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Massacre of Sabra and Shatila – A History Lesson

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I home school my daughter and this is her history lesson for today, as I doubt that this will ever be taught in her official history books. This Friday, we will be praying for the men, women and children who were massacred 29 years ago.

History

The June 6th 1982 invasion of Lebanon (codenamed Operation Peace of the Galilee) by Israeli forces was ordered in response to the attempted assassination of the Israeli ambassador to the UK, Shlomo Argov by the Abu Nidal Organization. Lebanon had, after the 1948-49, become the home to around 100,000 Palestinian refugees who had fled from their homes. By the early 1980s, this number had grown to about 300,000, with the PLO establishing their own area of control in southern Lebanon.   In August 1982, negotiations were conducted, conducted by an American envoy, on the principle of an evacuation of the Palestinian fighters and PLO officials and the dismantlement of PLO offices and infrastructures in Lebanon. The American envoy, led by Philip Habib, guaranteed security to the Palestinian civilians that were to remain in the camps after the PLO’s departure.

  1. From Sept. 16 to 18th, 1982, and in cooperation with the Israeli military, Lebanese Christian Phalangists (Kataeb) murdered anywhere from 1000 to 3000 unarmed Palestinians living in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila. The Kataeb were seeking revenge for the September 14th assassination of their leader, President-elect,  Bashir Gameyal.
  2. Countless others were raped, tortured, and terrorized. Hundreds more were rounded up and loaded onto trucks, driven away and never heard from again. Many were never accounted for, being buried under the rubble of demolished buildings.
  3. The death toll may have been higher than 9/11.
  4. No one has ever stood on trial for this massacre, key witnesses involved in the massacre have died in individual attacks.
  5. By the end of the summer of 1982, nearly 18,000 Lebanese and Palestinian civilians had been killed, most of them in Israeli air strikes on civilian targets.
Media Reports

But in Beirut, the victims were Palestinians. The guilty were certainly Christian militiamen – from which particular unit we were still unsure – but the Israelis were also guilty. If the Israelis had not taken part in the killings, they had certainly sent militia into the camp. They had trained them, given them uniforms, handed them US army rations and Israeli medical equipment. Then they had watched the murderers in the camps, they had given them military assistance – the Israeli Airforce had dropped all those flares to help the men who were murdering the inhabitants of Sabra and Chatila – and they had established military liaison with the murderers in the camps – Robert Fisk

Maybe when she is old enough I will have her watch the documentaries and read the rest of this description of what journalist Robert Fisk saw in the September of 1982.

Here is a link from the BBC report of September 17th, 1982.

Footage from 1982- (disclaimer: very gruesome scenes)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-pWwkVfbY10[/youtube]

Testimony of Journalists covering the massacre

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E-aNw29bbms&feature=player_embedded#![/youtube]

The BBC Panorama documentary about Sabra & Shatila

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uy-JKaFfIPU&feature=related[/youtube]

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Hena Zuberi is the Editor in Chief of Muslimmatters.org. She leads the DC office of the human rights organization, Justice For All, focusing on stopping the genocide of the Rohingya under Burma Task Force, advocacy for the Uighur people with the Save Uighur Campaign and Free Kashmir Action. She was a Staff Reporter at the Muslim Link newspaper which serves the DC Metro. Hena has worked as a television news reporter and producer for CNBC Asia and World Television News. Active in her SoCal community, Hena served as the Youth Director for the Unity Center. Using her experience with Youth, she conducts Growing Up With God workshops. hena.z@muslimmatters.org Follow her on Twitter @henazuberi.

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Umm Sulaim

    September 16, 2011 at 9:56 AM

    Another hand shake for you, Hena. I briefly read the Beirut massacre on another website, yesterday. This time, I get to read and watch.

    JazakiLlah khayra. History is OUR responsibility to teach others.

    Please what is the url for this page so I can post it on my twitter and facebook pages?

    Umm Sulaim.

  2. Avatar

    Yasmin

    September 16, 2011 at 12:00 PM

    Jazakallah Khair for shedding light on a massacre that I have never even heard about!

  3. Avatar

    Mehzabeen (iMuslim)

    September 16, 2011 at 12:45 PM

    There are no words – my only thoughts are about Judgement Day. ‘Ya Allah, what will become of these people on Yawm-ul-Qiyamah?’ That is all I can think.

