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Archive for the month “March, 2011”

Myth-Conceptions Pt III: Apostasy

The next Islamophobic myth that I will attempt to demystify and debunk, is the belief that Apostasy is punishable by death. Apostasy is the act of renouncing a religion. The claim is that a Muslim that turns their back on Islam should be executed under Sharia law. A recurring theme of intolerance and absence of freedom is obvious when looking at the accusations directed at Islam. Everything we’re led to believe about Islam tells us that it is a rigid, conservative and barbaric doctrine, with any act deemed a crime in Islamic law punishable by beheading, hanging, stoning to death or the removal of limbs.

But some of these things do happen in Muslim majority countries don’t they? Unfortunately, they occasionally do. Countries such as Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, and Somalia have been the subject of attention fairly recently for this reason.

But it must be stressed that these sickening acts have no basis in Islamic texts, and in most cases carried out in areas under Taliban control, or by vigilante groups. Amina Lawal was freed on appeal, while the sentence of Ashtiani is under review and has been the subject of intense international pressure. Also, none of these cases were pertaining to apostasy. But I feel it’s necessary to give the full picture in order to put things into context, and establish where the perceptions stem from. Let’s also remember that supposedly civilised Western societies and non-Muslim countries prescribe the death penalty for certain crimes. The view can be somewhat clouded from the moral high ground.

As with any of the subjects under scrutiny, there is no shortage of material available at the click of a mouse button. It makes you wonder why Islamophobes can’t seem to find it doesn’t it? I will reference and credit every source as usual. Let’s get into it.

Where does this misunderstanding come from? Must be the Qur’an. Right Dr. Ibrahim B. Syed?

The Qur’an is completely silent on any worldly punishment for apostasy.

But I’ve seen the verse. “WHOEVER CHANGED HIS RELIGION, KILL HIM.” Bukhari Volume 9, Book 84, Number 57

It is this quote from the Prophet that forms the basis of the said ruling, and the sole Tradition that forms the basis of rulings is open to many interpretations. But this is a weak foundation because this hadith was only transmitted from Muhammad (pbuh) by one individual.

So it’s not in the Qur’an but the Hadiths. (The hadith are narrations concerning the words and deeds of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Hadith are regarded by traditional Islamic schools of jurisprudence as important tools for understanding the Qur’an and in matters of jurisprudence. Hadith were evaluated and gathered into large collections during the 8th and 9th centuries. These works are referred to in matters of Islamic law and history to this day.) So surely it forms part of Sharia law?

It was not confirmed by a second person. According to Islamic law, this is insufficient confirmation to impose the death penalty. The Shari`ah has not fixed any punishment for apostasy.

Sounds a bit wishy washy, but carry on.

The hadith is so generally worded that it would require the death penalty for a Christian or Jew who converted to Islam. This is obviously not the prophet’s intent. The hadith is in need of further specification, which has not been documented. Many scholars interpret this passage as referring only to instances of high treason. (e.g. declaring war on Islam, Muhammad (pbuh), God, etc.). There is no historical record, which indicates that Muhammad (pbuh) or any of his companions ever sentenced anyone to death for apostasy. Scholars argue that the death sentence is not for “simple apostasy” (mujarrad al-ridda), but for apostasy accompanied by treason and sedition, or by the abuse and slander (sabb) of the Noble Prophet.

Right, so we’re relying on interpretation? Isn’t that dangerous? Shouldn’t there be some sort of law making it concrete?

Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

Perfect. Why can’t the Qur’an be more tolerant like this?

“Let there be no compulsion in the religion: Surely the Right Path is clearly distinct from the crooked path.” Al Baqarah, 2:256.

“Those who believe, then disbelieve, then believe again, then disbelieve, and then increase in their disbelief – Allah will never forgive them nor guide them to the path.” Surah An-Nisa’, 4:137.

“Let him who wishes to believe, do so; and let him who wishes to disbelieve, do so.” (Al-Kahf: 29)

The quotation from Surah An-Nisa’, 4:137, shown above, seems to imply that multiple, sequential apostasies are possible. That would not be possible if the person were executed after the first apostasy.

“There is no compulsion in religion..” (2:256) and “For you is your religion and for me is mine” (109:6).

Oh, I see. That’s more like it, much more reasonable. I’d like a second opinion though if that’s alright. There are still a few issues I need explained. If there is no compulsion why make such an issue of treason? Why make it worth killing for?

Asghar Ali Engineer

There is no question of any compulsion in the matter of belief. In fact this is very important principle because for genuine faith one has to choose it freely.

There are other verses in the Qur’an which negate coercion or compulsion. The Qur’an greatly stresses freedom of choice for genuine faith. For example in the verse 49:14 it becomes quite clear. When some Bedouins became Muslims and called it aamanna (i.e. accepted faith), Qur’an said no they have not accepted faith but have only submitted (aslamna).

The whole verse (49:14) is as follows: “The dwellers of the desert say: We believe. Say: you believe not, but say, We submit; and faith has not yet entered into your hearts.”

One can become true believer only when faith enters ones heart and that can happen only by exercise of genuine freedom, not because of social pressure or coercion or convenience.

The Qur’an proved very right: many dwellers of desert (Bedouins) had submitted to Islam and genuine faith had not entered their hearts and so when the Prophet (PBUH) died they thought Islam had lost its power and went back to their old faith. It is referred to riddah (going back) in the history of Islam. The Caliph Abu Bakr declared war against them which is called war of riddah i.e. war against those who went back on their faith.

Now the war of riddah was not a religious but a political act. Many people had renounced Islam collectively and it had created instability and turmoil in the nascent Islamic society. It was a serious threat to social order. It was not a punishment for a person renouncing faith. Thus it was not an act of a person but a political rebellion, which called for political action to stabilise the nascent society. If it had not been put down it would have not only shaken the very foundation but would have restored pre-Islamic tribal order and shattered the unity created by Islam.

The Qur’an does not accept the principle of coercion in matters of faith.

“Clear proofs indeed have come to you from your Lord; so whoever sees, it is for his own good; and whoever is blind, it is to his own harm. And I am not a keeper over you.” (6:105)

“And say: The Truth is from your Lord; so let him who please believe, and let him who please disbelieve. We have prepared for the iniquitous a Fire, an enclosure of which will encompass them.” (18:29).

It is for Allah to punish, not for any human being. And there is complete freedom to believe or not to believe.

The Qur’an also says, “If Allah so desired all those who are in the earth would have believed, all of them. Will you then force people till they are believers?” (10:99).

Ok, so let me summarise what I’ve learnt so far. The Qur’an, the official word of Allah, allows freedom of faith. The only punishment for renouncing Islam would be in the afterlife, much the same as Christianity. Killing in the name of Islam is only allowed for acts of treason. Not only turning your back on Islam, but also attacking it?

Dr. Louay M. Safi

Despite the Qur’anic emphasis on the freedom of conviction and moral autonomy, many classical jurists contend that a person who renounces Islam or converts to another religion commits a crime of ridda (apostasy) punishable by death. However, because the Qur’an is unequivocal in supporting religious freedom, classical jurists relied, in advocating death penalty for ridda (renouncing Islam), on two hadiths (Prophetic statement), and the precedent of the Muslims fighting against Arab apostates under the leadership of Abu Bakr, the first Caliph. Although the two hadiths are reported in Bukhari and are considered authentic, they are both shaky and do not stand to close scrutiny: “Kill whoever changes his religion”, and “Three acts permit the taking of a person’s life: a soul for a soul, the adultery of a married man, and renouncing religion while severing ties with the community”.

