Re: “The anatomy of terror!”
“The Prophet (PBUH) said: “I swear by Allah he is not a believer (Muslim), I swear by Allah he is not a(believer) Muslim and I swear by Allah he is not a believer (Muslim), he whose neighbour is not free from his mischief “(Bukhari, Book of Manners)”
“I pray every day to see the fall of the wicked man. I pray that the day will come when we all up in peace and unity. No more chasing one and other without humanity. I pray the day will come that we all share what we have and show the people of the world, that we have to give more love. (Joseph “Culture” Hill- January 22, 1949 - August 19, 2006)”
I read with great pleasure Sedem Ofori's article on terrorism which was published on www.myjonline.com on 6th January 2009 and reproduced on other affiliate websites. Sedem's excellent diagnosis of the chaotic and ambiguity of the definition of terrorism is worth commending. Buttressing his analysis by examples around the world, Ofori excellently led us through memory lane on where certain atrocities are once referred to as an act of terrorism and later redefined as means to seek justice (or fight for freedom). This article will not criticise Ofori's views, but will rather throw more light on the pitfalls of certain commentators on Islam and terrorism, when treading on that fine line between religion, culture and terrorism. Having read other articles by Ofori, I will excuse the pitfall in his article, as deficiency of knowledge on the subject matter, rather than a deliberate attempt to paint all Muslims including Ghanaian Muslims with the same brush.
Why double standard?
Prior to advancing my points, I will like to categorically state my position on this matter which is also buttressed by the curtain raiser quotations of this article, that, as a Muslim, I strongly condemn acts of atrocities, injustice or terror against innocent citizens be it by a Muslim, Christian, Jew, Atheist, Communist, inter alia? Most commentators (i.e., Muslims, Christians, Jews, Atheists, etc) affiliate acts of atrocities of certain recalcitrant elements who claim to be Muslims to Islam (even when no Muslim leader has sanctioned them to do so). Nevertheless, same commentators will shy away from affiliating atrocities caused by Christians or Jews to Christianity or Judaism respectively even when in some cases those atrocities can be traced to the head of that Christian or Jewish denomination. Furthermore where some so called “Christians” commit atrocities, we Muslims never demand answers from the Christian faith but rather isolate those acts as the handiwork of the black sheep of the Christian faith. It is therefore unfortunate for Ofori and other commentators on terrorism to demand explanation from me and other well meaning Muslims when some recalcitrant elements in the Islamic faith cause atrocities which in itself condemned by Islam. As Ofori opine, “But perhaps the Moslem world could do more to state its' case, and by this I appeal to the open mind...”. Last but not the least, Ofori, was very clear in referring to atrocities by “British” and “Europeans” atrocities to their nationality (i.e. British colonialist, European colonialist, European settlers, IRA, etc) and not to their Christian faith, but was quick to assign the acts of Al- Qa'eedah and Taliban to Islam and not Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan where those ideologies came from. When did it become a norm to hold a whole faith responsible for the atrocities of minute recalcitrant within a lager faith? (Taking into reference the size of the 1.2 billion Muslims and few hundred A-Qa'eedah elements) Why this double standard?
1. The Cape Grim massacre, February 10, 1828-1830: British Settlers of the island of Tasmania massacred over 500 aborigines of the Island and spared no single human soul. Lieutenant-Governor Arthur declared martial law on November 1, 1828 allowing roving parties to shoot or capture Aborigines for resettlement. These acts where sanctioned by the governor, who is the representative of King George IV (1820 – 1830). The King also doubles up as the head of the Anglican Church. Nevertheless this atrocity is not referred to as “Anglican terrorism “or “Christian terrorism” and no Muslim demanded explanation from the Anglican denomination or the Christian faith as a whole. Why this double standard?
2. The massacre of Red Indian settlers of North America by the British settlers was sanctioned by the King of Britain. Here again it is not referred to as the “Anglican Terrorism” or Christian terrorism”. Why this double standard?
3. Hitler and Mussolini between them killed six million Jews and terrorised several millions. Both are members of the Catholic Church. It is even historically recorded that Hitler was once schooled in a Catholic seminary. Nevertheless this act of terror is not referred to as “Catholic Terrorism”. Why this double standard?
4. 19th April 1995, 166 people died and more than 100 people injured in the bombing of federal building in Oklahoma City. The perpetrators are Christian, but no one linked it to Christianity. We also know of Omagh bombing in August1998 by Irish Catholics and Oklahoma bombing in 1998. Joseph Stalin (3 April 1922 – 5 March 1953) of the Georgian Orthodox and later the Apostolic faith, in his “Great Terror” campaign killed 20million people and starved to death 14.5 million human beings. It is not referred to as Orthodox or Apostolic Terrorism.