  4. Avatar

    AbdulRahman

    September 16, 2011 at 12:52 PM

    May the mercy of Allah be upon them all.

    Once in while I would see a mention of this Massacre and it never fails to bring tears to my eyes
    and heart.

    Hena Zuberi ….Jazaka Allahu Khair for reminding me to make du’a for all of them on this Friday.

  5. Yahya Ibrahim

    Yahya Ibrahim

    September 17, 2011 at 8:14 AM

    Ya Allah we raise our complaint to You Alone!

  6. Avatar

    Zeinab

    September 17, 2011 at 11:22 AM

    … A very sad reminder of a horrendous crime that is never to be forgotten :( I was very young then but I am still deeply troubled by this sad episode.

    I take solace in the fact that one day ALL of those who are responsible for this will surely be brought to justice for noone will escape Yawm al Qiyama.

    May Allah A’zawajeul grant our ummah the tawfique to excercise beautiful patience upon these injustices – Ameen! For all of those who have perished, May Allah A’zawajeul grant them of the highest of jennahs – Ameen!

  7. Avatar

    Asma A

    September 17, 2011 at 11:57 AM

    Had heard about this massacre but never in much detail. JazakiAllah khair for bringing our attention to this.
    May Allah accept them all as shaheed, Ameen.

  8. Avatar

    Adam

    September 18, 2011 at 3:16 PM

    There is no question that Sabra and Shatilla was a terrible tragedy.

    But I have to wonder if you are going to teach your home schooled daughter about the Darmour massacre where PLO militants brutally slaughtered all of the Christians of the town. Palestinian militants lined the civilians up against a wall, spraying them with machine gun fire, before desecrating Churches, digging up coffins, and robbing graves.

    Or will you be guilty of the same thing as the textbooks, promoting the “history” which suits your agenda, and hiding what may be inconvenient?

  9. Avatar

    Hassan

    September 19, 2011 at 7:50 PM

  10. Avatar

    Munshid

    September 20, 2011 at 3:44 PM

    Ameen!

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#Current Affairs

Why Israel Should Be ‘Singled Out’ For Its Human Rights Record

Unlike other countries, ordinary citizens are complicit in the perpetual crimes committed against defenseless Palestinians.

israel, occupied Palestine
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Why is everyone so obsessed with Israel’s human rights abuses? From Saudi Arabia, to Syria, to North Korea to Iran. All these nations are involved in flagrant violations of human right, so why all the focus on Israel – ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’? Clearly, if you ignore these other violations and only focus on Israel, you must be anti-Semitic. What else could be your motivations for this double standard?

This is one of the most common contentions raised when Israel is criticized for its human rights record. I personally don’t believe in entertaining this question – it shouldn’t matter why an activist is choosing to focus on one conflict and not others. What matters are the facts being raised; putting into question the motives behind criticizing Israel is a common tactic to detract from the topic at hand. The conversation soon turns into some circular argument about anti-Semitism and the plight of the Palestinian people is lost. More importantly, this charge of having double standards is often disingenuous. For example, Representative Ihan Omar has been repeatedly accused of this recently and her motives have been called ‘suspicious’ – despite her vocal criticism of other countries, especially Saudi Arabia.

However, this point is so frequently brought up, I think that perhaps its time activists and critics simply own up to it. Yes – Israel should be singled out, for some very good reasons. These reasons relate to there being a number of unique privileges that the country enjoys; these allow it to get away with much of the abuses it commits. Human right activists thus must be extra vocal when comes to Israel as they have to overcome the unparalleled level of support for the country, particularly in the US and Canada. The following points summarize why Israel should in fact be singled out:

1) Ideological support from ordinary citizens

When Iran and North Korea commit human right abuses, we don’t have to worry about everyone from journalists to clerics to average students on campuses coming out and defending those countries. When most nations commit atrocities, our journalists and politicians call them out, sanctions are imposed, they are taking them to the International Court of Justice, etc. There are instruments in place to take care of other ‘rogue’ nations – without the need for intervention from the common man.

Israel, however, is unique in that it has traditionally enjoyed widespread ideological support, primarily from the Jewish community and Evangelical Christians, in the West. This support is a result of the historical circumstances and pseudo-religious ideology that drove the creation of the state in 1948. The successful spread of this nationalistic dogma for the last century means Israel can count on ordinary citizens from Western countries to comes to its defense. This support can come in the form of foreign enlistment to its military, students conducting campus activism, politicians shielding it from criticisms and journalists voluntarily writing in its support and spreading state propaganda.