Now both hadith statements cannot stand as credible evidence because they contravene numerous Qur’anic evidence. According to most established juristic schools, a hadith can limit the application of a general Qur’anic statement, but can never negate it. In addition, the hadiths even contradict the practices of the Prophet who reportedly pardoned Muslims who committed ridda. One well-known example is that of Abdullah bin Sa‘d who was pardoned after Osman bin Affan pleaded on his behalf.

Abdullah was one of the few persons appointed by the Prophet to write the revealed texts. After spending a while with the Muslims in Madina, he renounced Islam and returned to the religion of Quraysh. He was brought to the court of the Prophet by Osman, who appealed for his pardon. He was pardoned even though he was still, as the narration indicates, in a state of ridda and was yet to reembrace Islam. If ridda was indeed a hadd (plural hudud), neither Osman would be able to plea for him, nor the Prophet would pardon him in violation of the shari`a law. Therefore, I am inclined to the increasingly popular view among contemporary scholars, that ridda does not involve a moral act of conversion, but a military act of rebellion, whose calming justifies the use of force and the return of fire.

I see. Not only is the violence restricted to what is essentially an act of war, but as previously established, is only permissible in Islam when in self defence. One thing though. I keep thinking of the hadith that’s only relayed by one apostle. The really damning one: ‘Whoever changed his religion, kill him.'” This still doesn’t sound like something from the alleged religion of peace. It seems like it’s being swept under the carpet on a technicality.

Davi Barker

Well… this Hadith is unreliable for a number of reasons… first we’ve gotta read the whole thing:

Bukhari Volume 9, Book 84, Number 57:

Narrated by ‘Ikrima:

Some atheists were brought to ‘Ali and he burnt them. The news of this event, reached Ibn ‘Abbas who said, “If I had been in his place, I would not have burnt them, as Allah’s Apostle forbade it, saying, ‘Do not punish anybody with Allah’s punishment (fire).’ I would have killed them according to the statement of Allah’s Apostle, ‘Whoever changed his religion, kill him.'”

This Hadith appears, with minor variations, in all the major hadith collections (Bukhari, Tirmidhi, Abu Da’ud and Ibn Majah), but always with the same chain of narration. The hadith is narrated only ‘Ikrima in the second generation, and only by Ibn ‘Abbas in the first generation. The only person in the chain who ever met the Prophet is Ibn Abbas, who was 10 years old when he converted and 13 when the Prophet died. Further, examining the reliability of the narrators you’ll find the many scholars considered Ikrima a liar, or at the very least untrustworthy. He was known to sympathize with the extremists of his day known as the Khawarij, who despised Ali.

So, to believe that this was an authentic teaching from Muhammad you’d have to believe that he gave a law prescribing the death penalty to a child, and no one else, not even Ali, who had been his companion for 23 years. And you’d have to believe that the boy tells no one except a liar…. and this is how the law is transmitted. But it’s not even transmitted well. In this narration the word for atheists is “Zanadiqa” which is not Arabic but Persian. In another it says, “those who abandoned Islam” and in another it says, “people from al-Zatt who worshipped idols”. These narrations of the same event are irreconsilable. An atheist can not be an idol worshiper. It’s far easier for me to believe that Ikrima invented this out of whole cloth to discredit the authority of Ali.

This becomes obvious if you read the same Hadith in the collection of Abu Da’ud, which ends differently.

Abu Da`ud 3787

Ayyub informed us from ‘Ikrima that that ‘Ali, peace be upon him, burned some people who abandoned Islam. This reached Ibn ‘Abbas and he said: I would not have burnt them with fire. Indeed, the Messenger of God said: ‘Do not punish with the punishment of God.’ I would have killed them in accordance with the word of the Messenger of God. For, surely the Messenger of God said: ‘Whoever changed his religion kill him’.” This reached ‘Ali, peace be upon him, and he said: ‘Woe to Ibn ‘Abbas’.

It’s a Hadith about a rumor that Ali has been burning apostates (which never happened by the way) and when the rumor reached Ali, he says “woe” to the person spreading the rumor. Ibn ‘Abbas was vindicated however. It was reported by Abdullah bin al-Harith that when he visited ‘Ali, he was shocked to find ‘Ikrima bound to a post outside the door of ‘Ali’s house. When he asked ‘Ali regarding this ‘Ali explained by saying: “This wicked man attributes false traditions to Ibn ‘Abbas.” This Hadith is now what it was then… a vicious rumor.

Right. Let me get this straight.

A) Islam allows freedom of religion.

B) Only Allah decides the fate of apostates, after they have died.

C) When killing apostates is mentioned in the Qur’an, it is in the context of a war against Islam and only in self defence.

D) There is evidence to suggest that Bukhari Volume 9, Book 84, Number 57, is a lie or rumour.

So why do we still hear of instances like that of Abdul Rahman?

Rehman Faiz

Abdul Rahman was detained two weeks ago (2006) when his relatives reported to the police about his conversion to Christianity which is forbidden under Islamic Sharia law. Supreme Court Judge Ansarullah Mawlavizada has persisted that Abdul Rahman, is in police custody and that he could face the death penalty if he refused to become a Muslim again.

But that’s just insane!

It is important to note here that the strict Sharia law was introduced and implemented by Taliban, who confronted strict criticism by the secular states especially by the West governments and if sentenced to death, the man will be the first to be punished for conversion since the dismissal of the Taliban regime.

The Sharia law has been criticized due to its clash with the known and recognized global standards of human rights especially its clauses relating to blasphemy, Hudood, Qisas or Diyat issues. These clauses have harshly been used in many of the Muslim countries mostly to set personal scores against minorities, and to badly violate the minorities’ and women’s rights.

The accretion of discriminatory religious legislation in many Muslim countries has fostered an atmosphere of religious intolerance, which contributes to acts of violence directed against Muslim and non Muslim minorities groups like Hindus, Christians Ahmadis, Zikris, and Shias. Even if the Government does not encourage sectarian violence, there are instances in which the Governments failed to intervene in cases of societal violence directed at minority religious groups. In this regard it is considered that the separation of religion from the state is crucial in order to grantee equal and just rights for all.

The basic Islamic ideology in the Quran ensures freedom of religion: “Surely, those who believe, those who are Jewish, the Christians, and the converts; anyone who (1) believes in God, and (2) believes in the Last Day, and (3) leads a righteous life, will receive their recompense from their Lord. They have nothing to fear, nor will they grieve”. 2:62] “Let there be no compulsion in religion” [2:256]

It is important to note here that the Quran authorizes death penalty for murder and other horrendous crimes, not for apostasy: “You shall not kill any person – for GOD has made life sacred – except in the course of justice. If one is killed unjustly, then we give his heir authority to enforce justice” [17:33]. Another Quranic verse states: “For this reason did We prescribe to the children of Israel that whoever slays a soul, unless it be for manslaughter or for mischief in the land, it is as though he slew all men; and whoever keeps it alive, it is as though he kept alive all men” [5:32].

