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Killing in God’s Name By: David G. Littman
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, August 21, 2006

The following statement was delivered in Geneva on August 17 by David G. Littman – speaking as a representative of the nongovernmental organization (NGO), the Association for World Education – to the 58th session of the UN Sub-Commission on Human Rights, under item 6(c): “terrorism and counter-terrorism”. It was then circulated to its 26 members (‘independent experts’), participants, and the media, with written statement E/CN.4/2006/NGO/231: Calls to Kill in the Name of God or Religion. 

This reiterated appeal to the Sub-Commission for an unqualified condemnation – by a resolution or a brief chairman’s statement – of “any call to kill, to terrorize, or to use violence in the name of God or any religion” is unlikely to be heard by this sitting, moribund UN body. Similar calls for such a clear condemnation have been made since 2003  to the defunct Commission on Human Rights and its Sub-Commission by several NGOs: AWE, International Humanist and Ethical Union, Association of World Citizens, and World Union for Progressive Judaism.

Sir, the legitimacy of the use of violence and acts of terrorism in the name of Islam is the subject of continuing debate within the Islamic world, particularly since the recent events in the UK. The debate turns on interpretations of the concept of Jihad when carried out as “Holy War.”


It is significant that persons close to the London bombers of 7 July 2005 and the earlier attacks in Madrid claimed that their actions were a jihad in the name of Islam. However, on 18 July 2005, following the London bombing, a fatwa was issued by the British Muslim Forum, approved by 500 UK Muslim clerics, scholars and imams, stating that:


Islam strictly, strongly and severely condemns the use of violence and the destruction of innocent lives… Such acts, as perpetrated in London, are crimes against humanity and contrary to the teachings of Islam.”[i]


On 8 July, the day after the London carnage, Amir Taheri – a reputed author and columnist for the London Arab daily, Al-Sharq Al-Awsat – made a crucial point:


Until we hear the voices of Muslims condemning attacks with no words such as ‘but’ and ‘if,’ the suicide bombers and the murderers will have an excuse to think that they enjoy the support of all Muslims. The real battle against the enemy of mankind will begin when the ‘silent majority’ in the Islamic world makes its voice heard against the murderers, and against those who brainwash them, and fund them.” [ii]


 A similar view was presented in the same newspaper a day later when Al-Arabiya TV Director-General Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed wrote, under the title, “Expel Extremism Today”:


 For over 10 years now, I myself and other Arab writers have warned against the dangers of the reckless handling of the extremism that is now spreading like a plague within the British community.… Like many other diseases, extremism is a contagious one. The British authority's leniency regarding fundamentalist fascism has allowed many, including Arab and Muslim intellectuals and journalists, to adopt ideologies that promote extremism and defend criminals such as bin Laden and Al-Zarqawi. The situation has escalated to the extent that Arab and Muslim intellectuals fear the repercussions of condemning extremists. The battle we face is against the ideology, as opposed to, against the terrorists themselves.… The time has come for British authorities to deal harshly with extremism, before complete chaos is unleashed onto British society. In the past we talked about stopping them. Now it is time to expel." [iii]


Unfortunately, the concept of deliberately sacrificing one’s life while killing infidels and those targeted as Muslim ‘apostates’  is sanctioned by tradition and currently revived in fatwas by several Islamic religious authorities.[iv] Regrettably, this interpretation of Islam has been approved by several Muslim clerics worldwide, including Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradhawi (head of the European Council for Fatwa and Research, and president of the International Association of Muslim scholars (IAMS) and a spiritual guide of the Muslim Brotherhood. Speaking on Qatar TV in February 2006, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradhawi confirmed his position:


We are fighting in the name of religion, in the name of Islam, which makes this Jihad an individual duty, in which the entire nation takes part, and whoever is killed in this [Jihad] is a martyr. This is why I ruled that martyrdom operations are permitted, because he commits martyrdom for the sake of Allah, and sacrifices his soul for the sake of Allah.” [v]


On 6 July 2005, a day before the London bombing, a major conference of 170 Muslim scholars from forty countries meeting in Amman, Jordan,  provided an opinion in a Final Communiqué:


It is not possible to declare as apostates any group of Muslims who believes in Allah the Mighty and Sublime and His Messenger (may Peace and Blessings be upon him) and the pillars of faith, and respects the pillars of Islam and does not deny any necessary article of religion.”[vi]


From the above opinion it is clear that, according to some of the most influential voices in the Islamic world, Muslims who perform terrorist attacks in the path of jihad remain Muslims however reprehensible their actions. In several statements to the Commission on Human Rights and this Sub-Commission, the Association fore World Education and other NGOs called upon both bodies, and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, to condemn unequivocally those who kill or who call to kill in the name of God or religion. See the attached joint written statement [submitted to the 62nd (last) session of the Commission on Human Rights by the Association for World Education / International Humanist and Ethical Union / Association of World Citizens], E/CN.4/2006/NGO/231:Calls to kill in the name of God or religion.


