has in the person of Fethi Benslama, teacher of psycho-pathology at the University of Paris (7) , its main creator – the word “terrorism” never appears, but unlike the communiqué published in al-Qud, on September 2001, it is evident that here, the lack of freedom and the lack of respect for liberty is recognized as the principle cause of terrorism itself: “Our aim is that of favouring the expression of forces of resistance to fight absolute Islamism and the despotic states everywhere, which oppress the men and women of the Moslem world”.
The corollary is to convince the democratic governments to renounce the strategy of skilful double-talk and the postponed democracy.
Their real commitment towards peace in the areas of conflict and political violence is their credibility. “Our action, having a trans-national vocation, is directed to develop and support the experiences of freedom in all the fields of thought, the arts and knowledge.
We men and women of the Moslem culture – believers, agnostics or atheists – denounce, with all our energy, the declarations and acts of misogyny, homophobia, and anti-Semitism claimed in the name of Islam, of which we have been witnesses for some time, here in France.
In such cases a trilogy characteristic of the political Islamism is verified, which has been active for some time in certain of our countries of origin and against which we have fought and we are determined to continue fighting”.
Concepts which are repeated and deepened by Fethi Benslama in his pamphlet: “Déclaration d’insoumission à l’usage des musulmans et de ceux qui ne le sont pas”, (8) where he states: “«In the name of Islam»: this, today, is the macabre invocation, the insane litany which confers the absolute power to destroy. It neither spares human life, nor the institutions, nor the texts, no art, nor spoken expression. When the force of the name procures so much devastation, we cannot consider what happens as an accident. […] But what we must ask ourselves, above all, is how such a gap could have been created, which has allowed such a desperate will for destruction and self-destruction to penetrate into Islam.
What we should think about and obtain, is a total liberation from the germs which have produced this devastation: a duty of non-submission within ourselves and towards those forms of servility which have brought us to this crisis. In the same way that Europe is not a question reserved only for Europeans, Islam is not a question reserved only for Moslems” (9) .
There is a close connection between the condemnation of terrorism and the defence of freedom, meant, in its broadest sense: from the freedom of worship, freedom of expression, freedom of the press and personal freedom. Who defends liberty, in its totality, cannot but condemn terrorism, without ‘ifs’ and without ‘buts’. In this context, there is an ever-growing group of Arab intellectuals, so-called neo-liberals, who recognize in the Jordanian, Shakir al-Nabulsi, their chief exponent. On the 22nd of June 2004, al-Nabulsi published a twenty-five point manifesto of the neo-liberals on the liberal site, Middle East Transparent (10) .
In the preamble, Al-Nabulsi places the neo-liberal movement in the wake of the great Arab and Moslem reformists of the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, for whom the fundamental and non-negotiable principles had to be: the absolute freedom of thought, the absolute freedom of religion, the freedom of the woman and equal rights and duties for both men and women, political pluralism, religious reform, political and educational reform, separation between state and religion, and the transition to democracy. The liberals of the 21st Century, still pursue the works of their predecessors, but put in the foreground the fight against terrorism.
The first two points of the Nabulsi manifesto call for “the necessity of reform in the obscurantist religious education, work of the gentlemen of religious terrorism” and “the need to combat the religious, political and nationalist terrorism, and that bloody and armed terrorism in all its forms”. The specific aim of point 18 is that of “creating a new Arab personality, devoid of violence, baseness, irrationality, […]”, devoid of what the Iraqi liberal, Abd al-Khaliq Husein defines as “the schizophrenia of the Arab societies”, which causes them to be so enveloped in the ideology that it results in a lack of lucidity in the analysis of the fact (11) .
When al-Bulsi mentions religious terrorism, he refers to a more subtle and obscure, but equally pernicious form of terror. It is the jihad of the fatwa, the Islamic juridical responses, launched by Islamic extremists, from Bin Laden to the Moslem Brothers, against all those who do not share in what they believe to be the “true” Islam.