Rahman was released on March 29th 2006 as the Afghan authorities claimed he wasn’t mentally fit to stand trial.

This is probably a rare occurrence due to the fact that conversion from Islam is rare in countries such as Afghanistan. What would happen if it occurred on a more frequent basis? The outcome of this case suggests that intense scrutiny from the international community would be enough for the Government to intervene. This still doesn’t address the fact that the influence of conservative clerics means that freedom of religion is not observed as the Qur’an intended, and is a strong case for the separation of church and state.

Just for balance let me ask you to read the following extracts, compare them to what’s been printed above, and think for a moment. Maybe an expert can shed light on whether they have been taken out of context, or whether there are varying interpretations.

“If your brother…or your son or your daughter….entice you secretly, saying, ‘Let us go and worship other gods’…You must kill him…you must stone him with stones, that he die.”

(Deuteronomy, 13:6-10).

2 Chronicles 15:13 which reads: “All who would not seek the LORD, the God of Israel, were to be put to death, whether small or great, man or woman.”

If Western society can operate without taking the above literally, and if the purest word of Allah is one of freedom, tolerance and pluralism. It becomes clear that something has been corrupted at some point in history. I hope to address this complex issue at a later date. Hopefully that will go some way to explaining contradictory attitudes and claims of clerics and scholars, and why such an enormous disparity exists. Whether the perception of Muslim majority countries as primitive, insular, impoverished and barbaric societies is accurate, and if so, why?

I will nudge you in the direction of Egypt as an example of a Muslim majority country that united to end an oppressive and undemocratic regime. Look at Tunisia, and now Syria, Bahrain, Yemen and of course Lybia. I’ll leave the last words to Hasan Zillur Rahim.

While Rahman’s travails remind us that we still have ways to go before the interpretation of Islam is loosened from the grips of dogmatists, we can also take some satisfaction at the progress that has been made.

Implementing Sharia, as the Taliban defined it, became synonymous with beatings and killings. Is it any wonder that anytime patriarchal clerics talk of implementing Sharia, it sends shivers down the spines of Muslims in the affected area, particularly Muslim women?

Hopefully, killing for apostasy and stoning to death (only women need apply) for adultery will soon be a thing of the past as absolutist clerics realize that their hold over Muslim minds and hearts is rapidly dissipating. In the Age of the Internet, ideas travel with the speed of light and millions of Muslims are taking advantage of it to deepen their understanding of Islam and mobilize support for progressive and humane causes. Even Muslims in traditional societies are beginning to see that faith is far more a matter of personal responsibility than a consequence of authoritarian decree. The days of any religious leader thundering “I am right, you are dead” will soon, let us pray, be over once and for all.

To read the full articles, and the case of Fathima Rifqa Bary who’s story is often invoked by Geller, Spencer et al in relation to apostasy, the links are below. I have also included links to what the other major religions say about apostasy for balance.

http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/shariah_is_killing_an_apostate_in_the_islamic_law/

http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/islam_and_punishment_for_apostasy/

http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/apostasy_and_religious_freedom/

http://www.examiner.com/muslim-in-san-francisco/apostasy-an-unqualified-fatwa

http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/the_case_of_the_afghan_apostate/

http://www.countercurrents.org/faiz280306.htm

http://www.loonwatch.com/2009/09/apostasy/

http://barthsnotes.wordpress.com/2009/08/22/fathima-rifqa-bary-custody-case-becomes-anti-muslim-circus/

http://www.newadvent.org/summa/3010.htm

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Hip-Hop for grown-ups

Unity Through Music

Just an excuse to post some quality music really. But it wouldn’t be me without a predictable pro-unity slant!

Brother Ali – Muslim

Ill Bill – Jewish & Vinnie Paz – Muslim

MC Paul Barman – Jewish

Mos Def – Muslim

Reverend Run – Christian

Myth-Conceptions Pt. II: Death to the Infidel.

The second misconception I’m going to address, and possibly the one responsible for most of the fear that lies at the root of Islamophobia, is the claim that Islam calls for the death of non-believers, also known as infidels or Kuffar. The EDL actually use the word Infidel as a term of endearment, and wear it as a badge of honour.

How true is this? Is there any foundation to the fear? You’ll be reminded of 9/11 and the thousands killed on that fateful day, the 7/7 London bombings, the Times Square bomber, the Madrid & Bali atrocities, as well as numerous failed and foiled attempts to slaughter innocents. We are then presented with quotes straight from the Qu’ran.

“Now when you meet the unbelievers, smite their necks until you overcome them fully…” (47:4).

Or this one:

” O you who have attained to faith! Fight against those unbelievers who are near you and let them find you adamant, and know that God is with those who are conscious of Him” (9:123).

Or this one:

“O Prophet! Strive hard (lit., make “jihad”) against the unbelievers and the hypocrites and be adamant with them… ” (66:73).

Yet, perhaps the “poster child” of all the verses in the Qur’an which are cited as evidence that Islam calls for the murder of infidels is this one, the so-called “Verse of the Sword”:

“Slay the pagans wherever you may come upon them, and take them captive, and besiege them, and lie in wait for them at every conceivable place…” (9:5)

You’ll find these passages on every anti-Islamic blog and website being presented as proof that the Qur’an orders Muslims to kill non-believers. It doesn’t look good so far does it? Shit. How many Muslims are there worldwide? Latest figures estimate 1.57 billion. That’s quite a lot, 23% of the global population. Nearly a quarter. Each Muslim would only need to take out 4 infidels each, what are they waiting for? The Qur’an is 1400 years old for crying out loud!

What about the UK? We keep hearing about the Islamisation of our green and pleasant land. You can’t move for Mosques going up on every corner, Halal meat is being forced down our kids necks like geese at Christmas, no not Christmas we can’t say that anymore, we’re not allowed to cook bacon in our own homes with the windows open, and Muslims can even settle divorces with their own barbaric laws, in OUR COUNTRY!

The last census had the UK’s Muslim population at 1.6m, but more recent estimates claim that it’s nearer 2.4m. In a country of roughly 60m people, that accounts for 4%. A ratio of 1 Muslim to every 25 non-Muslim. I suppose total annihilation would be fairly problematic, but having said that, Muslims are breeding (Muslims don’t procreate or reproduce, only humans do that) at such a high rate they’ll outnumber us soon anyway.

But hang on though. I’ve actually met some Muslims, and I’m still alive. Maybe the beard confused them? What about Manny I used to work with? Ali I went to college, got drunk and stoned with? What about the Somali family two doors down? What about the Bangladeshi lads who put up with me and my drunken mates ordering a curry at 1am? What about the hundreds of taxi drivers that have ensured my safe arrival home on a wet Friday night? What about the doctors and nurses who helped deliver my daughters? See what I’m getting at? Common sense should be able to tell us that what the likes of Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer, the EDL and BNP are warning us of is not borne out by reality.

This isn’t good enough though. Common sense hasn’t been distributed equally throughout the human race. If the Qur’an encourages, and approves the global genocide of non-believers, some devout Muslims will feel compelled to obey the command won’t they? If the Qur’an is the word of Allah they wouldn’t be a true Muslim unless they follow his word, right?

