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Friday, July 29, 2005

FATWA AGAINST TERRORISM: QUESTIONS

July 28, 2005
The Wisdom Fund

FATWA AGAINST TERRORISM: QUESTIONS
by Enver Masud



Muslim scholars in the United States, Canada, Spain, and the United
Kingdom have now issued fatwas -- opinions regarding religious doctrine
or law by a recognized authority -- against terrorism. Hopefully, this
may silence critics who had been asking why Muslims hadn't spoken out
against terrorism. They had, but mainstream news media gave them little
attention.

Muslims with only a minimal understanding of Islam know that Islam
prohibits acts of violence against noncombatants, prohibits destruction
of the crops, water supplies, etc. of the enemy, and urges forgiveness
rather than retribution. However, the fatwas issued today provide
little new guidance to Muslims confronted with the complexities of the
real world. More is needed to answer the questions others have debated
and failed to answer adequately.

First, what is terrorism?

A UN high-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change defined
terrorism as any action intended to cause death or serious bodily harm
to civilians or noncombatants with the purpose of intimidating a
population or compelling a government or an international organization
to do, or abstain from, any act.

According to Webster's New World Dictionary -- the Second College
Edition which I happen to have handy -- terrorism often equates with
power politics and realpolitik.

Second, who is a terrorist and who is a freedom fighter?

To cite an often repeated cliche: one man's terrorist is another man's
freedom fighter. The passage of time may cause us to change our opinion
of them. We have only to consider the labels applied over time to Nelson
Mandela, the "terrorist" and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize (1993);
Yasser Arafat, the "terrorist" and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize
(1994); and America's founding fathers -- terrorists in the eyes of the
British, freedom fighters in the eyes of Americans.

An Italian judge ruled in April this year that "militants who attack
military or state targets, even with suicide bombers, cannot be
considered terrorists in times of war or occupation."

Third, who is a civilian?

It is not always clear. The U.S. troops in Iraq are supported by an army
of civilian contractors who bring them fuel, food, and other supplies.
The U.S. occupation of Iraq is overseen, and supported, by the largest
U.S. embassy in the world many of whom carry out intelligence
activities. Are these civilians or legitimate targets for the Iraqi
resistance?

In the past, intelligence agencies are reported to have infiltrated
consulting firms, charitable organizations, news services, student
groups, etc.

Israel presents a different issue. Except for religious scholars who are
exempt, Israelis are drafted into the Israel Defense Force at age 18.
Men serve for three years, women for 21 months. Upon completion of
compulsory service each soldier is assigned to a reserve unit. Are
these reservists, who change from military uniform to civilian clothes
in the same day, civilians or military targets.

Fourth, what about the rights of citizens of an occupied country?

Under international law, citizens of an occupied country have the legal
right to resist occupation by any and all means. Indeed history recorded
with favor the French resistance that fought against Nazi occupation.

Does the right to resist occupation grant authority to attack the
Israeli settlers in occupied Palestine?

Fifth, what about state-sponsored acts of violence?

Former Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, chief U.S. prosecutor at
the first Nuremberg trial, called waging aggressive war "the supreme
international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it
contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole."

"The same view would later be confirmed by the International Criminal
Tribunal for the Far East. It was also confirmed in the detailed
judgment in the 'Ministries Case' of the Subsequent Proceedings held at
Nuremberg" wrote Benjamin B. Ferencz -- a prosecutor at the subsequent
Nuremberg war crimes trials.

Does the fatwa apply to Russia's war on the Chechens, China's
respression of the Uighurs, the Philippines' war on the Moros of
Mindanao, and the U.S. invasion of Iraq -- the supreme international
crime?


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