This ideological and nationalistic attachment to the country is the prime reason why it is so incredibly difficult to have any kind of sane conversation about Israel in the public sphere – criticism is quickly seen as an attack on Jewish identity and interpreted as an ‘existential threat’ to the nation by its supporters. Any attempts to take Israel to account through standard means are thwarted because of the political backlash feared from the country’s supporters in the West.

2) Unconditional political support of a world superpower

The US is Israel’s most important and closest ally in the Middle-East. No matter what war crimes Israel commits, it can count on America to have its back. This support means the US will use its veto power to support Israel against actions of the UN Security Council, it will use its diplomatic influence to shield any punitive actions from other nations and it will use its military might to intervene if need be. The backing of the US is one of the main reasons why the Israeli occupation and expansion of the colonial settlement enterprise continues to this day without any repercussions.

While US support might be especially staunch for Israel, this factor is certainly not unique to the country. Any country which has this privilege, e.g. Saudi Arabia, should be under far great scrutiny for its human rights violations than others.

3)  Military aid and complicity of tax-payers

US tax-payers are directly paying for Israel to carry out its occupation of the Palestinian people.

Israel is the largest recipient of US-military aid – it receives an astonishing $3 billion dollars every year. This aid, according to a US congressional report, “has helped transform Israel’s armed forces into one of the most technologically sophisticated militaries in the world.”

Unlike other countries, ordinary citizens are complicit in the perpetual crimes committed against defenseless Palestinians. Activists and citizens thus have a greater responsibility to speak out against Israel as their government is paying the country to carry out its atrocities. Not only is this aid morally reprehensible, but it is also illegal under United States Leahy Laws.

4) The Israeli lobby

The Israeli lobby is one of the most powerful groups in Washington and is the primary force for ensuring continued US political support for the nation. It consists of an assortment of formal lobby groups (AIPAC, Christians United for Israel), think-thanks (Washington Institute for Near East Policy), political action committee or PACs, not-for-profit organizations (B’nai B’irth, American Jewish Congress, Stand for Israel) and media watchdogs (CAMERA, Honest Reporting). These organizations together exercise an incredible amount of political influence. They ensure that any criticism of Israel is either stifled or there are serious consequences for those who speak up. In 2018 alone, pro-Israel donors spent $22 million on lobbying for the country – far greater than any other nation. Pro-Israel lobbies similarly influence politics in other places such as the UK, Canada, and Europe.

5) One of the longest-running occupation in human history

This point really should be the first one on this list – and it is the only one that should matter. However, because of the unique privileges that Israel enjoys, it is hard to get to the crux of what it is actually doing. Israel, with U.S. support, has militarily occupied the Palestinian territories (West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem) since 1967. The belligerent occupation, over 50 years old, is one of the longest, bloodiest and brutal in human history.

Israel continues to steal land and build settler colonies the West Bank – in flagrant violation of international law. It has implemented a system of apartheid in these territories which is reminiscent of the racist regime of South Africa. The Gaza strip has been under an insufferable siege which has made the living conditions deplorable; it has been referred to the world’s largest ‘open-air prison’. In addition to this institutional oppression, crimes committed against Palestinians include: routinely killing civilian protesters, including teenagers and medics, torture of Palestinians and severe restrictions on the everyday movement of Palestinians.

The brutality, consistency and the duration for which Israel has oppressed Palestinians is alone enough reason for it being ‘singled out’. No other nation comes close to its record. However, for the reasons mentioned above, Israel’s propaganda machine has effectively painted itself as just another ‘liberal democracy’ in the eyes of the general public. Any attempt to bring to light these atrocities are met with ‘suspicion’ about the ‘real’ motives of the critics. Given the points mentioned here, it should be evident that the level of support for Israeli aggression is uniquely disproportionate – it is thus fitting that criticism of the country is equally vocal and unparalleled as well.