I could refer to any number of essays and commentaries but I’ll quote Dr. Hesham Hassaballa and his work on this particular misconception. It’s fairly lengthy and could probably be explained far more concisely, but I’ve decided to print a large chunk just in case anyone reading needs to be utterly convinced.

In a nutshell, the Qur’an only allows fighting as self-defence. Put in their proper context within the book, and that period of history, it is clear that the aforementioned verses are not a carte blanche for Muslims to kill all non-Muslims.

According to all available Traditions, the earliest verses revealed with regards to fighting are these:

“Permission [to fight] is given to those against whom war is being wrongfully waged and, verily, God has indeed the power to succour them; those who have been driven from their homelands against all right for no other reason than their saying, ‘Our sustainer is God!’ ” (22:39-40).

Along with this verse is 2:190, which says:

“And fight in God’s cause against those who wage war against you…”

The Qur’an clearly states, in the remainder of 2:190 it says:

“…but do not commit aggression, for verily, God does not love aggressors.”

“Committing aggression” includes killing innocent civilians in Tel Aviv, Beslan, New York, Baghdad, or wherever. Furthermore, when the enemy ceases its hostility, fighting must cease:

“…but if they desist, then all hostility shall cease, save against those who [willfully] do wrong” (2:193).

“But if they [the enemy] incline to peace, incline thou to it as well, and place thy trust in God: verily, He alone is all-hearing, all-knowing! And should they seek but to deceive thee [by their show of peace] – behold, God is enough for thee! He it is who has strengthened thee with His succour and by giving thee believing followers” (8:61-62).

Thus, even if the enemy is feigning a peaceful posture, the Muslims are still commanded to cease hostility and “place their trust in God.” Thus, it is quite clear that fighting is in self-defence, and aggression is not allowed.

The point of the matter is, the framework underlying fighting in Islam is self-defence, and all other verses which deal with fighting or call on the believers to “fight the unbelievers” must be understood in this framework.

Here Dr. Hesham Hassaballa gives the historical context.

The Prophet’s message of “there is none worthy of worship except God” was a direct challenge to the power structure. If the Arabs abandon their worship of the pagan gods, the Quraysh’s logic went, Quraysh’s economic monopoly vanishes. Moreover, “there is none worthy of worship besides God” also challenged their non-chalant attitude toward the enormous injustice of Arab society in the Seventh Century. When someone pledges that there is none worthy of worship except God, they necessarily accept God’s way of doing things and running their lives. Preventing injustice and having concern for the poor and less fortunate is an essential aspect of Islamic ethics, and this was a challenge the Meccan oligarchs were not willing to take up. Thus, they opposed the Prophet’s message.

On top of the relentless attacks and hostility toward the Muslims from the direction of Mecca, many surrounding Arab and Bedouin tribes were also hostile to the Muslims, and they joined in the fight against the Prophet. In fact, these Arab tribes sought to assassinate the Prophet on many occasions. The hostility did not cease until the signing of the Treaty of Hudaybiyah in 628 C.E., and it was only after the Meccans broke the treaty (contrary to some modern accusations) that the Prophet finally marched on Mecca and conquered it in 630.

It was in this terribly hostile environment that the verses commanding the Muslims to “fight the unbelievers” were revealed. This was the historical context of verse 9:5 and others like it. Quite clearly, the verses are commanding the Muslims to defend themselves against the aggression of their enemies, and they are not commands for the Muslims to “kill all infidels.”

Now that we understand that fighting in Islam is purely self-defensive and that the Prophet (pbuh) was violently opposed to the bitter end, we can understand verse 9:5 – along with those similar to it – more completely. Indeed, the verse is very violent at first glance:

“…slay the pagans where you may come upon them, and take them captive, and besiege them, and lie in wait for them at every conceivable place” (9:5).

Yet, go back and start at the beginning – whilst knowing what we already know – and you will understand that this verse is not an open exhortation for violence against those who are not Muslim:

“And so, when the sacred months are over, slay those who ascribe divinity to aught beside God wherever you may come upon them, and take them captive, and besiege them, and lie in wait of them at every conceivable place. Yet if they repent, and take to prayer, and render the purifying dues, let them go their way: for, behold, God is Much-Forgiving, a Dispenser of Grace.” (9:5)

This verse is specific to a specific time, and it is not understood by the overwhelming majority of Muslims to be a general call for murder against all those who are not Muslim.

By the way, it seems that the verse has a “convert or die” clause by saying “if they repent…”, but Muhammad Asad has a nice explanation of this:

“Now the enemy’s conversion to Islam – expressed in the words, ‘if they repent, and take to prayer (lit., “establish prayer”) and render the purifying dues (zakah)’ – is no more than one, and by no means the only, way of their “desisting from hostility”; and the reference to it in verses 5 and 11 of this surah certainly does not imply an alternative of ‘conversion or death,’ as some unfriendly critics of Islam choose to assume.”

Fighting is only in self-defense, and verse 9:5 is in keeping with this principle. This is further supported by the subsequent verses in the chapter.

“And if any of those who ascribe divinity to aught beside God (i.e., the pagans) seeks thy protection, grant him protection, so that he might [be able to] hear the word of God [from thee]; and thereupon convey him to a place where he can feel secure: this, because they [may be] people who [sin only because they] do not know [the truth].” (9:6)

The commentator Razi believes the phrase “place where he can feel secure” denotes his homeland. As Muhammad Asad explains, this implies that he is free to accept or not accept the message of the Qur’an. If verse 9:5 is a open exhortation for the murder of all non-Muslims, they why would the Qur’an immediately tell the Muslims to grant a pagan protection to hear the word of God and then let him go to a place of safety?

The Qur’an is quite clear: if non-Muslims do not show hostility towards the Muslims, then they are not to be harmed. Nay, they are to be treated with kindness and respect:

“As for such [of the unbelievers] as do not fight against you on account of [your] faith, and neither drive you from your homelands, God does not forbid you to show them kindness and to behave towards them full equity, for verily, God loves those who act equitably.” (60:8)

According to Zamakhshari, the expression “God does not forbid you” implies a positive exhortation. Moreover, remember the first verse revealed about fighting? I did not tell you why God has ordained armed conflict as a last resort in Islam…until now:

“Permission [to fight] is given to those against whom war is being wrongfully waged and, verily, God has indeed the power to succour them: those who have been driven from their homelands against all right for no other reason than their saying, ‘Our Sustainer is God!’ For, if God had not enabled people to defend themselves against one another, [all] monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques – in [all of] which God’s name is abundantly extolled – would surely have been destroyed [before now].” (22:39-40, emphasis added).

If non-Muslims are “worse than trash” in Islam, if Muslims are supposed to “kill all the infidels,” then how could it be that the protection of churches and synagogues (along with mosques) are cited as the reason to fight? This can be when one realizes that the contention that Muslims are supposed to “kill all the infidels” is a farcical falsehood, which it is. Non-Muslims are not “worse than trash” in Islam, the Qur’an itself says so:

“Verily, those who have attained to faith [in this divine writ], as well as those who follow the Jewish faith, and the Christians, and the Sabians (author note: possibly the Mandaeans, the followers of John the Baptist) – All who believe in God and the Last Day and do righteous deeds – shall have their reward with their Sustainer, and no fear need they have, and neither shall they grieve.” (2:62)

Digesting the verses is not easy if you’re unaccustomed to it, and even more so if, like me, you’re an atheist and you don’t really ‘feel’ it. But ‘feeling’ it is less important to me than understanding and relaying the truth. As I mentioned earlier, you don’t need to be a loony lefty, a theologian or even need to read the extracts I’ve included to know that all Muslims aren’t hell bent on wiping out Western civilization. But if, like me, it’s not enough just to kind of ‘know’, and you want a clearer understanding of the facts, it’s not that much of a hardship. If you want to read the full articles however, the links are below.