In this regard, the writings of Monjiya al-Souaihi are significant. A courageous teacher of Islamism at the Islam University of the Zaituna of Tunis, she has written a work entitled: “Encoded Death Fatwas”, published on the liberal site, Middle East Transparent, in which she denounces: “Certain internet sites managed by Islamist politicians have published false threats to whoever opposes their obscurantist opinions concerning the conditions of women and to their backward version of the religious patrimony; opinions which imply the desire to repress thought, impede free speech, stop written expression, particularly with respect to those who want to defend the Islamic religion, protect it against the defamation and lies which are drawn upon by those who suffer from Islamphobia due to the statements and behaviour of an obscure Islamic faction which is interested in the religion only as an instrument by which they can obtain terrestrial advantages at a low price.
Of little importance are the efforts which Moslems and Arabs must make as a result of obtuse opinions concerning religion. Following these facts, on the 29th of December, 2005, the Tunis and the Quds Presses published a speech by the Sheikh of the Nahda, which has absolutely no foundation of truth and in which I am accused, after having participated in a programme on the Lebanese channel, ANB, of having stated that Omar ibn al-Khattab (12) – may God bless him – was the first historical enemy of women and that the veil is not Islamic”.
The Sheikh of the Nahda, to whom the author refers, is the already mentioned Rashid al-Ghannushi, expert in the language of a double-talk in the best tradition of the Moslem Brothers, is a person who on many occasions has “condemned” terrorism. Monjiya al-Souaihi becomes even more explicit in the final part of her article: “I am not even interested in drawing attention to the accusations addressed to my person through the extrapolation of fragments of my speech, with the intention of sending a coded threatening letter – a coded message – which exhorts to kill in the name of the thought, transmitting the news to their followers, leaving the choice to them on how to act.
We know only too well the ways of these extremists, who act using a symbolic language.
For this reason I accuse them of instigation to kill me, as they did with Nasr Hamid Abu Zaid, Said Lakhal, Mona Talba, Lafif Lakhdar and many others. I conclude by saying that such reckless behaviour will not cow me and will not impede me from speaking or writing as an academic scholar, who has her own opinion. This is the essence of the work I do or am I one who puts heart into my work and then is halted before death threats? I am neither Imam nor preacher: the Sheikh of the Nahda has confused everything and has still not learned to distinguish between an academic, an Imam and a preacher!” (13) .
This testimony is but one example of how terrorism of the word should be loathed and condemned as much as the armed jihadist terrorism. In the last few years, the terrorism of takfir, that is, those who condemn other Moslems for apostasy has become a real emergency: a weapon that wants to eliminate the voices of free minds.
The concern is such that on the 24th October, 2004, three intellectual Arabs and Moslems, Jawad Hashim, Shakir al-Nabulsi, Lafif Lakhdar sent a request to the UNO Security Council and to the UNO Secretary General for the institution of an international court for the persecution, without ambiguity, of terrorism - intended in its broadest interpretation - stressing, above all, terror diffused by means of the fatwas: “While you are deliberating for the approval and application of the resolution 1566, we, the Arab intellectuals, democratic Moslems and liberal pacifists, signatories of the present petition, desire to draw your attention to an extremely grave source of terrorism: the fatwas.
These fatwas, issued by “religious” fanatics and psychopaths, incite the committing of terrorist crimes in the name and under the banner of Islam.
It seems to us inadequate that the Security Council simply adopts resolutions which condemn terrorism. It would seem to us more efficacious if the UNO constituted an international court (affiliated to the UNO) to bring to justice, no matter who they be; single people, groups or societies, who are directly or indirectly implicated in terrorist activities, together with the preachers who furnish the fatwas which invite the Moslems to commit these acts.
These fatwas play an essential role in the instigation to terrorism and legitimize the crimes committed under the banner of Islam: through their persuasive effect, they expertly manipulate the conscience of the individual so that he is tranquil in the conviction that he has committed an act of pity and will go directly to Paradise.
