An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind
By Kutty, Faisal – My stomach churned in disgust as I watched people jumping out of the twin towers of the World Trade Center as it crumbled to the ground on that Tuesday morning etched in our memory. The realization that thousands of innocent people minding their own business had had their lives snatched away brought tears to my eyes. And the thought that my wife and I had driven around the towers exactly one week before the cowardly attacks brought it home.
As analysts and media pundits began speculating about the perpetrators of this heinous and dastardly crime, all I could do was silently pray that these acts were not the work of anyone of Middle Eastern origin or having anything to do with Muslims or Islam. I hoped it was one of the anti-government American militias.
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Unfortunately, my prayers may not be answered as the investigators focus in on “Islamic terrorists.”
Like most Muslims, I find it difficult to accept this terminology because of its inherent contradiction. Terrorism is antithetical to the very essence of Islam, or any other religious tradition for that matter.
Classical Islamic law explicitly classifies hirabah (terrorism) as a cowardly and serious sin punishable by death. In fact, classical Islamic law prohibits indiscriminate attacks on one’s enemies and bans the killing of hostages even as retaliation for the transgressions of the enemy. The Qur’an proclaims, “Anyone who kills a person (except for murder or crime) is as if he has killed the whole of humanity.”
Indeed, the Prophet Mohammed’s strict rules of engagement in wars against non-Muslims explicitly forbid targeting of civilians.
“Do not kill women or children or non-combatants,” the Prophet decreed.
“Do not kill wounded soldiers and do not maim or mutilate.” The Prophet also explicitly told his warriors that they would find people involved in worship and that they should not be disturbed.
There can be no Islamic legitimacy given to those who attacked the innocent in the U.S.
Muslims are clearly experiencing some cognitive dissonance as they try to reconcile the Islamic teachings with those who may have done this in the name of Islam. Most are also shocked how these criminals committed suicide and, before that, spent time in strip clubs while allegedly struggling for Islam. These are also serious sins. The label “Islamic” should not be used to describe these criminals.
Muslims and Arabs have openly condemned the terrorist attack but also have urged the Western world not to take revenge against innocent civilians in Afghanistan. The U.S. has the legal and moral right to bring the perpetrators to justice. But killing civilians is unacceptable. Why should the already victimized Afghan people suffer for the alleged actions of the repressive regime that holds them hostage?
Canada must now come to the forefront and assert a leadership role in peacekeeping. Ottawa should seek a diplomatic solution. The Taliban can be pressured to turn over Osama bin Laden to a neutral third party. As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “An eye for eye makes the whole world blind.”
Is there hatred toward America within the Muslim and Arab world? I would respond sadly, yes. It is undeniable that many in the world do in fact have legitimate grievances against American foreign policy and may allow anger to overshadow religious rules of engagement.
America might be targeted not so much because these people hate American values of freedom and democracy, but because of its foreign policy.
There is belief in much of the world that America is the lackey of Israel. Every bullet that kills a Palestinian and every bulldozer that razes a Palestinian home to the ground has a “Made in the USA” label.
The anger also has its roots in the continued American and British strangulation of the Iraqi people.
In our rush to punish, we must not forget that the masses in Arab and Muslim streets would not take well to an attack on innocent Muslims. The cycle of hate and revenge would produce many more Osama bin Ladens.
As incidents of hate crimes increase in Canada and officials discuss the use of profiling of Arabs and Muslims, and restrictions on civil liberties, I ask what Muslims and Arabs must do to prove our loyalty to our adopted nation.
Many of us left Muslim countries and came to the West to escape oppression and to freely practice our religion. We came here because we cherish the ideals of freedom, tolerance and the rule of law.
We must not be blamed for the crimes of someone who may claim to be from us, just as much as Americans must not be punished for the actions of Timothy McVeigh.
As one who has worked to eradicate stereotypes about Arabs, Muslims and Islam, I felt that on that sunny morning, Sept. 11, it was not only the towers that came down killing thousands of our neighbours and relatives.
More than 30 years of bridge-building and educational work with the non-Muslim world crumbled in an instant as well. The rebuilding must start without delay.
Faisal Kutty is a Toronto-based lawyer and writer. He currently works as a columnist for the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs and Middle East Newswire.
Note: First Published: Catholic New Times October 21, 2001
SECTION: v.25(16) O 21′01 pg 15; ISSN: 0701-0788
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