An explanation of 4:47 can be found here:

HUSSAM AYLOUSH

http://jmm.aaa.net.au/articles/15543.htm

Dr. Hesham Hassaballa

http://www.theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/does_islam_call_for_the_murder_of_infidels_part_i_ii/

http://www.theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/does_islam_call_for_the_murder_of_infidels_part_iii_and_iv/

Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi

http://www.theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/quran_2191_489_does_the_quran_teach_violence/

And Justice for all………?

While the tabloid media is shrieking it’s disgust from the front pages with regards to the ‘Muslim Poppy Burners’ £50 fine, and the right wing reactionaries are jerking their knees with rage. EDL ‘leader’ Guramit Singh walked free, without charge after being cleared of intentionally causing religiously aggravated harassment, alarm or distress. He was arrested on December 11th, 2010 at the EDL’s Peterborough demo after a complaint about a speech he gave there. If you haven’t had the pleasure here’s a snippet:

I’m going to tell you precisely right now what threat of Islam is. Muhammad and Islam is not a religion… Muhammad was a paedophilic pirate… Islam, in not just this country but around the world, has been using their disgusting threat, their threat has been going on for 1400 years, “if you do not bow before Muhammad and his so-called Allah, you are to be beheaded”… Hitler had fuck all on Muhammad.

The Koran and the Hadiths is written in Arabic. Muslims are not allowed to be taught Arabic in the mosque. Muslims are told, “do not question what your Imam says”, although they don’t even know what the Imam’s saying, because the Imam’s just a “Allah, fuck it”. Stick your Allah up your arse, you cunt. Fuck em, fuck em, fuck em. I’m not being funny, fuck em. I may get arrested for this shit, but fuck em, fuck em, I’m not having it, fuck em, fuck em, fuck em, fuck em.

…The UAF, the counter-protestors, the members of the Islamic community: English Defence League 2011, we’re coming to a street near you. We ain’t even fucking started yet.

Standard EDL fare really. Mention of paedophilia? Check. Beheading for infidels? Check. Comparison to Hitler? Check. But let’s get this straight. His message to the assembled crowd and any passers by regarding Muslims is “fuck ‘em”. Ten times no less. An additional ‘fuck’, a ‘fucking’, one ‘arse’, one ‘shit’ and he dropped the C-bomb for good measure. On a PA system. Also, is it just me or does the closing salvo sound like a threat?

Let’s look at the poppy burning incident without rage tinted glasses. There were between 30 – 50 MAC members depending on the source. There were a handful of signs with anti-war/anti-military slogans such as ‘British Soldiers: Terrorists’, ‘Hands off Muslim lands’ and pro-Islam ones like ‘Islam will dominate’ and ‘There is no God but Allah’. There were also some tasteless and provocative chants of ‘British Soldiers Burn in Hell’ and ‘Mass Murderers’. As their piece de resistance they proceeded to burn two plastic poppies. As one of them stated: “We wanted to upset people and we wanted them to hurt.”

They wanted to offend people, they wanted attention and they got exactly what they wanted. Job done. The offenders were arrested and processed through the justice system. The fine was for a “calculated and deliberate insult to the war dead and everyone who mourns them” according to reports from the court. I haven’t seen what the actual charge is, presumably some form of Public Order Offence. We can argue about inconsistent sentencing, but isn’t this about right? It was disrespectful, hateful, and inflammatory but what exactly should have happened? The people angriest at this would probably support deportation, a prison sentence or if you look at EDL facebook pages gruesome torture and a slow, painful death. But on what grounds? Treason? This crime still exists and is punishable with life imprisonment. I’m sure this would be just about acceptable for the EDL/BNP lot. They would still prefer the 19th century punishment of hanging, disemboweling, beheading and quartering. No one has been prosecuted for treason since the infamous William ‘Lord Haw-Haw’ Joyce who was executed in 1946. This includes crimes during the ‘troubles’ which were prosecuted as murder or other crimes. In 2005 however the government considered bringing the charge back into practice for Islamic clerics that had been condoning terrorism and the actions of insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq. At the time Lord Carlile QC, the governments reviewer of anti-terror laws said:

“I don’t think there is a lawyer still alive and working who has ever appeared in any part of a treason case,” the Liberal Democrat peer told BBC News. Treason usually applied to wars between nations, he said. Lord Carlile argued existing laws could be used, such as charges of solicitation or incitement to murder, commonly seen in contract killing cases.

This is exactly what happened in 2006 when Abu Hamza was  charged with inciting murder under the Terrorism Act 2000, and was sentenced to 7 years in prison. No matter how offensive the fuckwittery of the MAC, it’s not inciting murder (unless you count the homicidal sentiments directed towards them). I’m going to cut to the chase. The ill-feeling towards the poppy burners has as much to do with their faith and ethnicity as their actions. It’s racism wrapped up in nationalism. The disrespecting of people who have died in wars is one thing, but the fact that it may be immigrants or sons of immigrants doing it is what’s sending the frothing into overdrive. The burning of a symbol such as the poppy is too much for people who’s national pride is derived in a large part from imperialism and military conquests. Not being one who shares in this pride, whilst I appreciate the symbolism, to me they just incinerated some flimsy plastic flowers. It was a cheap publicity stunt that should have been denied any sort of acknowledgement. For me, Singh’s abusive tirade was the more serious incident. It was much closer to the hate speech of Abu Hamza than the actions of MAC. What if something had gone horribly wrong in Peterborough that day? Would he and the EDL be held responsible? Would Singh be facing a lengthy period behind bars?

Tommy Robinson said: “We are pleased the charges were dropped – there was nothing in them.”

Nothing?

Cause and Effect: The Root of Evil

Since September the 11th 2001, we have become painfully aware of a wave of Islamic extremism that has made Islam public enemy number one in the eyes of governments, law enforcers and the general public of the Western world. Al-Qaeda became a household name, the Taliban became the embodiment of evil and we learnt of mysterious Arabic words like Jihad. Then came buzz words and catchphrases that would go on to define an era, the War on Terror, the Axis of Evil and Weapons of Mass Destruction and Osama Bin Laden became the most famous man on the planet.

The ensuing decade has seen the evolution of the Islamic threat into the modern-day equivalent of the post war Red Scare. The media have been saturated with fear mongering propaganda, and we’ve seen the birth of the ‘expert’ that has been warning us of the threat to democracy and western values that radical Islam poses. How their holy book, the Qur’an commands them to commit to the jihad against the non-believing west. How would be martyrs are taught that by making the ultimate sacrifice (a suicide bombing) to Islam and Allah, they will be greeted by 72 virgins in paradise. How they despise the west for its hedonistic lifestyle, capitalist materialism, and above everything its freedom. These overnight scholars of Islam and terrorism have made it clear that the root of the problem is Islam, the result is terrorism, and the aim is global dominance in the form of an Islamic caliphate ruled by Sharia law. We must either fight back, submit or be killed. Oh, and don’t have nightmares y’all.

