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Closing the Chapter on “Benefit of Doubt” to Terrorists (al-Qaeda et al.)

MuslimMatters

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The following message is MM’s response, as approved by the Shayookh, to all those who suggested (in the Sh. Salman Oudah + MM Shayookh post)  that the so-called, self-styled “mujahideen” be given benefit of doubt, that perhaps they are “misunderstood” or wrongly portrayed by “the media.” Furthermore, suggestions have been made that these terrorist outfits, including alQaeda do not target civilians:

In response to those who suggest that the errors (i.e. terrorism) of al-Qaeda et al. should be over-looked, since they are (supposedly) “fighting Jihad,” we say that these “errors” are grievous acts which result in the death of countless innocent civilians. These are not acts that can simply be excused or overlooked, but rather such atrocities must be condemned with the strongest words.

Take, for example, the recent targeting of a UN food programme office. Will they argue that this is an act of war where civilians “accidentally just happened to be there?” Unfortunately for them, there are simply too many cases of these so-called “mujahideen” hitting targets that are quite obviously full of civilians. It is implausible to just keep chalking that up to collateral damage and keep giving them the “benefit of the doubt,” while their actions are killing so many civilians. At some point, it becomes very clear that this is their mode of operation. It simply is not acceptable to be sympathetic towards them and keep giving “70 excuses,” given all the atrocities they have committed.

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And if it is claimed that al-Qaeda et al., in reality, dissociate from every act where civilians are killed, then our response is that those who are claiming thus should be in agreement with Sh. Salman when he stated:

Al-Qaeda is not what it was before September 11. It has turned into a media phenomenon with many people claiming the name merely for its symbolic value, mobilizing the youth under its umbrella. In this way, the strategy has changed, the evil has shaken loose from its reins and become like shrapnel all over the place, possessing a regional character but making a global noise. Al-Qaeda has become like a trademark that anyone can get hold of and carry out their activities in its name. It is no longer a cohesive organization with strong ties between its leaders and followers.

Specific individuals within an organization can disavow responsibility because, as Sh. Salman stated, organizations like al-Qaeda don’t have a direct line-of-command structure to begin with. But as Sh. Salman continues, independent groups can claim affiliation, whether legitimate or not, and carry out attacks without express consent from upper management, thus giving them plausible deniability while the campaign attacks continue.

A better question to ask is not who is responsible, but rather, do they sanction and consider legitimate such techniques? Would they speak up and condemn the killing of Muslim and non-Muslim civilians to clarify what is and is not ‘proper’ jihad? Why don’t these groups ever speak up against the killing of civilians, and why don’t they ever speak up against targeting places where it is well-known that there will be civilians, such as embassies. If they do not approve of these actions, then why don’t they speak up and differentiate themselves? Why is the onus on us to clarify whether certain resistance movements are legitimate or not, when they are – on the surface – in support of such actions, even if they themselves might not necessarily partake in them? Why don’t they release these statements through their ‘reliable’ media outlets?

Finally, in response to those who claim that we cannot take information from various general media outlets, due to the Quranic injunction “O you who believe, If a fasiq comes to you with news, then verify it…,” we note that such information is reported almost unanimously across the board, by both Muslim and non-Muslim sources, in addition to countless Muslim eyewitnesses to the atrocities.

Furthermore, the way that the term “The Media” is being used is utterly fallacious.  “The Media” does not exist in the sense that is intended by such statements. It is as if every journalist and every mainstream and alternative media outlet that have reported on matters of terrorism are part of a grand conspiracy.

Rather, it is incorrect to say the media outlets are untrustworthy as a blanket statement. In fact, principled journalists are some of the best sources of real information about these issues. They write under their own names, with a sincere commitment to objectivity, with their professional reputation at stake for any missteps.

Of course, they also have biases, but those are easily discernible, as are the impacts of their biases on the overall argument. It seems clear that the mainstream media as a whole is trustworthy though relative degrees of ideological and source bias can skew certain messages dramatically. Some single sources, such as Fox News, are untrustworthy and unreliable. But, in reality, if anything, it is the jihadi media that has proven over time to be utterly unreliable and propagandistic. The ayah, “If a fasiq comes to you…,” that they use for mainstream media reports is more applicable to their own sources; if we consider the definition of a fasiq as one who sins openly or insists on a sin, then alQaeda, et al. clearly qualify, as they repeatedly commit actions which result in the deaths of many civilians.

Anyone who uses tactics that affect civilian populations, is simply not worried about civilians. It is well-documented that al-Qeada in Iraq targets civilians to undermine the government forces and create fear. It is the same modus operandi from place to place. The whole point of terrorism is the targeting of civilians to create fear and undermine civil law and authority because the perpetrators cannot wage a conventional war. Terrorism, in any form, simply must be condemned in the strongest of terms. It simply does not matter whether the perpetrators of these atrocities label their actions as “jihad” or mass-murder.

As Muslims who care about the laws of Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, we must always condemn such actions and their perpetrators.

Comments are closed for this post, as there is no room for negotiation and discussion in clear matters. Cheerleaders of terrorism, and defenders of terrorists, can go find their own sites to engage in despicable rhetoric.

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