Reading about the 90 people killed by a terrorist bomb attack in Kabul, I thought of a statement by Tariq Ramadan: “The month of Ramadan is the world’s most widespread fast; and yet its teachings are minimized, neglected and even betrayed.” In 2016 more than 475 people, mostly Muslims, died in Ramadan terrorist atrocities around the world from Orlando and Tel Aviv to Dhaka, Mumbai and Istanbul. Will 2017 be even more horrible?
For several years now the largest number of victims of terrorists, have been Muslims murdered by other Muslims; and Isis claims that Ramadan is the best time to kill anyone they think should be killed. Indeed, al-Qaeda’s official chapter in Syria, the Nusra Front, described the jihadi view of Ramadan as “a month of conquests.” And just before Ramadan approached last year, IS spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani told supporters around the world; “Get prepared, be ready to make it a month of calamity everywhere for non-believers”
Now an article by Ali Al-Bukhaiti, a Yemeni politician, gives me hope. Ali Al-Bukhaiti wrote: “The fight against terrorism requires a single, consistent standard that prohibits the targeting of civilians, wherever they are, and whatever their faith, be it Muslim, Christian, Jewish, any other religion and even atheists. Without such a common standard we won’t be to convince anyone that targeting civilians is inherently cowardly and a crime against humanity.
“Those who issue fatwas that allow killing Israeli or American civilians (like prominent Muslim scholars Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi in Qatar, and Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah in Lebanon. and others Sunni and Shia alike) are in fact issuing fatwas that allow killing all civilians, even those in the Muslim world.
“It’s all the same logic. A killer will inevitably find a pretext or interpretation that allows him to apply the same religious reasoning anywhere on earth, and against any civilians, regardless of their faith or race. This is not hypothetical, it is borne out by the facts on the ground. The idea that permitted the targeting of Israeli civilians also permitted the targeting of religious minorities like the Yazidis in Iraq and Syria, and the Copts in Egypt.
“And this same idea led to the targeting of Shiite Muslim civilians in Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the Zaydis in Yemen as infidels. Moreover, it is the same idea that frees a terrorist to strike even civilians of his own faith if need be when they are in the vicinity of those whom he consider to be infidels. Deviation generates more deviation.
“Those who clap and cheer when a suicide bomber blows himself up on a bus carrying students in Tel Aviv, or at the World Trade Center in New York, or in a train station in London or in Paris, should not then cry when civilians in Mecca or in Sana’a or Cairo come under such attacks. The protection of civilian lives is an inviolable precept, regardless of geography, religion and political conflict. And if this precept is diluted or applied unevenly we will not be able to defeat terrorism. It will reach everywhere and will be visited upon everyone.
“When it comes to the deliberate killing of civilians, there is no difference between Mecca, London, Berlin, Paris, Tel Aviv, Orlando, Cairo, Islamabad, Sana’a and other cities in the world. Unless we apply a single standard for dealing with all civilians in the world, we will not succeed in combating terrorism.
“Action against terrorism that targets civilians starts with a serious stand against every one of those who have issued and continue to issue fatwas for targeting any civilians anywhere. From now on, they must be deemed accountable unless they retract their fatwas; they must be off limits, their movements must be restricted, their media appearances prevented, the sale and circulation of their books banned, and any acts of support or financing for their charities — or even hosting them — criminalized.
“Furthermore, there must be strict laws stipulating that any fatwa or justification for targeting civilians anywhere – even inside Israel – shall be deemed a punishable offense. In addition, school books must be revised to excise fatwas and religious views that in any way justify the targeting of civilians.
‘Clarity, courage and transparency, along with the acknowledgment of past mistakes and the upholding of a single standard for everyone are the right way to begin countering the extremism that targets civilians. Without this we will remain caught in a vicious circle, and terrorism will be visited upon everyone.”
And Ramadan is the best month for Muslims and non-Muslims together to stress these views as Khaled Abou El Fadl, Professor in Islamic Law at the UCLA School of Law has written: “Al-Qaeda, ISIL (ISIS), Boko Haram, and of course their theological “teachers”, methodically and systematically destroy everything beautiful in Islam. They target and destroy the artifacts and historical sites that defy their pedantic and false sense of history. These are the true radical extremists. They and only they are the true enemies of Islam.”
Only the joint co-operation of religious leaders from Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities can keep the world from a coming apocalyptic nightmare. We better get to work.