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Friday, March 22, 2013

Clarifications on Islam and Our Suicide Bombers

Clarifications on Islam and Our Suicide Bombers By Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde I must apologise to my readers that I have not been around to comment on issues raised since I posted the article Islam and Our Suicide Bombers at midnight yesterday. I have returned to find that over 286 comments were made on it after it has been viewed by over 22,000 readers in the first 18 hours. Scanning quickly through the comments, I think it is important to make some few clarifications about some points which some readers have misinterpreted or those I did not sufficiently make clear in the first place. 1. The first is the reason behind the writing. All I intended to put across is a simple message: Islam does not support whoever targets civilians in the name of Jihad. It is very doubtful if there is any reputable scholar that has justified this. My guide on this matter, Sheikh Yusuf Qardawi, has been clear in his objection to this. This is also the general understanding among Nigerian Muslims in particular. I have never met a single Muslim among the Nigerian public that supports suicide bombings that targets civilians, inside or outside the country. Those behind these bombings, though still Muslims in my consideration, do not enjoy our support and hardly can I find any evidence in the Quran that they enjoy the support of the Almighty. 2. The second was to provoke a probe. As sufficiently worried as we are, I believe the Muslim world should start a critical diagnosis of this social ailment. Which part of the body is affected and why? This is the more important because we have witnessed the woeful failure of military action. Behind Boko Haram is an idea that is more potent than bullets. It can only be conquered by a superior idea. In Nigeria we got this wrong from the first day. Led by the thinking that the government will successfully check the group as it did previously with Maitatsine and other revolts, many of our clerics jumped to condemn Boko Haram as Kharijite, some even giving government the license to kill them. Little effort went to engaging them intellectually after they were ransacked from their bases in Bauchi, Gombe, and Maiduguri and their leader killed. I remember writing an article then warning that it is dangerous for the clerics to issue such a blank cheque for the government. The law should be allowed to take its course. I think it is time to return to that point of ideological engagement and identify the ingredients that lead our youths to this path. Such investment may yield better fruits than military action. 3. Actually the context of the writing was universal, not local, though I expected people to relate to it more in the latter than in the former. A dispassionate survey of the bombs for which different groups claimed responsibility in Iraq and Pakistan, for example, will easily show that bombings that have targeted Muslims in mosques and markets are planted by Sunnis against Shiites. The converse may be true but very negligible in frequency. Likewise, recent insurgencies that attack civilian populations in the Middle East, Asia and Africa have largely been claimed by Sunni groups. So who am I to say that they are not Sunni? I have seen that some people, instead of accepting this reality, have chosen to label me as Shiite. Foul! In any case, whether I am Shiite or Sunni is irrelevant to the fact here. I thought we will pause for a minute and ask ourselves this simple question: What is there in the our set of beliefs, as Sunnis, that make the idea of suicide bombing even against civilian population attractive to some of us? Is it because some of us believe that the victims – who are usually Muslims of a different sect – are lesser Muslims than us or infidels altogether? Or what precisely is the reason? Bombing of fellow Muslims in mosques and churches is absent here in Nigeria but they have been happening frequently in multi-sectarian Muslim communities especially in Pakistan, Iraq and, now, Syria. (As a prominent exception, there are bombings reportedly carried out by the supporters of Alawite regime in Syria against Sunni populations. The difference is that Asad does not claim to be fighting a Jihad.) 4. Finally, let me say that I find it surprising that there were some readers that understood the content of the article as saying that Muslims are responsible for ALL the bombings in Nigeria beyond the premise of the largely inter-sectarian bombings in Muslims populations which some groups have claimed responsibility. If such readers were objective, they would have recalled that I have always been in the forefront in trying to make other Nigerians appreciate that there are elements other than Boko Haram involved in the bombings that take place in this country. I still have a picture of the IED that a Christian tried to use at a Church in Miya Barkate, which I was quick to report to the world last year. There are several other cases that we have discussed in the past and so many vested interests have now come to play. All Nigerians know this so much so that the phrase “there are several Boko Harams” has now become commonplace. Yet, we cannot deny the claims of Boko Haram that it is targeting churches, Christians and law enforcement agents, as their leader mentioned in his first video broadcast to the world. The group has claimed responsibility for many of the bombings, rightly or wrongly, after all. How do I deny that? Then Boko Haram members, to my understanding, are still Muslims; of course, some may think otherwise. As for me, it is enough that they profess the Kalimah and continue to regard themselves as Muslims. I definitely differ from them on a number of crucial issues but it is not my business – or to put it another way, I am not pious enough – to regard them as infidels. I think the mention of “Sunni” in the article has destabilized quite a number of readers so much so that they were eager to discredit every word in it. Facts are sacred, however. These are the points that I craved your indulgence to clarify. May God remain our guide on the Right Path. 22 March 2013