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Continue Reading

#Current Affairs

An Urgent Call Regarding the Plight of Shaykh Salman al-Ouda, Shaykh Awad al-Qarni, and Dr. Ali al-Omari

Saudi scholars, injustice
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دعوة عاجلة بخصوص أزمة الشيخ سلمان العودة، والشيخ عوض القرني، والدكتور علي العمري

الحمد لله، والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله محمد وآله

السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

لقد تلقينا بقلق بالغ ما يتوارد من أخبار غير مؤكدة حول الإعدام الوشيك للشيخ سلمان العودة، و الشيخ عوض القرني، و الدكتور علي العمري

لقد علمنا الإسلام أن الحياة نعمة من الله و إن أولئك الذين يعملون على حرمان أى أحد من هذه النعمة دون أساس شرعي واضح قد ارتكبوا إثمًا فظيعًا عدّه الله من الكبائر: وَمَن يَقْتُلْ مُؤْمِنًا مُّتَعَمِّدًا فَجَزَاؤُهُ جَهَنَّمُ خَالِدًا فِيهَا وَغَضِبَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَلَعَنَهُ وَأَعَدَّ لَهُ عَذَابًا عَظِيمًا (سورة النساء، 93)

حرمة المؤمن

إن رسول الله ﷺ وصحابته قد اعتبروا حياة كل من نطق الشهادة، وكذا ماله وعرضه حرامًا لا يُقبل انتهاكها ولقد حرصوا كل الحرص على ألا ينتهكوا تلك الحقوق الأصلية حتى في تطبيق الحدود

قال رسول الله ﷺ: ادفَعوا الحدود ما وجدْتم لها مدفعًا (سنن ابن ماجة)، وقال ابن مسعود: ادرءوا الجلد والقتل عن المسلمين ما استطعتم (السنن الكبرى)

إن حرمة دم المسلم عند رسول الله ﷺ عظيمة جدًا، فلزوال الدنيا أهون عنده من قتل امرئٍ مسلم (سنن الترمذي)

ولقد كان السلف يقولون عند طوافهم بالكعبة: ما أعظمك وأعظم حرمتك، والمؤمن أعظم حرمةً عند الله منك (رواه الترمذي)

التماس رأفة

في ضوء الهدي النبوي، وعِظم أمر انتهاك الحقوق الأصلية التي منحها الإسلام للمسلم، فإننا نطالب السلطات المعنية بأن يوقفوا أي خطة مبيتة لإعدام الشيخ سلمان العودة، والشيخ عوض القرني، والدكتور علي العمري، سواءً في المستقبل القريب أو البعيد

نطالب أولئك الذين في السلطة أن يصدروا عفوًا في حقهم في هذا الشهر المبارك

إننا نؤمن بيقين أن هؤلاء العلماء لم يقترفوا أى شيءٍ يبرر التعامل المروع الذي يتعرضون له لمدة عام وأكثر وإننا نطلق هذا النداء كنصيحة صادقة، محققين دورنا كعلماء عليهم واجب بيان الحق، ومستحضرين أن كل واحد فينا سيسأل عن عمله في الآخرة حيث الظلم ظلمات لا تفضي إلا إلى عذاب النار

والله في عون المظلومين واللهم صل وسلم وبارك على سيدنا محمد

17 رمضان 1440 /22 مايو 2019

كتب بواسطة (الشيخ) سلمان يونس

 

An Urgent Call Regarding the Plight of Shaykh Salman al-Ouda, Shaykh Awad al-Qarni, and Dr. Ali al-Omari

All praise belongs to Allah, and blessings upon the Prophet Muhammad and His family.

Peace and mercy be upon you:

It is with great concern and perturbation that we have received unconfirmed reports regarding the imminent execution of Shaykh Salman al-Ouda, Shaykh Awad al-Qarni, and Dr. Ali al-Omari.

Islam teaches us that life is a blessing from Allah. Those who seek to deprive someone of this blessing without a clearly sanctioned religious basis have committed an act that God deems atrocious and a mighty sin: “If anyone kills a believer deliberately, the punishment for him is Hell, and there he will remain: Allah is angry with him, and rejects him, and has prepared a tremendous torment for him.”(Qur’an, 4:93)

The Inviolability of the Believer

The Prophet ﷺ and his Companions viewed the life, wealth, and honor of all who uttered the testimony of faith (shahada) as inviolable. They took immense care not to impede on these basic rights even in the context of enacting punishments.