We continue to believe that a condemnation by the Sub-Commission, by the new Council on Human Rights and by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) of all those who kill or call upon others to kill in the name of God or religion would encourage other Muslim organisations to speak out against these extremists and would have a salutary effect in dissuading potential terrorists from carrying out further outrageous attacks in the name of Jihad and of Islam.


We again call on the OIC [representing 56 Muslim States and the Palestinian Authority], the Arab League, and individual Muslim religious, cultural and political leaders to join in an unambiguous condemnation of those who are defaming Islam by their calls to kill in the name of Allah. We respectfully suggest that the OIC has an urgent responsibility to include such a condemnation in any new resolution of the Council: Combating defamation of religions, which they have co-sponsored since 1999 at the Commission.


We again call on this Sub-Commission to adopt a clear resolution at this session or, failing that, a Chairman’s statement in which any call to kill, to terrorise, or to use violence in the name of God, or of any religion, is condemned without qualification. Sir, there is a real risk that silence, here and now, would make of us all the accomplices of terrorism and tyranny.


[P.S. The next morning (Friday, 18 August), Pakistan’s Ambassador Masood Khan – speaking for the OIC countries – addressed the Sub-Commission. He did not refer to our appeal that the OIC condemn: “all those who kill or call upon others to kill in the name of God or religion,” as well as an “an unambiguous condemnation of those who are defaming Islam by their calls to kill in the name of Allah.” Rather, he spoke about “the Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) caricatures in a Danish paper last year,” and stated: “In the recent past, terrorist attacks, or even terrorist plots, have been used as a pretext to demonize Islam and Muslims… Muslims are being dehumanized as Jews were during the inter-war years in the last century. The spectre of Islamophobia is haunting Europe.” He also stated: “The OIC believes that the existing gaps in the international law – soft or hard – to combat defamation of religions and to promote respect for each others beliefs should be stepped up.” He concluded: “In the Islamic world, endeavours are being made to wage political and ideological struggles against the forces of obscurantism and extremism. Last year in Makkah, the OIC announced its 10-year programme for the promotion and protection of human rights. It will also elaborate [an] OIC Charter on Human Rights.” There can be little doubt that any such a Charter will be conditional on Shariah law (see the 1990 Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam,  articles 24 and 25),  in total contradiction to the 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights].



[1]   BBC NEWS:http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/uk/4697365.stm.Published: 2005/07/19 15:41:43 GMT


[2]  Amir Taheri, Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), 7 July 2005, translation in MEMRI Special Report, 8 July 2005 N° 36:  http://memri.org/bin/articles.cgiPage=archives&Area=sr&ID=SR3605: Arab Media Reactions to London  Bombings: “A Chapter in Word War III”. Also Amir Taheri: “And this is why they do it”, in TimesOnline  (London), 8 July 2005.


[3]  Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), 9 July 2005. MEMRI: Special Report - Jihad & Terrorism, 12 July 2005, No. 37 (Arab and Iranian Media Reactions to the London Bombing-Part II: “The Attacks Were Anticipated Due to British Leniency to Extremists Acting in Britain”/“Expel Extremism. Today”:http://memri.org/bin/latestnews.cgi?ID=SR3705.


[4] Extracts reproduced in E/CN.4/Sub.2/2004/NGO/25*. See also E/CN.4/Sub.2/NGO/26, for refs. to Hamas, Hezbollah, Al-Qaeda and Muslim Brotherhood.


[5] MEMRI Special Dispatch – Jihad & Terrorism Studies Project, No. 1102, Qatar TV, 25 February 2006, http://www.memri.org/bin/opener­_latest.cgi?ID=SD110206


[6] “Islam struggles to stake out its position,” by Judea Pearl, International Herald Tribune, 20 July 2005, p. 8. This article appeared in the Boston Globe. King Abdullah’s conference address is at: www.MaximsNews.com. In this specific context, see also the report by the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (Center for Special Studies / C.S.S.), entitled: “Islamic Legitimacy for the London Bombings,” dated 20 July 2005, prepared, edited and translated by Reuven Paz, Director and Editor of the Project for the Research of Islamist Movements (PPISM): http://www.intelligence.org.il/eng/sib/7_05/london_b.htm 


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