Since the attacks on 9/11, we have heard a number of voices from the Islamic community say that suicide is forbidden in Islam. At the same time, we have heard Muslim voices state that the Palestinian form of suicide -- what has been referred to as “martyrdom operations” -- is perfectly legitimate and is not actually suicide. One of the voices that is playing both sides of this dual game is the Muslim American Society (MAS), an extremist group tied to the violent Muslim Brotherhood overseas.
MAS was incorporated in the state of Illinois, in June of 1993. According to a December 2007 federal court brief concerning convicted terrorist Sabri Benkahla, a former member of the infamous ‘Virginia Jihad Network,’ “MAS was founded as the overt arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in America.” [PDF] Amongst its founders was Mohamed Mahdi Akef, who is today the International Chairman of the Brotherhood.
Listed on the MAS incorporation as “President” is Esam Omeish. Besides his position with MAS, Omeish’s claim to fame is that, in September of 2007, he was forced to resign his government appointed position on the Virginia Commission of Immigration, after video footage surfaced showing him advocating violent jihad against Israelis.
On one video, which was released by the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) -- filmed in December of 2000 -- Omeish stated the following:
“We, the Muslims of the Washington Metropolitan area, are here today in subfreezing temperatures to tell our brothers and sisters in Filistin that you have learned the way, that you have known that the jihad way is the way to liberate your land. And we, by standing here today, despite the weather and despite anything else, we are telling them that we are with you, we are supporting you, and we will do everything that we can, Insha’Allah, to help your cause.”
In the video, Omeish is seen praising Palestinians who had “given up their lives.” In doing this, he echoed the feelings of multitudes within Palestinian society that have grown up learning to admire those of their brethren that have chosen early death as a religious mission; for this, the death seekers receive the status of “martyr.” One of the more popular methods by which this horrifying goal is achieved is via the act of blowing oneself up.
Palestinian militants have been implementing human bombs -- commonly known as “suicide bombers” “or “homicide bombers” -- since April of 1994, when five Israelis were brutally murdered on a bus in the central bus station of Hadera, after a Palestinian ignited himself. Hamas took credit for the attack. Well over 150 Palestinian suicide attacks have followed.
While Palestinian suicide bombing is accepted by many in the Muslim community as a legitimate response to the Jewish settlement of the Middle East, certain different forms of Muslim suicide operations, at times, have been frowned upon, especially when the targets are other Muslims. This is probably the reason why, on Esam Omeish’s personal blog, he denounced twin suicide bombings that took place in Iraq, which resulted in the death of Iraqis, while completely ignoring the one that happened two days later in Israel.
On February 2, 2008, Omeish wrote of what occurred in Iraq: “Evil -- That is the only way I can describe this act. I am sickened by each and every act of terrorism, but this act was particularly sick as the perpetrators sent a couple of mentally disabled women to be blown up in a market where over 64 people would be murdered. This in no way reflects our religion in the slightest.”
On February 4th, a Palestinian suicide bomber slipped into Israel via Egypt and detonated himself in Dimona, taking the life of a 73-year-old woman and injuring eleven others. A second bomber was stopped and killed. What did Omeish have to say about it? The day of the event, Omeish posted on his blog his congratulations to the fans of the New York Giants, who had just won the Super Bowl.
Could this inconsiderate omission just have been a mere oversight by Omeish? Possibly, but given his organization’s own record on the subject of Palestinian suicide attacks, it’s highly unlikely.
Within the fatwa (religious ruling) section of the March 2002 edition of the MAS magazine, The American Muslim, in a question and answer expose entitled ‘Questions About Palestine,’ the following was written: “Martyr operations are not suicide and should not be deemed as unjustifiable means of endangering one’s life... [I]n martyr operations, the Muslim sacrifices his own life for the Sake of performing a religious duty, which is Jihad against the enemy as scholars say.”
Even today, MAS lauds the chief instigator of the suicide attacks, Hamas, referring to the group as “the steadfast, brave, aware Islamic resistance movement ‘Hamas’” and states, “Hamas is an embodiment of the Palestinian People’s belief in its Muslim and Arab origins, and a testimony that this people is still alive and will never die and that its jihad will be carried on by pure hands and clean hearts until victory is achieved with the will of Allah.”
The pro-Hamas statements were authored by the Chairman of MAS’s Michigan-based Islamic American University (IAU), Yusuf Al-Qaradawi. Al-Qaradawi, who has been banned from entering the United States, has also said about Palestinian suicide bombings, “It’s not suicide, it is martyrdom in the name of G-d.”
In July of 2005, a group of Muslims called a press conference to announce the creation of an American “fatwa against terrorism,” to which MAS was a signatory. At the event, Omeish stated the following: “Having our religious scholars side by side with our community leaders leaves no room for anybody to suggest that Islam and Muslims condone nor support any forms or acts of terrorism.”
The big question is, what exactly does Esam Omeish mean when he uses the term “acts of terrorism”? Is he talking about Muslims that target other Muslims? Is he talking about Israelis that take security measures to defend their nation? Is he talking about American soldiers that are overseas fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq?
Is his and MAS’s definition of terrorism, including suicide bombings, the same as ours?
Recognizing all of the above as proof, one can only draw the conclusion that the answer is “No.”