The Prophet ﷺ said, “Avoid applying punishments as long as you are able to find an excuse to avert them,”(Sunan Ibn Majah) and Ibn Masʿud stated, “Avoid flogging and applying the death penalty upon people as much as you can.”(Sunan al-Kubra)

Indeed, the sanctity of the believer was so great in the eyes of the Prophet ﷺ that he deemed the destruction of the world as a lighter affair than the killing of even a single Muslim. (Sunan al-Tirmidhi)

Similarly, the early Muslims (salaf) would remark when gazing upon the Kaʿba, “The inviolability of a believer is greater with Allah than your inviolability.” (Sunan al-Tirmidhi) There are few statements one can imagine as emphatic as these in affirmation of the rank of the believer.

A Call for Clemency

In light of the guidance of the Prophet ﷺ and the gravity of depriving a Muslim of the fundamental rights granted to him or her by Islam, we urge the authorities in question to immediately cease any plans to execute Shaykh Salman al-Ouda, Shaykh Awad al-Qarni, and Dr. Ali al-Omari in the immediate or distant future.

We urge those in the leadership to grant them clemency in this blessed month of Ramadan.

It is our firm belief that the actions of these scholars do not in any way justify the appalling treatment they have been subjected to over the past year and more. We make this call in the spirit of providing sincere counsel, realizing our role as scholars duty-bound to the expression of truth, and recognizing that each of us will be held accountable for our actions in the next life where oppression will be nothing but darkness leading to perdition.

And Allah is in the aid of His oppressed servants. May the blessings and peace of Allah be upon His Prophet.

Ramadan 17th, 1440

May 22nd, 2019

Drafted by Shaykh Salman Younas

Signatories (v. 2)

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

SeekersGuidance

Dr. Yasir Qadhi

Islamic Seminary of America

Shaykh Omer Suleiman

USA

Dr. Ingrid Mattson

Canada

 

Dr. Omar Qureshi

USA

 

 

Dr. Abdullah Hamid Ali

USA

 

Shaykh Mustapha Elturk

Amir, Islamic Organization of North America

 

Shaykh Rami Nsour

Tayba Foundation

Dr. Shadee Elmasry

Safina Society

Mufti Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari

Director of Darul Iftaa Leicester

 

Shaykh Azhar Nasser

Tasneem Institute

 

 

Professor John Esposito

Georgetown University

 

 

Mufti Abdur-Rahman ibn Yusuf

London

 

Dr. Jonathan Brown

Georgetown University

Professor Mohammad Fadel

University of Toronto

Imam Suhaib Webb

Scholar in Residence, ICNYU

Shaykh Shams ad-Duha

Ebrahim College

 

Ustadha Zaynab Ansari

Tayseer Seminary

 

Dalia Mogahed

ISPU

 

Imam Dawud Walid

Member of Michigan Imams Council

 

 

Dr. Asim Yusuf

UK

 

 

Dr. Ovamir Anjum

University of Toledo

 

Dr. Abdullah Hakim Quick

USA

 

Shaykh Hani Saleem

Islamic Center of Detroit

Dr. Shabbir Ally

Toronto

Shaykh Furhan Zubairi

Dean of IOK Seminary

 

Dr. Ihsan Bagby

University of Kentucky

 

Shaykh Mohammed Faqih

Islamic Institute of Orange County

 

Shaykh Bilal Ali Ansari

Khalil Center

Mohammad Elshinawy

Yaqeen Institute

 

Shaykh Abdur Rahman Khan

Co-Chair of National Catholic-Muslim Dialogue

 

Shaykh Sulaiman Gani

London

 

Dr. Hamid Slimi

USA

 

Mufti Taha Karaan

South Africa

Shaykh Sadullah Khan

South Africa

Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi

Chairman of Fiqh Council of America

 

 

Shaykh Taha Abdul-Basser

USA

Imam Ibrahim Hindy

Dar al-Tawheed Islamic Center

 

 

Dr. Basma Abdelgafar

Vice President of Maqasid Institute Global

 

Prof. Jasser Auda

President of Maqasid Institute Global

 

Laila Mehar

Former President of UConn SJP

Hartford

Dr. Osman Latiff

Jamia Masjid and Islamic Center

 

Imam Abdul-Malik Ryan

DePaul University

 

Imam John Ederer

Muslim Community Center of Charlotte

 

Shaykh Amer Jamil

Scotland

 

