ANALYSIS: Global Muslim Brotherhood Views On Violence


Recent days have seen the issuance of various decrees by elements of the global Muslim Brotherhood on the subject of Islam and violence. For reasons unknown, the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IMS), headed by global Brotherhood leader Sheikh Youssef Qaradawi, has reissued a 2002 statement entitled “Islamic View of Taking Hostages” by By Sheikh Faisal Mawlawi, Qaradwi’s deputy at the European Council for Fatwa and Research and leader of the global Muslim Brotherhood in Lebanon. The occasion of the statement appears to be the September 2004 taking of hostages in Beslan Russia by armed Chechen separatists. Dr. Mawlawi opens his statement with the common Muslim Brotherhood accusation of a war against Islam, this time led by the “US pro-Zionism Christian Right” and presenting his view of perpetrators such as the Beslan hostage-takers as “oppressed Muslims” whose “excessive enthusiasm” leads them to commit “impermissible operations”:

Many oppressed Muslims battle today against their occupiers, such as in Palestine, Kashmir and Afghanistan. In addition, others are being subjected to malicious campaigns, such as the campaign that the US pro-Zionism Christian Right is launching everywhere against Islam and Muslims under the pretext of fighting terrorism. Due to the absolute imbalance between Muslims and their enemies, at first glance, it seems that the enemies will gain victory. Consequently, Muslim youth who are full of enthusiasm to defend their religion and nation, develop new methods to manage the conflict, aiming at breaking the wall of imbalance and applying pressure on the enemies to stop their aggression, and to make them recognize the rights of those who are oppressed. The excessive enthusiasm of some young men may drive them to carry out operations without verifying their permissibility; and in so doing, they distort the image of Islam that the Almighty made a mercy to the worlds and a guide toward absolute morality.

After a brief and somewhat incomprehensible discussion about the U.S. and Russia as superpowers, Mawlawi presents a very long treatise on the “Shariah view” of hostage-taking illustrated with examples from Koranic times before reaching his conclusion on the issue which, not surprisingly, says that innocent non-combatants should neither be taken hostage nor killed:

As long as taking hostages is an act that may be regarded as lawful only in a state of war, it is not to be directed at those against whom war has not been launched principally. That is to say, it is not to be directed at non-combatants’”women, children, the elderly, monks [and nuns, priests, and so on]’”since those people do not participate in war. Should a non-combatant be held as a hostage [by a Muslim person or group], he or she is to be set free immediately. Accordingly, I assert that the mass killing of those who have been captured, hostages or those who have been kidnapped without making any distinction between those who deserve to be killed and those who do not ‘“ such as bombing a plane with its passengers or blowing up a place and everyone inside it ‘“ is an illegitimate act, according to all schools of Fiqh. The majority of scholars say that killing a captive is impermissible; while those who allowed him to be killed stipulated that the ruler, and not the kidnapper, should implement this judgment in order to be sure that the reason which necessitates this act actually exists, and to prevent Muslims from being involved in killing innocent persons, who may not even be killed during the battle.

On his personal website, Muslim Brotherhood figure Tariq Ramadan recently addressed issues relating to the meaning of Jihad, Islam and the sanction of violence, and suicide bombings. At first, Ramadan explains that an Islamic scholar “highlighted 80 different dimensions” of the concept and asserts that the root of jihad is “to promote good or to resist wrongdoing, evil or oppression. He then ties the concept of jihad to the question of Islam and violence where he also says that while violence is justified in repelling aggression and in defending Muslim rights, it should not target the innocent:

In all its dimensions, the essence of ‘jihad’ is ‘to resist’ in the name of justice and dignity. When there is an armed aggression, Muslims have the right to protect themselves and to defend their rights. Here ‘jihâd’ means ‘qitâl’ (armed struggle). The use of violence and weapons must be adjusted to the nature of the aggression itself: an armed aggression may justify an armed resistance if there is no other way to come to a peaceful agreement. But the use of violence and weapons must be proportionate and never target innocent people, women, children, the elderly, and even fruit trees as Abû Bakr, the first successor of the Prophet, stated following Muhammad’™s teachings. Jihad never means ‘holy war’ in order ‘to impose’ or ‘to propagate’ Islam everywhere. In fact jihâd and qitâl mean exactly the opposite of what we commonly think: rather than being the justifying instruments of war, they are the imposed measures to achieve peace by resisting an unjust aggression.

Ramadan then takes up the issue of suicide bombings, saying that they are only justified as a last resort and only to target “he army of the enemies and its armed soldiers”:

In specific situations ‘“ when one faces an army and has no weapons or other means to resist ‘“ it may be understandable and justifiable to consider sacrificing one’™s life in attempts to reach the armed soldiers. Here we are not far from a kind of suicide but it is related to three specific conditions: 1. It must be in a time of declared war; 2. when no other means of resisting are available; 3. the targets must be exclusively the army of the enemies and its armed soldiers. Today’™s suicide bombers who are killing innocent people are not only not respecting the Islamic teachings as to the ethics of war but are in fact indulging in anti-Islamic actions.

Finally, the Islamic News service is reporting that “a galaxy of eminent Islamic scholars and preachers”, have voiced their concern over the escalating violence in Iraq. The report states that the scholars included global Muslim Brotherhood figures Tariq Suwaidan, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Kuwait, Essam Al Basheer, a member of the European Council on Fatwa and Research (ECFR), and Mustafa Ceric, the Grand Mufti of Bosnia and also and ECFR member. The scholars reportedly voiced their view that “killing of innocent people” is criminal and “an atrocity before god”:

For this reason, a number of Muslim scholars and spokespersons from various schools of thought have called for the issuance of a statement addressing the escalation of hostilities and the committing of criminal acts. These unlawful acts are carried out in the name of religion both in Iraq or elsewhere under the veil of a religious partisanship. The undersigned, therefore, affirm all of the following: 1) The sanctity of human life: God has forbidden the killing of innocent people whether they be Muslim, Christian, or others. All who take life without legitimate justification commit a major crime and an atrocity before God.

None of the rulings are sufficient to address the issue of terrorism and break no new ground for the global Muslim Brotherhood. Faisal Mawlawi’s statement provides neither a strong designation against terrorism such as “apostasy”, only calling terrorist actions “impermissible” nor does he identify any group or individual by name. HIs labeling of terrorists as “full of enthusiasm” is also unhelpful. Tariq Ramadan’s statement also specifies no penalties nor is his definition of innocents adequate, only saying that they must not be “targeted” as opposed to being the victims of collateral damage. The statement on Iraq by the Muslim scholars also specifies no penalties nor takes up the question of who is innocent. Finally, none the rulings provide insufficient theological justification necessary to compete with the fatwas issued by so-called Salafist clerics. In the end, the rulings fall into the category of “too little, too late.”

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