Islam and Our Suicide Bombers

Islam and Our Suicide Bombers By Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde Few hours ago, a suicide bomb killed a very popular senior cleric in Damascus, Muhammad Said Al-Bouti, while he was delivering a regular lecture in his mosque. Twenty other worshipers lost their lives along with the 84-year-old cleric. The cleric was a Sunni supporter of the Assad regime. Three days ago, a suicide bomb killed over thirty passengers aboard a luxurious bus in Kano, Northern Nigeria. It is widely believed that the victims were targets of a sectarian attack, like many previous ones. The victims were innocent Nigerians of different ages, unarmed and unsuspecting. In Pakistan, the Shiite community is under constant attack in their place of worship or neighbourhood. Between December 30 and March 3, four different bomb attacks have targeted Shiite communities killing 19 in Baluchistan on 30 December 2012; 21 in Hangu on February 1, 2013; 83 in Quetta market on February 18; then 45 in Karachi on March 3 as the victims were leaving a mosque. A witness to the March 3 attack said, “I saw people burning to death and crying with pain. I saw children lying in pools of their own blood and women running around shouting for their children and loved ones.” In Iraq, suicide bombing, according to a 2011 study, there have been 1,003 suicide bombings between 2003 and 2010. The number of deaths from these attacks is at least 12,284 civilians. In the latest that happened just two days ago, Reuters reported that “more than a dozen car bombs and suicide blasts tore through Shi'ite Muslim districts in the Iraqi capital Baghdad and other areas on Tuesday, killing nearly 60 people on the 10th anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein.” And there have been several other bombs that have been killing innocent people across the globe in Afghanistan, Algeria, Mali, Somalia, etc. There four common features of these bombings. The first is that they are performed in the name of God. Nothing other than belief in self-correctness would give up a person to the destruction of his self. All these suicide bombers believe in a theology that tells them that they are doing the right thing through which they hope to attain God’s pleasure and for which they will be rewarded with Paradise. The second is that they are all coming from us, Sunni Muslims. Rarely do other sects in Islam engage in suicide bombings that target civilians of different sects or different religions. The third is that they are all about power. Whether it is in Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Mali, Algeria, Somalia, Nigeria or wherever, all the bombings are about power under various disguises: fighting against invasion, Shiite domination, establishment of an Islamic state in which members of the rebellious sect dream of becoming the new leaders. Finally, the targets are always cheap – innocent civilians – when the strong power of the state cannot be successfully confronted. Is this the peace that Islam promises mankind? Are we turning religion into an enemy of mankind instead of presenting it as a friend? Is our God happy at the sight of blood, suffering, orphans and widows? Is not there a better way of attaining His pleasure than the killing of innocent people? Is His paradise impossible without stripping us of our humanity? The correctness of everything – including beliefs and ideologies - is judged by its fruits and not by the beauty of its arguments, the determination of its adherents, the courage of its defenders or the name of God that it mentions. On this count that is better than any other, our suicide bombers have failed woefully, very woefully, to convince us that the violence they perpetrate is Islam. They may name God, but God is free of their action. This is His testimony about anyone who spreads mischief on earth: “Among people is one whose views about this world will fascinate you and he calls God to witness about what is in his heart; yet, he is the most contentious of enemies. When he turns his back, his aim everywhere is to spread mischief through the earth and destroy crops and cattle. But God loves not mischief. When it is said to him, “Fear God,” He is led by arrogance to (more) crime. Enough for him is Hell; an evil bed indeed.” (2:204-206). That is the honest stand of God about these unwarranted destruction of lives and property, about these pains and sufferings and about every evil perpetrated in His name. I remember that this was the verse that opened a documentary I once watched in 1981 on the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan that was authored by the Mujahidun. Today, the same verse could be quoted against al-Qaida and its affiliates. I see no difference between President Truman that dropped nuclear bombs on the innocent citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and my Sunni brothers who bomb members of other sects or religions in Pakistan or Kano. If anything, such actions only bring shame to Islam and Muslims. This short essay is an admonition for the God fearing, whose heart trembles at His mention and whose faith increases at the recitation of His verses. As to he that is unrepentantly committed to the path of destruction, he must understand that the human spirit will certainly triumph over him as it triumphed over the most brutal times of its history. The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. 21 March 2013