Shaykh Bilal Ismail

Imam Development Project

 

Shaykh Muhammad Mustaqeem Shah

Walsall

 

Dr. Bekim Hasani

Imam and Activist

Australia

 

Imam Imran Salha

ICA

 

Dr. Tajul Islam University of Leeds

 

Dr. Mustapha Sheikh

University of Leeds

 

Dr. Ahmed Soboh

Religious Director of Chino Valley Islamic Center

 

Dr. Rafaqat Rashid

Al Balagh Academy

 

Imam Shafi Chowdhury

Leicester

 

Buthaina Hawas-Neveln

Iraqi Journalist

 

Shaykh Salmaan Parkar Australian Islamic College

 

Muslema Purmul

The Majlis

Dr. Mohammad Ilyas,

University of Florida

 

Dr. Asif Hirani

Imam and Resident Scholar of Worcester Islamic Center

 

Shaykh Ahmad Kutty

Resident Scholar of Islamic Institute of Toronto

 

Shaykh Mohammad Aman Haque

Norway

 

Imam Mazhar Mahmood

Director of Islamic Foundation of Peoria

 

Ishraq Ali

Organizing Director of MPower Change

 

Usman Qamar

Muslim Chaplaincy of Waterloo

 

Mawlana Zakariyah Harneker

 

Shaykh Shahinur Rahman

al-Rahma, UK

 

Shaykh Abdul Wahab Saleem

Salik Academy

Dr. Usaama Al-Azami

Markfield Institute

Ustadh Samir Hussain

ISNA High School

 

Shaykh Tariq AtaDr. Zaid alBarzinji

Maqasid Institute

Shaykh Abdur Rahim Reasat

SeekersGuidance

Mufti Liaquat Zaman

Birmingham, UK

 

Imam Salim Astewani

Cheshire, UK

 

 

Shaykh Tabraze Azam

SeekersGuidance

 

Dr. Sharif El-Tobgui

Brandeis University

 

 

Ismail Royer

USA

Imam Qasim Rashid

Al-Khayr Foundation

 

Dr. Yvonne Haddad

Georgetown University

Omar Usman

Executive Director, MuslimMatters

 

Shaykh Muhammad Abuelezz

Muslim Association of Canada

 

Mufti Ismail Syed

London

Mawlana Safwaan Navlakhi

Al-Ma’aly Institute

South Africa

 

Dr. Ildus Rafikov

ISTAC

Aamir Ansari

ICNA

Shaykh Hassan Rabbani

Zia-Ul-Quran Mosque

Scotland

Ustadha Umm Jamaal ud-Din

Islamic College of Australia

Dr. Munir Elkassem

President, Islamic Institute of Interfaith Dialogue

Dr. Yusuf Salah

Khalil Foundation

 

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The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Continue Reading

#Current Affairs

OpEd: The Planned Saudi Executions Have A Context

The Arab Spring and its immediate aftermath was a wake-up call to all those who feared for the security of their thrones

Guests
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By Abdullah Abu Dawud

The news of the intended Saudi execution of three prominent scholars has infuriated many observant Muslims around the world. This is no surprise considering the fact that that the three scholars have attracted a vast audience through their TV programs and social media activity. These three scholars, and many like them, have been the source of religious knowledge and inspiration for many Muslims, not only in the Arab world, but around the globe.

However, our objection Saudi Arabia’s treatment and intended execution of these scholars should not be simply rooted in emotion. In order to properly oppose such reckless decisions, we must understand the motivation behind them and the context in which they exist. For as reckless as these decisions may be, they are not arbitrary and are not devoid of context. They exist within a bigger picture; a picture that I will try to sketch in this article. We must rewind back to the early part of the 20th century. That era witnessed events that, by all accounts, changed the nature of the Muslim world. The Muslim lands that were under the rule of the Ottoman Empire were conquered and colonized by Western powers (Britain and France), and the office of the Caliph (based in Istanbul) was abolished. This was accompanied by a calculated uprooting of Islamic social and legal structures that existed for centuries; the colonizing powers imported their European structures to serve as the new order in this part of the world. By the end of the colonization project, populations across the Arab world ended up with corrupt and authoritarian regimes and social structures and legal codes which were imported from foreign countries.