Of course, it is understood that we cannot reduce the question of terrorism to fatwas alone. The phenomenon of terrorism has various causes: the demographic explosion which leads to illiteracy, poverty, unemployment, the deterioration of scholastic programmes, obscurantism of religious teaching and, most importantly, political despotism, which is present in the majority of Arab countries.
All these conditions offer fertile ground to the recruitment of terrorists. Notwithstanding, fatwas remain the fundamental cause of the instigation to terrorism. It is the fatwa which legitimizes the terrorist act as a sacred doctrine of Islam”.
It is important to note how the authors of the document are keen to specify the complexity of the terrorist phenomenon and to underline that the terrorist action is, in the majority of cases, only the point of the iceberg of a much vaster and many-faceted problem. Neither must it be forgotten that the three authors are resident in the West: Jawad Hashim in Canada, Shakir al-Nabulsi in the United States and Lafif Lakhdar in France, this last victim of a fatwa launched by Rashid Ghannushi, is, as previously seen, the author of many “condemnations” of terrorism.
The danger, therefore, is most acutely felt by the intellectuals and, in particularly, by those who live in the West. The gravity of the phenomenon is such that following the ‘silence’ of the United Nations, a group of intellectuals, including the three already cited, felt the necessity of autonomously instituting, in 2005, a committee for the defence of the victims of the fatwas of terror, coordinated by the liberal Tunisian, Abu Khawla, the founding manifesto of which concludes with a heartfelt and desperate appeal: “Considering the gravity of the situation, we have taken the initiative of creating the Committee for the Defence of the Victims of the Fatwas of Terror. We do this in answer to the numerous appeals of help for the victims of these fatwas […] Our Committee will denounce these fatwas of terror and make the danger known to the entire general public. We shall publish information regarding the writing and opinions of the victims: we shall gather public support for them and sustain them morally and financially and shall bring to court these preachers of terror. The Committee will promote their ideas on a website and in other forums and will promote a culture of tolerance and illumination”. (14) .
The lesson to be learned from the manifestos of the Arab and Moslem liberals is that the condemnation of terrorism cannot and must never be generic and vague, that terrorism is a complex phenomenon to be condemned in every one of its forms.
We must keep in mind also the words of Rola Dashti, Kuwaiti activist who fought to obtain the right to vote for women in her country: “Social and psychological terrorism is just as horrible as physical terrorism, if not worse. The women are terrorized in the name of Islam and accused of being anti-Islamic, which means being blasphemous, anti-patriotic agents of the West, destroyers of the social fabric, enemies of the family, promoters of homosexuality and adultery. We have been continually and brutally attacked because we wanted to have women represented in politics, therefore, we asked for the constitutional right to vote, the right to participate in the national elections and the right to become active members of the public life.
The Islamic extremists have been successful in carrying out their social terrorism and their brutal attacks, misusing Islam to gain support from the bottom, from the common citizens who are traditionalists, conservatory and repositories of a minimum knowledge of their religion. The extremists have launched campaigns on how Islam respects the role of the woman, how Islam protects women from becoming sexual objects. But in reality, their slogans have served only to hide their incapacity to accept women’s participation in the development and construction of democracy – so that they can continue to maintain and reinforce the chauvinistic male society” (15) .
The unequivocal and total condemnation of terrorism by the liberals distinguishes itself from that coming from the extremist Islamic environment and from representatives of political Islam, by being a total promotion of the liberty of everyone, including women, to express themselves, to believe and think freely. And it is for this reason that it must be considered the only true condemnation of terrorism which is acceptable to both the West and to the Islamic World.
(1) In Al-Qaeda, The Texts, Ed. Laterza, Bari, 2006. pages 50-52.
(2) For the logo, see the website of the Moslem Brothers www.ikhwanonline.com.
(5) In G. Shahine, “Fatwa fight”, in Al-Ahram Weekly, 16-22 September, 2004.
(8) Parigi, Flamarion, 2005.
(9) Ibid., pg.11.
(12) The second Caliph of Islam who reigned from 634-644.