So ‘we’ invaded Iraq and Afghanistan to spread peace and democracy. The USA introduced the Patriot Act and the UK passed the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 to keep us all safe. And what a resounding success these measures have been. Eh? Saddam Hussein was toppled in Iraq, the Taliban government has been replaced in Afghanistan and the US & UK has seen nothing on the scale of 9/11 and 7/7 since. But don’t be fooled into thinking that the War on Terror has been won. Just look at Faisal Shahzad the Times Square bomber, Mohamed Osman Mohamud the Christmas Tree bomber, Bilal Abdullah and Kafeel Ahmed the Glasgow Airport bombers, the 17 men charged with the 2006 transatlantic aircraft plot, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab the 2009 Underwear bomber, the 2010 printer cartridge bomb plot, and many more foiled and unsuccessful attempts. Clear evidence that the jihad against the West is ongoing and ‘they’ are living among us.

It’s not just extremists either. Learned analysts of the scriptures are now telling us that there is no moderate Islam. The terrorists are merely following the orders from the Qur’an and the example of Muhammad, who was the original jihadist. They even quote verses that prove all of this. Challenge this and you’re an apologist. Dispute it and you’re a dhimmi. Question it and you’re a communist. To even want to debate it is downright un-patriotic. Well I’ve been called a lot worse, so where shall we begin?

If the terrorist attacks aren’t driven by Islamic fundamentalism, what is it?

Donald Rumsfeld, who served as Secretary of Defence of the USA under Gerald Ford and George W Bush, was complicit in the decision to invade Iraq, arguably responsible for what happened at Abu Ghraib, and was certainly instrumental in manipulating public opinion. Not the CV of someone you would describe as an apologist or dhimmi. In 2004 he commissioned the Defence Science Board Task Force to study what causes terrorism. Here are some of the findings:

The Task Force began by noting what are the “underlying sources of threats to America’s national security”:  namely, the “negative attitudes” towards the U.S. in the Muslim world and “the conditions that create them”. And what most exacerbates anti-American sentiment, and therefore the threat of Terrorism?

“American direct intervention in the Muslim world” — through our “one-sided support in favor of Israel”; support for Islamic tyrannies in places like Egypt and Saudi Arabia; and, most of all, “the American occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan”

Let’s just repeat that:  “Muslims do not ‘hate our freedom,’ but rather, they hate our policies.” And nothing fuels — meaning: helps — the Islamic radicals’ case against the U.S. more than ongoing American occupation of Muslim countries:

For that reason, “a year and a half after going to war in Iraq, Arab/Muslim anger [had] intensified” and the war had thus “weakened support for the war on terrorism and undermined U.S. credibility worldwide”

As Glenn Greenwald puts it: It’s not Noam Chomsky or Al Jazeera pointing out these basic truths, but instead, a 2004 Task Force handpicked by Donald Rumsfeld’s Pentagon to review and assess the Bush administration’s anti-terrorism efforts, principally the wars they were waging in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Greenwald also quotes the reports by David Rohde, a NY Times writer who spent 7 months as a hostage of the Taliban. It’s a fascinating insight and makes compelling reading. The full articles are here. But some telling excerpts state:

Commanders fixated on the deaths of Afghan, Iraqi and Palestinian civilians in military airstrikes, as well as the American detention of Muslim prisoners who had been held for years without being charged.

Some of their comments were factual. They said large numbers of civilians had been killed in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Palestinian territories in aerial bombings. Muslim prisoners had been physically abused and sexually humiliated in Iraq. Scores of men had been detained in Cuba and Afghanistan for up to seven years without charges.

When I told them I was an innocent civilian who should be released, they responded that the United States had held and tortured Muslims in secret detention centers for years. Commanders said they themselves had been imprisoned, their families ignorant of their fate. Why, they asked, should they treat me differently?

One morning, [Aby Tayyeb, chief of the captors] wept at news that a NATO airstrike had killed women and children in southern Afghanistan. A guard explained to me that Abu Tayyeb reviled the United States because of the civilian deaths. . . .

Americans invaded Afghanistan to enrich themselves, they argued, not to help Afghans.

To counter any accusations that this could be a puff piece by someone suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, Rohde also writes:

It was a universe filled with contradictions. My captors assailed the West for killing civilians, but they celebrated suicide attacks orchestrated by the Taliban that killed scores of Muslim bystanders. They bitterly denounced missionaries, but they pressed me to convert to their faith. They complained about innocent Muslims being imprisoned by the United States, even as they continued to hold us captive. . . .

A more recent study by Robert Pape, a University of Chicago political science professor and former Air Force lecturer substantiates these reports. An article by Laura Rozen summarises:

Pape and his team of researchers draw on data produced by a six-year study of suicide terrorist attacks around the world that was partially funded by the Defence Department’s Defence Threat Reduction Agency. They have compiled the terrorism statistics in a publicly available database comprising some 10,000 records on some 2,200 suicide terrorism attacks, dating back to the first suicide terrorism attack of modern times — the 1983 truck bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, which killed 241 U.S. Marines.

The report states: While there were a total of 12 suicide attacks from 2001 to 2005 in Afghanistan when the U.S. had a relatively limited troop presence of a few thousand troops mostly in Kabul, since 2006 there have been more than 450 suicide attacks in Afghanistan. Deaths due to suicide attacks in Afghanistan have gone up by a third in the year since President Barack Obama added 30,000 more U.S. troops. When you put the foreign military presence in, it triggers suicide terrorism campaigns . . . and that when the foreign forces leave, it takes away almost 100% of the terrorist campaign.

But what about the terrorists themselves? The cries of Allahu Akbar, the threats to ‘Infidels’? As far as they’re concerned, they are doing Gods work aren’t they? It’s a lot more complex than a yes or no answer. There are some who probably do genuinely believe this. There are others who distort interpretations to justify their actions. There are also the ones who manipulate others into action with their corrupted version of Islam. For instance, if it’s the ultimate sacrifice to die doing Allah’s work through jihad, how come the likes of Bin Laden, al-Zawahiri, al-Awlaki and Mohammed Omar are on the run or in hiding?

In their 1998 fatwa Bin Laden and al-Zawahiri declared ‘Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders’ clearly stating the reasons and flimsy justification. It’s chilling reading bearing in mind what happened 3 years later, but to be totally cold, much of the reasoning is based in fact, that is backed up by Western studies, no matter how deplorable their agenda and misleading the religious element.

First, for over seven years the United States has been occupying the lands of Islam in the holiest of places, the Arabian Peninsula, plundering its riches, dictating to its rulers, humiliating its people, terrorizing its neighbors, and turning its bases in the Peninsula into a spearhead through which to fight the neighboring Muslim Peoples.

If some people have in the past argued about the fact of the occupation, all the people of the Peninsula have now acknowledged it. The best proof of this is the Americans’ continuing aggression against the Iraqi people using the Peninsula as a staging post, even though all its rulers are against their territories being used to that end, but they are helpless.

Second, despite the great devastation inflicted on the Iraqi people by the crusader-Zionist alliance, and despite the huge number of those killed, which has exceeded 1 million… despite all this, the Americans are once against trying to repeat the horrific massacres, as though they are not content with the protracted blockade imposed after the ferocious war or the fragmentation and devastation.