Inevitably, this new reality that was imposed on the Arab populations gave rise to organic reactions which aimed to resist this new reality. Eventually, a broad movement (often labeled as the “Islamic movement”) took shape with two main identifiable goals: 1) The revival of Islamic law and values and re-establishing Islam’s role in governance and public life (which was highly reduced after the abolishment of the Caliphate), and 2) Establishing a governance system whose legitimacy was rooted in the consent of the people. It may also be said that those two primary goals also served as criteria by which Muslim governments would be measured; i.e their adherence to Islam and their respect for the will of the populations. This broad movement was largely led by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and then spread across the Arab and Muslim world. Although the Brotherhood is deemed to be an originator of this movement, today, many people share this vision of “revival” and “popular legitimacy” while lying outside of the organizational borders of the Brotherhood (but can still be described as being part of the “Islamic movement”).

Those who shared this vision, not surprisingly, were constantly pursued by the authoritarian regimes of the Arab world. It is also not surprising that those who shared this vision would be vocal supporters if not active participants in the Arab Spring. Indeed, the Arab Spring has demonstrated repeatedly that Arab populations yearn for a participatory form of government and find a certain appeal in the message of Islamic parties (as evidenced by the electoral victories of Islamic parties in all countries of the Arab Spring). In other words, the Arab Spring made it clear to all observing autocrats that, when given the choice, Arab populations will likely elect Islamic parties into power. The Arab Spring and its immediate aftermath was a wake-up call to all those who feared for the security of their thrones. In Abu-Dhabi and Riyadh, things were clear: The Arab spring is either to be reversed, or they will be next. With the successful ousting of the Brotherhood in Egypt and the unconditional green-light given by the Trump administration, Riyadh, Abu Dhabi, and Cairo have decided to kill the Arab Spring once and for all. The recent news about the intended execution in Saudi Arabia must be seen in this context.

Clerics such as Salman Al-Ouda, Ali Al-Omari, and Awad Al-Qarni were all vocal supporters of the Arab Spring uprisings and are associated with the Sahwa movement (which is a movement of Islamic political activism in the Gulf that draws heavily on Brotherhood ideas). The Arab autocrats simply view those voices as a danger. They represent a movement which challenges the status quo and questions the legitimacy of the rule of Arab autocrats; a movement which can be traced to the movement originated by the Brotherhood following the fall of the Caliphate and beginning of colonization. The autocrats could not afford to have influential clerics and TV personalities preach about popular legitimacy or the relevance of Islamic values and principles to public life and governance; after all, these are ideas that, if believed, would seriously question the legitimacy of their rule. As such, and after getting brief a taste of what free choice would look like in Arab nations, it became clear that the to these autocrats that the danger was more real than what they thought and more immediate. It seems that their action plan is simply to silence anyone who represents the spirit of the “Islamic movement”. From their perspective, they want to chop off the head of the snake and settle the matter once and for all.

These intended executions are not about support for extremism (a laughable accusation). Nor are they about views concerning the recent blockade on Qatar. Nor are they about the clerics’ criticisms of their government; in fact, these clerics did engage in harsh criticism of the Saudi government. Their crime is that they represent a message that, by definition, calls into question the legitimacy of the Saudi government. More importantly, it calls into question the legitimacy of the entire “order” that exists in the Arab world. The Saudi government is declaring war (along with its allies in Abu-Dhabi and Cairo) against those who represent a movement that has the potential of redefining the Arab world. Even if those clerics do not engage in direct confrontation with the Saudi government and express their views in positive terms, the existence of that message and its accessibility to Arab populations is serious enough of a problem.

What these autocrats to do not realize is that the ideas which these scholars represent exist independently of the efforts and words of these scholars. The belief in the centrality of Islam and the will of the people exists in the conscience of the vast majority of Muslims. These ideas are not the product of scholars such as Salman Al-Ouda, Awad Al-Qarni, or Ali Al-Omari. Rather, those scholars are the product of the ideas which organically exist in the minds of many Muslims. As such, executing these scholars will not bring an end to those ideas whose strength was demonstrated in the aftermath of the Arab spring. If anything, such executions are an affirmation by the Saudi government that it and its autocratic allies stand on very feeble ground. If the Saudi government goes through with its plan, all it will be doing is creating a void that will inevitably be filled by other people represent the same ideas. The cycle will keep going until the feeble ground which these autocrats stand gives way.

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The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

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