Fri, Sep. 10, 2004
All terror merits rejection by clerics
-- The sickening pictures aired on Russian TV, showing masked terrorists
in Belsan preparing their deadly explosives while elementary-school pupils
kneel with their hands up, generated waves of shock all over the world.
Even Muslim leaders stepped forward to condemn this barbaric act, which
resulted in the horrible death of at least 350 innocent people, most of
Sheik Mohammed Sayed
Tantawi, the top Muslim cleric in Egypt, said that ''those who carry out
the kidnappings are criminals, not Muslims.'' Even Mohammed Mahdi Akef,
leader of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's biggest Islamic group,
felt that this time some Muslims had crossed the line. Kidnappings may
be justified, he said, but killings are not. ''What happened is not jihad
[holy war],'' he explained, ``because Islam obligates us to respect the
souls of human beings; it is not about taking them away.''
No wonder these leaders
were alarmed. The fact that the kidnappers in Belsan picked kids on their
first day in school as their victims, and the presence of at least nine
Arabs among the terrorists, would have only intensified the already growing
conviction in the world that there is something sinister in Islam if it
breeds such monstrosities.
In last Friday's prayers,
Tantawi went out of his way to denounce the massacre. ``What is the guilt
of those children? Why should they be responsible for your conflict with
the government? You are taking Islam as a cover, and it is a deceptive
Of course, in such
cases, there are always some weird apologetics who will try to deflect
the accusations and blame others. Ali Abdullah, an Islamic scholar in
Bahrain, insisted that Muslims were not involved and recycled an old and
ludicrous conspiracy theory: ''I have no doubt that this is the work of
the Israelis, who want to tarnish the image of Muslims.'' However, most
respected Muslim thinkers and commentators showed disgust. Abdulrahman
al-Rashed wrote a damning article in the Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper. Under
the headline The painful truth: All world terrorists are Muslims!
he warned that Muslims will not be able to cleanse their image unless
''we admit the scandalous facts. . . . Our terrorist sons are an end-product
of our corrupted culture. The picture is humiliating, painful and harsh
for all of us.'' Also, Ahmed Bahgat wrote in the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram
that the gruesome pictures shown on Russian television ``showed Muslims
as monsters who are fed by the blood of children and the pain of their
All this is nice and
well, even if one might wonder whether these statements reflect true remorse
over the barbaric butchering of children or just misgivings over tactics.
After all, the same Bahgat had this to say on hostage-takers in Russia
and Iraq: ``If all the enemies of Islam united and decided to harm it
. . . they wouldn't have ruined and harmed its image as much as the sons
of Islam have done by their stupidity, miscalculations and misunderstanding.''
No outrage at
us assume that the shock and revulsion in the Arab and Muslim world is
genuine. Let us also believe for a moment that those Arabs and Muslims
who claim to be disgusted and ashamed by the beheadings in Iraq (carried
out by a group that prides itself with the name ''the Islamic Army in
Iraq'') are truly disgusted and ashamed.
One thing, however,
keeps bothering me: How come all these clerics and commentators keep mute
when Muslims blow themselves up in the midst of innocent café-goers
in Jerusalem? Why don't they bother to condemn with the same righteousness
the slaying of nonsuspecting Israeli bus drivers and riders?
Is there something
about killing Jews that is different?
Only when Muslims
wash their hands of all kinds of terror will I be convinced of
their sincerity. Meanwhile, I can't forget the scene shown on Russian
TV, where one of the kidnappers spoke over his cellphone, probably with
his operator, and said in Arabic: ``We will follow the path of God, Insh'Allah
Uri Dromi is the
director of International Outreach at the Israel Democracy Institute in