5. Coming home to Ghana, The Massacre of Ghanaians by British Settlers and other atrocities like exiling some of the royal families of the Asante Empire including Yaa Asantewa the Great to Seychelles were sanctioned by the British Governor who is the representative of the British King at that time. Nevertheless it is not referred to as “Anglican Terrorism”
6. Killing of several thousand Ghanaians in the Western region and the beheading of the King which until recently, proudly exhibited in museums in Holland, are acts of terrorism by people who claim to be Christians. Yet no one referred to it as the Christian terrorism and we Ghanaian Muslims didn't demand explanation from our Christian brothers.
The above examples are in no way an exhaustion of instances of double standards when it comes to relating an act of terrorism to Christianity and other religions. Re- confirming my position on this subject matter, I condemn any act of terrorism against innocent people be it by Christians, Catholics, Anglicans, Jews, Sikhs inter alia; with the same honesty I condemn in no uncertain terms the ploy by western media to affiliate barbaric acts by certain recalcitrant element to the Islamic faith.
Islam and Terrorism
“The good deed and the evil deed are not alike. Repel the evil deed with one which is better, then lo! he, between whom and thee there was enmity (will become) as though he was a bosom friend (Qur'an, 41:34)”
In an academic or journalistic exercise, a good research or story will not base its source of reference from hear say but rather on reliable sources. There is no better source of reference for commentators of Islam and Terrorism, than referring to the Islamic scriptures rather than relying on hear say and acts of certain so called Muslims. Ofori, like many commentators on this subject, fell short by relying on hear say as his main source of reference when it comes to what Islam says about terrorism, as he points out;
“A good number of my Moslem friends point to the carnage and apartheid in Palestine, the outright belligerence by the West against Iran's nuclear ambitions; even though it has said that it was meant for useful purposes”.
Ofori further compounded the discourse by shifting away from the subject matter which is Islam and terrorism to wallow in Islamic Jurisprudence- a field in which he possess little or no knowledge at all. Time and the framework of this article will not permit me to make justice to this issue at it needs more than the length of this article to clarify. Ofori, became a victim of the pitfall of carelessly treading the fine line between religion and culture, with his affiliation of Islam and honour killing. He blames Islam for the barbaric Indo-Arab culture of male family members killing female members of the same family for acts that are perceived as against the “honour” of the family. Honour killing existed in the Indian sub-continent long before Islam. In India and Pakistan where the practice is very prevalent, some Hindus and Muslims murder their female family members for an act they perceive as against the honour of the family. Islam condemns honour killing and where act of an individual merits a death sentence, such as committing murder, Islam does not make distinction between the sexes, as it states in the Quran
“If someone kills another person – unless it is in retaliation for someone else or for causing corruption in the earth – it is as if he had murdered all mankind. And if anyone gives life to another person, it is as if he had given life to all mankind. (Qur'an, 5:32)”
The above verse also testifies that, Islam like Christianity forbids the killing of innocent people. Unlike Christianity, Islam went further by encouraging Muslims to be life protectors. The following are some but not exhaustive verses in the Quran where Islam forbids killing of innocent life and for that matter atrocities and acts of terrorism and injustice due to race, religious or ideological differences:
“O Mankind! We created you from a male and female, and made you into peoples and tribes so that you might come to know each other. The noblest among you in God's sight is that one of you who best performs his duty. God is All-Knowing, All-Aware. (Qur'an, 49:13)”
“Be good to your parents and relatives and to orphans and the very poor, and to neighbours who are related to you and neighbours who are not related to you, and to companions and travellers and your slaves. God does not love anyone vain or boastful. (Qur'an, 4:36)”
“... Help one another in benevolence and piety. Do not help each other to wrongdoing and enmity. And fear God. God is severe in retribution. (Qur'an, 5:2)”
I will like to conclude my article by making it clear once again that Islam, strongly condemns any act of atrocities, injustice or terror against innocent citizens, be it by a Muslim, Christian, Jew, Atheist, Communist, inter alia. With the same degree of honesty I equally condemn attempts by some western media to paint all Muslims with the same brush by affiliating the acts of some recalcitrant elements to Islam, even though those actions as I have discussed above are against Islamic teachings, whilst shying away from affiliating acts of recalcitrant Christians or Jews to Judaism or Christianity.
Adamu Abdallah Awudu
(Architect & Urban Planner)