So here they come to annihilate what is left of this people and to humiliate their Muslim neighbors.

Third, if the Americans’ aims behind these wars are religious and economic, the aim is also to serve the Jews’ petty state and divert attention from its occupation of Jerusalem and murder of Muslims there. The best proof of this is their eagerness to destroy Iraq, the strongest neighboring Arab state, and their endeavor to fragment all the states of the region such as Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Sudan into paper statelets and through their disunion and weakness to guarantee Israel’s survival and the continuation of the brutal crusade occupation of the Peninsula.

What about the footsoldiers, the ones carrying out attacks on Western soil? Not much coverage is given to the testimony of would be terrorists, why would there be? We know they’re blindly following a barbaric doctrine. Why should we give them the oxygen of publicity? Maybe because we could learn something.

Mohamed Osman Mohamud was a 19 year-old Somali born American citizen. He was arrested last year after plotting to commit a terrorist attack in Oregon. If you’re not familiar with this case, he became known as the Christmas Tree bomber and was to all intents and purposes entrapped by the FBI. During their grooming process they recorded several conversations. Here’s a snippet:

Undercover FBI Agent:  You know there’s gonna be a lot of children there?

Mohamud:  Yeah, I know, that’s what I’m looking for.

Undercover FBI Agent:  For kids?

Mohamud:  No, just for, in general a huge mass that will, like for them you know to be attacked in their own element with their families celebrating the holidays.  And then for later to be saying, this was them for you to refrain from killing our children, women . . . . so when they hear all these families were killed in such a city, they’ll say you know what your actions, you know they will stop, you know.  And it’s not fair that they should do that to people and not feeling it.

And here’s what he allegedly said in a video he made shortly before he thought he would be detonating the bomb:

For as long as you threaten our security, your people will not remain safe. As your soldiers target our civilians, we will not help to do so. Did you think that you could invade a Muslim land, and we would not invade you?

Faisal Shahzad was a Pakistani born American citizen who became known as the Times Square bomber. When pleading guilty to the charges he told the court:

“It’s a war”. If the United States does not get out of Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries controlled by Muslims, he said, “we will be attacking U.S.,” adding that Americans “only care about their people, but they don’t care about the people elsewhere in the world when they die.”

The Washington Post continues:

As soon as he was taken into custody May 3 at John F. Kennedy International Airport, onboard a flight to Dubai, the Pakistani-born Shahzad told agents that he was motivated by opposition to U.S. policy in the Muslim world, officials said.

“One of the first things he said was, ‘How would you feel if people attacked the United States? You are attacking a sovereign Pakistan,’ “ said one law enforcement official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the interrogation reports are not public. “In the first two hours, he was talking about his desire to strike a blow against the United States for the cause.”

ABC News adds:

“But not the people who were walking in Times Square that night. Did you look around to see who they were?”

“Well, the people select the government,” Shahzad said. “We consider them all the same. The drones, when they hit … “

Cedarbaum interrupted again: “Including the children?”

Shahzad answered: “Well, the drone hits in Afghanistan and Iraq, they don’t see children, they don’t see anybody. They kill women, children, they kill everybody. It’s a war, and in war, they kill people. They’re killing all Muslims.”

Later, he added: “I am part of the answer to the U.S. terrorizing the Muslim nations and the Muslim people.”

“Can you tell me a way to save the oppressed? And a way to fight back when rockets are fired at us and Muslim blood flows?”

There is a decade worth of e-mails between Shahzad and friends where he expressed the same opinions and concerns.

Mohammed Atta, the Egyptian born 9/11 hijacker and ringleader was a University educated man from an academic and affluent family. He moved to Germany in 1992, and most reports of him are of an intelligent but insular individual. It was obvious he had religious beliefs, along with political motivations, including anger at U.S. policy toward the Middle East, particularly the Oslo Accords and the Gulf War. It has been documented that his behaviour became increasingly unfriendly and introverted.

Juan Cole, Professor of History at the University of Michigan and historian of the modern Middle East:

In 1996, Israeli jets bombed a UN building where civilians had taken refuge at Cana/ Qana in south Lebanon, killing 102 persons; in the place where Jesus is said to have made water into wine, Israeli bombs wrought a different sort of transformation. In the distant, picturesque port of Hamburg, a young graduate student studying traditional architecture of Aleppo saw footage like this on the news [graphic]. He was consumed with anguish and the desire for revenge. As soon as operation Grapes of Wrath had begun the week before, he had written out a martyrdom will, indicating his willingness to die avenging the victims, killed in that operation–with airplanes and bombs that were a free gift from the United States. His name was Muhammad Atta. Five years later he piloted American Airlines 11 into the World Trade Center.

On Tuesday, the Israeli military shelled a United Nations school to which terrified Gazans had fled for refuge, killing at least 42 persons and wounding 55, virtually all of them civilians, and many of them children. The Palestinian death toll rose to 660.

You wonder if someone somewhere is writing out a will today.

A poignant and sobering thought. There are countless blogs, articles and websites chronicling the transgressions of the West before and during the War on Terror. Truly heartbreaking accounts of torture, imprisonment and mass murder, what can only be described as terrorism in its purest form. If the scale of the injustice and hypocrisy can anger a non-Muslim westerner like me, how must it feel to be a Muslim living in occupied territory? Or being a Muslim in the West? Not only looking on helplessly from relative comfort, but suffering from the backlash of Islamic extremism in the form of persecution from bigots and victimisation from the authorities. Something that’s become obvious to me since I began reading about Islam, is the kinship felt across borders and oceans between Muslims. A spiritual bond of brotherhood and sisterhood exists in the Ummah that transcends race and class. Is it surprising that extreme elements are susceptible to emotional manipulation by charismatic figures with a violent agenda? Surprising? No. Understandable? Regrettably, yes.

Before accusing me of condoning terrorist’s thoughts or actions, which I clearly am not, try a bit of role reversal. If your imagination and capacity for empathy allows it, put yourself in the shoes of someone living in Gaza, or rural village in Afghanistan or Pakistan. What they see is invasion and terrorism while what we see is the laughably named Overseas Contingency Operation, Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom.

Supporters of the war will tell you that removing Saddam was essential, not just for our safety, but for the Iraqi people. The first point is highly debatable, the second less so. The Halabja Gas Attack which killed thousands of Iraqi Kurds and Al-Anfal Campaign which killed over 2 million were horrific acts of ethnic cleansing, but US intervention was nowhere to be seen until Iraq invaded and annexed Kuwait which was a Western ally and owned 10% of the world’s oil supplies. The Gulf War ended in a ceasefire, but Hussein remained claiming victory. Post-war, John Esposito observed:

“As one U.S. Muslim observer noted: People forgot about Saddam’s record and concentrated on America…Saddam Hussein might be wrong, but it is not America who should correct him.”

The 1991 uprising of Kurds and Shia Muslims was dealt with using brutal force. Up to 200,000 were massacred and human rights violations were widespread. Further resentment from Iraqis and Arabs towards the USA was caused by the feeling that they were duped into rebelling against the government under the impression they would be supported by American intervention which didn’t materialise.

The result of the uprising was an even more oppressive and severe regime. A society which had been living without the harsh penalties attributed to Sharia law, was now subject to amputations, branding and execution for criminal offences such as theft and military desertion. The continued military presence in the Gulf, and Iraq’s reluctance to co-operate with the UN in their disarmament resulted in several more missile strikes that caused around 2,000 Iraqi deaths including civilians.

Surely then, replacing Saddam Hussein was a legitimate operation to bring about a more democratic and harmonious life to Iraqis? America and the UK would be welcomed as liberating heroes. How is Iraq faring today?

Project Censored has named the “corporate media blackout” of the number of Iraqi deaths caused by U.S. occupation (which it estimates at over one million) as the number-one censored story for 2009. In December 2007, the Iraqi government reported that there were five million orphans in Iraq — almost half of the country’s children.

As of 2007 more Iraqis had lost their homes and become refugees than the population of any other country. Over 3.9 million people, close to 16 percent of the Iraqi population, have become uprooted. Of these, around 2 million have fled Iraq and flooded other countries, and 1.9 million are estimated to be refugees inside Iraq.

A November 11, 2006, Los Angeles Times article reports:

The [Iraq] nation’s health has deteriorated to a level not seen since the 1950s, said Joseph Chamie, former director of the U.N. Population Division and an Iraq specialist. “They were at the forefront”, he said, referring to healthcare just before the 1991 Persian Gulf War. “Now they’re looking more and more like a country in sub-Saharan Africa.”


A November 9, 2006, International Herald Tribune article reported what Iraq’s Health Minister, Ali al-Shemari, said about the issue:

Al-Shemari said Iraq needed at least 10 years to rebuild its infrastructure, and that the medical situation in the country was “gloomy.” There was a shortage of medical supplies, which sometimes took months to reach the country from abroad, while roadblocks prevented people from getting to hospitals, he said. No hospital has been built in Iraq since 1983, and the country’s 15,000 available hospital beds were well short of the 80,000 beds needed. The minister also noted that many doctors had left the country. “We need help from anybody”, Al-Shemari said.

Seventy percent of children are suffering from trauma-related symptoms according to a study of 10,000 primary school students in the Sha’ab section of north Baghdad, conducted by the Iraqi Society of Psychiatrists and the World Health Organization. “We’re now finding an elevation of mental health disorders in children – emotional, conduct, peer, attention deficit”, according to Iraqi psychiatrist Hashimi. “A number are even resulting in suicide.”

This is just one country. What about another member of the axis of evil, Afghanistan? Estimates of civilian deaths between 2001 and the present day have the total at a  maximum of 34,240 civilians, up to 29,000 at the hands of US troops. Yes, that’s civilians, not Taliban or al-Qaeda. These include the slaughter of 25 members of the same family attending a wedding, the killing of two pregnant women, a teenage girl, a police officer and his brother, 5 members of an Afghan Army colonels family including an unborn baby, and a group of 76 civilians largely consisted of children. Other ‘accidental’ strikes have included more weddings, mosques during prayer , whole villages, hospitals, schools, an Al-Jazeera bureau, and indiscriminate bombings, missile strikes and shootings.

Pakistan is another country that is reportedly harbouring Taliban and Al-Qaeda operatives and leaders. Lets also bear in mind that the UK has a sizeable Pakistani population.  The Waziristan region in the north-west of the country  has been the location of an ongoing battle against the Taliban since 2004. Despite claiming that over 15,000 militants have been killed, there have also been up to 30,000 civilian casualties. Since 2006 the use of UAV’s or drones have been used increasingly in Waziristans uncompromising terrain. The Brookings Institution suggest that drones may kill 10 civilians for every militant. This assertion is refuted by the New America Foundation who claim that civilian victims accounted for 21% of the total in 2004 but only 6% in 2010, which amounted to a maximum of 18 deaths. According to Pakistani authorities, from January 14, 2006 to April 8, 2009, 60 U.S. strikes against Pakistan killed 701 people, of which 14 were Al-Qaeda militants and 687 innocent civilians.

Despite a large number of the attacks taking out militants, there is a mountain of evidence showing many strikes have left civilians as the sole casualties or with ‘unidentified’ victims.

Unsurprisingly, these tactics have come under heavy criticism from the Pakistani public, their army and the UN.

On October 27, 2009 UNHRC investigator Philip Alston called on the US to demonstrate that it was not randomly killing people in violation of international law through its use of drones on the Afghan border. Alston criticized the US’s refusal to respond to date to the UN’s concerns. Said Alston, “Otherwise you have the really problematic bottom line, which is that the Central Intelligence Agency is running a program that is killing significant numbers of people and there is absolutely no accountability in terms of the relevant international laws.”

Lets not forget Gaza. Surely a situation so delicate would be treated with sensitivity and diplomacy in such a perilous period?



“We found Mohammed lying there, cut in half. Ahmed was in three pieces; Wahid was totally burnt – his eyes were gone. Wahid’s father was dead. Nour had been decapitated. We couldn’t see her head anywhere.”

All six members of the family had been blown to pieces, coating each wall of the narrow enclosure with blood and body matter.

“You cannot imagine the scene: a family all sitting around together and then, in a matter of seconds, they were cut to pieces. Even the next day we found limbs and body parts on the roof, feet and hands,” Mounir says.

Fatheya, 17, is one of the few surviving members of the family. Slipping further into grief-stricken madness, flitting from one horrific description to the next, she says: “There were rocks and dust and fire … It’s very difficult … I can’t, no matter how I try to explain my situation to you, picking up the pieces of my dead family … I couldn’t handle it, limbs and flesh all around me. What have we done to deserve this?”

The attack on this home in Gaza City is just one of more than a dozen incidents recorded by Amnesty International where Israel’s unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) – or drones – killed one or more civilians.

During the 23-day offensive, 1,380 Palestinians perished, 431 of them children, according to figures published by the World Health Organisation.

A Guardian investigation into the high number of civilian deaths has found Israel used a variety of weapons in illegal ways. Indiscriminate munitions, including shells packed with white phosphorus, were fired into densely populated areas, while precision missiles and tanks shells were fired into civilian homes.

As Glenn Greenwald so effectively puts it:

Imagine that.  Isn’t Muslim culture just so bizarre, primitive, and inscrutable?  As strange as it is, they actually seem to dislike it when foreign militaries bomb, invade and occupy their countries, and Western powers interfere in their internal affairs by overthrowing and covertly manipulating their governments, imposing sanctions that kill hundreds of thousands of Muslim children, and arming their enemies.  Therefore (of course), the solution to Terrorism is to interfere more in their countries by continuing to occupy, bomb, invade, assassinate, lawlessly imprison and control them, because that’s the only way we can Stay Safe.  There are people over there who are angry at us for what we’re doing in their world, so we need to do much more of it to eradicate the anger. That’s the core logic of the War on Terror. How is that working out?

In the last ten years, the U.S. and Israel collectively have bombed at least six Muslim countries (including Gaza).  Despite that, 40% of Americans want to attack yet another one, and 1/3 want to invade.  Those are the same people who, if there is another terrorist attack on U.S. soil, will be walking around, eyebrows earnestly raised, innocent, self-righteous and confused, and asking:  “why do they hate us??”  And their friends and neighbors and leaders will assure them:  “they hate us for our freedoms.”

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